The Connecticut Flower & Garden Show comes at just the right time. I always enjoy speaking at this big Hartford show every other February. 2020 was my year off, so I went with a friend, just for a fun.

The show just keeps getting better and better.

Good thing I wasn’t lugging a laptop and books to sell this time, because the vendors were top-notch – and it takes two hands to shop.

My tote bag got heavy fast, with buckwheat and cranberry flower honey from Laura’s Raw Honey in upstate NY, plants (of course) and cheerful flowery French table linens. I’ll be ordering Foxgloves Garden Gloves and sustainable reusable beeswax food wraps (coated with beeswax, pine resin and jojoba oil) online.

I really loved the environmental awareness permeating the show. So many opportunities to learn from speakers on the leading edge of organic and sustainable gardening, like Nancy DuBrule-Clemente and Thomas Christopher.

As for the landscape displays, the days of throwing down a ton of mulch around a handful of cookie cutter cloned shrubs, some pavers and a few forced daffodils are o-v-e-r.

The bar has been raised.

Landscape displays were real gardens, chock full of interesting plants, inspiring design and sustainable ideas you can use in your own garden at home (including a backyard homestead with chickens and a cute henhouse with planted roof.

The folks at Earth Tones Native Plant Nursery outdid themselves this year. Their display – an uncannily convincing fake rock outcrop and mine – with glowing-eyed bats (also not real) hanging in a niche behind a waterfall – was over-the-top fabulous.

The “topography” created a setting for varied locally occurring habitats, from wetland, stream and bog, to field, forest and rocky ledges. Each densely planted, natural-looking habitat included characteristic native plants and animals – including an impressive stuffed beaver pondside, birds in trees, ants on a log.

Visitors enthusiastically accepted the invitation to do more than just stroll by. A “find the animal” scavenger hunt list had adults and kids alike peering through layers of foliage and paying close attention – those plastic ants on the log took time to see.

Bringing a Land Ethic to life, by demonstrating how the land can heal itself – and we can help – after damage done extracting natural resources, was just the right message on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Landscapes created by the next generation were a welcome breath of fresh air too. The University of Connecticut Horticulture Club’s delightful, thoughtfully planted spring garden could be transported to a real yard.

Karen Bussolini at CT Flower & Garden Show

Hello from the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, outside the hobbit house I wish were in my yard

But I want Naugatuck Valley Community College’s cozy hobbit house transported to my yard.

Built from repurposed building materials and twiggy pruned branches, with a gaily planted roof, this fairy tale structure points to a landscape industry moving toward a more sustainable future.

Hope to see you at the 40th Connecticut Flower & Garden Show in 2021, February 25-28. I’m sure it will full of life diversity and delight.