Fond Memories of the Southeastern Flower Show

The Southeastern Flower Show was an annual event held in early spring in the Atlanta area. When I first began attending it was held inside what is now Ponce City Market (an amazing old warehouse location which was originally a Sears store and catalog fulfillment center). It was later housed in the larger space at the World Congress Center and its final location was the Cobb Galleria exhibit halls. The last year it was held was 2013.

I read an article recently (I will share it at the end of this post) that reminded me of the now defunct Southeastern Flower Show and what a special event it was

There were many exhibits such as flower arrangements, photography, award winning orchids, small rooms staged for events, garden related club displays, and of course vendors! But the highlight of the show was always the large indoor landscape gardens build by local companies. Because of the time of the year, many of the plants outside were still dormant and bare but the landscape gardens at the show were designed to look lush and verdant. It was such a treat to come in from the cold to the smells and sights of what appeared to be growing landscape gardens! 


I participated in building a garden and working the show two different years. One was a large garden when I was lead designer at Cascade Design Group. That company later split up and part of it became Terranova Atlanta. With that company I participated in a small garden design and build. Both builds meant long hours – the gardens have to be build from scratch in 3 days and 24 hour a day shifts are common. For me it was hard to appreciate with the lack of sleep and stress but looking back it was amazing working as a team to build such an intricate design in such a short period. 
The work begins much earlier in the year than the days before the show though. The design is created in the fall of the previous year and plants are brought into the greenhouses to be forced through December and January. The greenhouse not only has heated air, and timed grow lights, it also has to have heated water for the roots of the plants. I also worked closely with several artists who were commissioned to create sculptural details for the garden.  Our regular employees worked in a rented warehouse space to build walls and wood structures that could be brought in piecemeal and locked together like building blocks according to the design. 
The hard work paid off and both times, the gardens I worked on both won Best in Class and the large one took Best in Show. Then the show opens and the general public comes to tour the work. The vistiors have lots of questions and appreciatively marvel at the projects. I love to talk about design and plants so it’s nice to have so many people who are there for just that! When the show closes, it all gets dismantled and the exhibit hall is readied for it’s next trade show. 

Seeing the exhibit hall empty as we moved the plants in by forklift, experiencing the show, then seeing it clean and empty again at the end of the week is a transformation that is almost unbelievable

The article that reminded me of these Flower Show memories was here:


an image from the Japan Kei Truck Garden Contest

The article details the Kei Truck Garden Contest in Japan where landscape designers pull up in their iconic Kei trucks and spend several hours building a landscape design in the truck bed as part of a competition. 

Although the Southeastern Flower Show is no more, this past year the Atlanta Botanical Garden attempted a spring flower show. Maybe the idea of these truck gardens will catch on here and soon Atlanta will be hosting its own truck bed landscape competition. I would love to be part of that!





entry to the landscape garden I worked on


the entire garden was raised (including the real bluestone path) to make room for the root balls of the trees and the pool of the water features


A Japanese Maple that had been forced in our greenhouse with the waterfall in the background








praise for bottlebrush buckeye

The first Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) I “met” was an old one in the Founder’s Memorial Garden in Athens, GA. It still sticks in my memory as one of my favorite shrubs and I consider it tragically underused in landscape design.

During my undergraduate and graduate years in the landscape architecture program at University of Georgia, I had the privilege of working in the Founder’s Garden in exchange for reduced tuition. The reason I consider it a privilege is I was able to truly know the garden and all it’s plants in every season, and learn what it took to care for them. A typical landscape architecture education does not include dirt under the fingernails!


the coarse textured leaves can be seen stretching out over a small pool in the Founder’s Garden

The Founder’s Garden Buckeye bloomed right at (what was) the time of UGA’s graduation in June. The air was hot and muggy and the large but delicate white flowers seemed oblivious to the weather. The leaves typically stay unblemished through the long summer and a yellow fall color can be expected. 

The Bottlebrush Buckeye is native to the woodlands of Georgia as well as Alabama and Northern Florida. It will bloom best in part shade on the edge of the tree line but can also be placed in full shade. It is slow growing but will eventually get large with an eight to ten foot spread. 

although the main reason for enjoying the bottlebrush buckeye is the flowering period, it holds value in the landscape in every season

I made sure to check that this interesting, native shrub is currently available in the trade. MNI wholesale nursery has them available in a 5 and 7 gallon size. If you don’t have a landscaper who can get it for you there, you may try Pike’s. Very rarely I have seen them available as mature balled and burlapped product and I would highly recommend that if you can get it for a more instant show!













a tour of gardens

My mom and I have spent every Mother’s Day for the past 20 years touring private gardens of Atlanta. We began even before I was in school to be a landscape architect. Now I have the pleasure of having my son along for the tour as well as my uncle who travels from New York each year. 

The Garden’s for Connoisseurs Tour is organized by and benefits the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Every year, approximately 10 private gardens are opened to ticket holders for 2 days.

This year had some gems as usual and we enjoyed getting a glimpse into some thoughtful design. IT WAS HOT though, topping 90 degrees both days. So any shade was welcome.

This was a memorable stop along the tour. A well appointed pool house with much appreciated fans. I especially liked the pops of orange and the clear lucite bar stools reminiscent of Louis Ghost Chairs.

The entire landscape was planted in whites and greens and the details on the table in the pool house matched. I have a major crush on the quartz geode. The opening above had decorative iron work and no glass to allow the breezes to circulate.


Another highlight was this shady pool with a brick deck. I typically don’t love brick as pool deck because of the small size of the pattern. I feel it becomes busy at large scale such as around pools. This one surprised me. All of the green tucked in around and the shade from the mature Dawn Redwood made a restful spot. 

We will all be looking forward to next year and if you have never been I highly recommend it! I’d also love to hear your thoughts if you attended the tour.








a Mother’s Day tradition for 20 years running, my family looks forward to this tour all year

a scheme of greens and whites, formal and lush

staggered steps from the driveway court lead to the road, overhanging cut-leaf Japanese Maple was a standout