I don’t usually pan tourist attractions. Everyone is looking for something different and what doesn’t appeal to me will often interest someone else. You may walk away from this year’s Cleveland Home and Garden show with a different impression than I did, especially if it is your first time or if your goal is to browse the product booths and take advantage of special show sales and discounts. You can shop for windows and bathtub inserts, kitchen cabinets, roof shingles, hot tubs, saunas, “she sheds” and mini barns. You might enjoy touring the model homes although the lackluster designs of the one I walked through didn’t convince me to wait in line to walk through another. But none of those things are on my must-see list. I visit this show for its display gardens. This show is important to me for that reason alone. I want it to be a spring refuge during a cold winter. I need it to be spectacular and inspiring. This is not the first time that Cleveland’s Home and Garden show has disappointed me.
The first thing I noticed upon entering the display area this year was how dark it was. The attempt to set the mood with low lighting failed. It didn’t create any kind of garden mood that I’ve ever experienced in the outdoor world, not even at night. It allowed for an opportunity to spotlight features in individual gardens but that’s about the only benefit I saw to it.
The background sound track too, was over the top, too loud and more suitable for a zoo than a garden. I mentioned to my friends that if I were standing in my own backyard and heard some of those loud, predator bird noises I’d run back into the house! Sparrows tweet. Dove’s coo. These gardens were being overtaken by pterodactyls.
Garden displays are put together by individual landscaping firms. But this does not let show producers off the hook. Producers shouldn’t just sell a space on the floor and walk away. Although, they didn’t even do that part of their job very well. The website claims there are 12 display gardens. I walked through them all. While I didn’t count them, I find it hard to believe that there were 12. In years past I recall strolling from garden to garden. This year, much of the floor space was open.
There was a Bistro in the garden area. We wish we had known that before eating in the food court where the choice was an unimaginative selection of hamburger, hot dog, gyro, chicken tenders or pizza. The ice cream was good. It was difficult to know what was available or where it would be located because there was no show map. At the entrance we were handed an empty plastic bag, I suppose for gathering sales brochures. But no map. No program. No list of speakers. No schedule of events. Perhaps in this day of technology I was supposed to download it myself at home or use a smart phone to find my way around. Not happening. They need to provide paying customers with a show program.
But back to the gardens. In my opinion the show’s producers need to play a greater role. They need to do more to ensure that display gardens feature new and innovative ideas. This year’s gardens were little more than trees and spring bulbs planted beside walkways and patios used as a backdrop to display lawn furniture and barbecue grills. My idea of a garden show is a presentation of creative ideas. I want the unique and the one of a kind. Give me fairy gardens, gnome homes, tree houses and a pergola for a hammock. I want garden art and planters made from everyday objects. Show me a great outdoor table set for a picnic, an alcove built for a swing, or a soft bed for an outdoor slumber party under the stars. I want to see butterfly habitats and bat homes. Show me bird feeders, bird houses, and bird baths. All of those pterodactyls will be looking for something to snack on.
As my photos show, there are a few nice things to see in the garden area. There just isn’t enough. Yes, my expectations are high. But they have been met by shows in other cities and they were met by the Cleveland event in prior years. At a cost of $15 per person plus $10 for parking, I think my family has a right to expect a show that will blow February off the calendar and let me step into a world of vibrant spring time. This show looks like a weak attempt to present an event at the lowest possible cost with the least amount of man-power exerting as little effort as possible. It feels like “just another” event, one more in a long line of events designed for no other reason but to give consumers the minimum they will accept in order to rake in the cash for one more year.
I’ve got news for these organizers. After a year or two of being disappointed, consumers will stop coming back.