Southeastern Flower Show

Pat Hartrampf remembers what she wore to the opening night party of the inaugural Southeastern Flower Show in 1988: long underwear. “It was so cold, we had them on underneath our dresses and coats,” she says. “When I look back on it, I think how audacious we were!”

As founding chairman of the show, a past president and member of the board of directors, Hartrampf has watched the event grow from a small affair put on by 25 volunteers to a regional showcase of the finest horticultural and gardening offerings that draws about 40,000 visitors annually.

As the show celebrates its 20th anniversary, this year’s edition, held Feb. 7-11 (opening night party Feb. 6), will transform the Georgia World Congress Center into a cross between a lush landscape and a gardener’s catalog come to life. In addition to every item you could want to purchase for your own backyard paradise, more than 20 showcase gardens will be on view, experts from Allan Armitage to Walter Reeves to Brooks Garcia will offer advice. Flower arrangements, bonsai trees and even designer garden sheds will be displayed.

Hartrampf is particularly excited about those sheds. For the first time, several noted Atlanta architects (led by long-time show supporter Tom Ventulett, principal of Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback & Associates) will design original garden structures. “Each one is unique,” Hart-rampf says. “One is designed as a potting shed, one for entertaining, one for stargazing.” Showgoers can bid on the structures and give them a place in the sun (or shade) in their own gardens.

This year’s theme – “The French Experience: C’est Magnifique” – continues a trip around the world via garden design (last year’s show featured an Italian theme; the year before the show had an English focus). Garden historian Caroline Holmes, author of Monet at Giverny, will provide the keynote. Eventually, Hartrampf says, the world tour will culminate with a show themed around the American garden and its international influences.

Although it takes place in February, the Flower Show is a year-round affair. “The show doesn’t stop once the doors close,” Hartrampf says. Each year, the show establishes a “legacy garden,” with plants and materials from the show donated to a community or organization, which agrees to maintain the garden. Past recipients have included Wesley Woods geriatric hospital at Emory and Historic Oakland Foundation. This year, the show will create a raised garden at Shepherd Spinal Center, designed to allow people in wheelchairs to dig in the dirt with ease.

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