New Portland flower show to provide ‘taste of spring’

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PORTLAND — Spring really is coming, and members of the Maine Landscape & Nursery Association want local gardeners to be ready. That’s why they are launching a new Maine Flower Show.

The inaugural show will be held March 29-April 2 at Thompson’s Point, and will be the first event to be showcased in the newly renovated Brick South building, which is part of a $110 million redevelopment project.

Don Sproul, executive director of the association, said, “We believe there is strong support for such an event,” which is why local landscapers and nurseries decided to create a new show to take the place of the now-defunct Portland Flower Show.

He said the difference between the Maine Landscape & Nursery Association – or MELNA – flower show and similar shows held in the past is that the new event is “being put on by industry experts.” All the display gardens and vendors will also exhibit plants that do well in Maine and are not invasive.

All the vendors will also be local, including Skillins Greenhouses and Gnome Landscapes Design, both in Falmouth; Estabrook’s in Yarmouth; and O’Donal’s Nursery in Gorham.

In addition, a variety of nonprofits are also participating, including Friends of the Eastern Promenade in Portland, the Garden Club Federation of Maine, the Maine Orchid Society, and master gardeners with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

At 37,000 square feet, Sproul said the new Maine Flower Show is also the largest show of its kind ever offered locally. “MELNA is bringing horticulture back to southern Maine,” promotional materials for the show stated.

The flower show will include 16 display gardens, four days of hands-on workshops, “and over 100 exhibitors, showcasing plants (and) hardscape, arbor and garden supplies, significantly more than any recent local flower show.”

Another difference from prior flower shows in southern Maine, Sproul said, is that MELNA is partnering with the Good Shepherd Food Bank. All proceeds from the premiere night event on March 29 will benefit the food bank, which supplies most food pantries throughout the state.

MELNA also will be giving out free seed packets in support of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, which encourages people to use plants that support important pollinators, such as bees and butterflies.

Tickets to the premiere, which includes hors d’oeuvres, live music and a cash bar, are $50. The show is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. each day, and general admission tickets are $15 each.

Who should attend the show, the promotional materials ask? “Gardeners, hobbyists, horticultural professionals, homeowners (and/or) anyone with a desire for a sneak peak of spring and a yearning to get their hands dirty.”

While MELNA exists to “promote our industry” and is dedicated to “encouraging and promoting gardening,” Sproul said the organization also participates in legislative advocacy, supports high school horticulture programs, participates in charitable landscaping projects, offers a professional certification program and encourages people to buy local.

Sproul said holding the Maine Flower Show at Thompson’s Point is key because “there’s been lots of buzz about this development lately,” and because of the available space for parking. Along with about 600 spots at Thompson’s Point, he said MELNA would operate satellite lots with free shuttle service to and from the show.

Sproul said, “The No. 1 goal for the flower show is to give people a taste of spring and to inspire them to work on their own property. This will be the biggest, most colorful display (of plants) in all of Maine.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

Colorful annuals are now in bloom at Skillins Greenhouses in Falmouth. The nursery is one of many local vendors taking part in the brand new Maine Flower Show.