The Southern California Spring Garden Show has been held for the last 23 years in Costa Mesa at our huge, upscale mall called South Coast Plaza. What a non-sequiter: mall + gardens. But somehow it works, and draws more than 100,000 visitors. I’ve never been to a garden show. But this year, I actually got in on the press breakfast and enjoyed a wonderful introduction by one of the most knowledgable gardeners in Southern California–Pat Welsh.  Currently in her 80s (though you would never know), Pat helped prepare us for this bizarre  extravaganza.

“It has a charming ambiance,” she said, adding that “it has a garden atmosphere that you wouldn’t expect.” Exactly!! When I walked in past the Crate and Barrel, I couldn’t believe the place smelled like fertilizer–and that was a good thing! The show, which started today (Thursday) and runs through Sunday, April 29, is on all three stories in the wing off the mall on Bear Street.

 

More than the plants, I’m on the prowl for “outdoor living” ideas, and I especially love landscape designs. So I was delighted to find fellow garden blogger, Dustin Gimbel, had an exhibit. He is one of the few California garden designers who focuses on a clean, modern sense of space and mix of natural textures in his projects as much as the plants and flowers (although he has an encyclopedic knowledge of those, too.)  The chairs are from the wonderful garden decor store and nursery in L.A. called Pot-ted. The first shot of the fountain and kids peeking through is from his garden display as well.

Pat told our little group that the main draw of the show is the “rare and spectacular plants.”

(Pat shared a little overview of her amazing life: How her movie star mom from England brought she and her brothers in 1941 to the U.S. to escape the war, bought 45 acres in Pennsylvania, and basically homesteaded that land. They had 2,000 chickens, cows, sheep, geese and other animals and lived off the land. Her mom was a follower of Sir Albert Howard, the father of organic gardening, and Jerome Irvine Rodale,  another early advocate of sustainable gardening.  And that’s just the beginning of her rich history. She wrote a memoir, which I can’t wait to read, called All My Edens: a Gardener’s Memoir. This woman was one of the first homesteading hipsters!! Pat still gardens at her home in Del Mar, and recently published a fabulous organic gardening book, called Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening (3rd Edition): Month by Month. Yes, Pat kind of stole the show for me. My next goal is to beg a visit to her garden!)

Here are some of the “rare and spectacular” plants she was talking about. These are some of those carnivorous plants from A&C’s Tropicals.

More “rare and spectacular” plants. Don’t let the mall setting fool you. These are serious plant people. I don’t think they even noticed the Apple, Restoration Hardware and Lululemon stores. A lot of these people will drive all over the state, country and even world to find a certain plant. Here, they have thousands of varieties all in one place.

Affectionately calling the show visitors  ”fanatic” gardeners, Pat said, “You can almost hear their little hearts going thumpity-thumpity” with anticipation.

 If you haven’t been, most of the plants are for sale. These are just stalks/cuttings of epiphyllums, which you stick in the dirt and they grow and bust out the most amazing blooms. Click HERE to check out my post on mine (super easy to grow).

But the stars were still the succulents. Lots of vendors. When I see a price like this, all I can think is DIY!!

I steer clear of malls these days. But this show, which is free, is totally worth the trip. They have all sorts of speakers, too, talking about everything from backyard bee-keeping and growing organic tomatoes to native plants for healing and wild bird gardening. Click HERE for the schedule.

Click HERE to see my favorite discovery at the show.  HINT: Totally cool concrete garden decor–planters, pavers and baths.

Here’s is Pat’s latest book (click the link to order):

Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening (3rd Edition): Month by Month

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