The Gardens



The prime feature of all world-class flower and garden shows are considered by many to be the show gardens.
We are proud to host this years Garden Creators.


The gardens are the heart of the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. The Show did, after all, start as the  San Francisco Landscape Garden Show in 1986! The full-sized display landscapes are created over five hectic days by the Bay area's leading landscape designers and craftsmen. The basis upon which every garden rests is the underlying design. Gardens conceived and constructed for the show are meant to inspire and promote good design in home and public gardens, but they are not necessarily true gardens. 

"The design of a garden show exhibition garden and a real exterior garden are both similar in the sense that they involve the creation of manipulation of space to enhance the user's experience. There are, however, distinct differences affecting the design of the two types of garden.

The design of a real exterior garden site must respond to the environmental factors such as soil conditions, temperature, wind, sun exposure, etc. The garden site also has a geographic contact which will affect the charter of the design. For example, a distant view may be developed as a design feature. The garden matures and changes throughout the years and seasons. The construction methods used to build the garden should be permanent to hold up over the years. The design of a "real" garden also expresses largely the owner's requirements as to how it will be used. These requirements such as style, budget and maintenance will influence the garden's design.

An exhibition garden's design is not affected significantly by environmental factors because it is generally in an interior location and only for temporary display. The exhibition garden essentially creates its own contact for the design and tends to focus on itself as a self-contained space. The design of the garden is not for permanence, but rather for an instant impact. The construction of the garden should be safe, but easily installed and disassembled after the show. The exhibition garden is based on the individual designer's own set of requirements. There is not a specific owner\'s need to be met. In this sense, the design of the garden reflects a personal statement of the designer."

- by Peter Rosekrans
  from the 1986 San Francisco Landscape Garden Show Program Book


The Show gardens generally align with a general theme that is selected for the entire show for a paraticular year. The theme changes from year to year. Themes used in the past include:

1986    "Gardens Are for People."
2011     "Life in a California Garden"
2012     "Gardens for a Green Earth"
2013    "Gardens Make the World Go Round"
2014     "Inspired"
2015     "Going Wild"


Building the Gardens

When you first visit a world-class Flower & Garden Show such as the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, the Chelsea Flower Show, the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, or the Philadelphia Flower Show, you will be surprised by the size and magnificence of the garden landscaping. 

A Flower and Garden Show is a huge and complex production. The gardens at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show use 1,200 cubic yards of sawdust and mulch for the gardens (that's about 150 dump-truck loads) and 280,000 pounds of rock. The flowers and plants for the gardens come from all up and down the West Coast. More than 300 theatrical lighting instruments hang from the ceiling above the gardens. 

Creating the display gardens is a demanding task. Planning for them begins many months before the Show opens.

Trucks arrive on day one
Trucks arrive on day one

One of many loads of sawdust
One of many loads of sawdust

A giant tree in the 2000 Show

Construction in progress
Construction in progress

Many people are surprised to learn that the companies and organizations creating gardens do not pay the Show to exhibit. In fact, the Show pays each of them a substantial cash subsidy, and provides support including lighting, electricity, water, heavy equipment, labor, rocks and mulch. The Show's total direct cost of assisting its garden creators is well over one million dollars.

The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show was produced for many years by Salmon Bay Events, who also produced the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle. Partners Sherry Larsen and Maryanne Lucas of Larsen Enterprises bought the Bay Area show in May, 2013 and will continue to produce this annual tradition for California gardeners and landscapers.

By sharing this background about what it takes to produce a world-class garden show, we hope to make your visit to the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show even richer and more enjoyable. The dates for the coming show are March 19-23, 2014. We look forward to seeing you there!


Creating the 2013 show days in 5 days...