Vermont Flower Show blossomed with imagination

If any heffalulmps were to be found in the 100-Acre Wood, quietly peering from behind budding crabapple trees, visitors to the 2023 Vermont Flower Show might have caught a glimpse.

Photo contributedPops of color surround the “The Party” and a view of the 100-Acre Wood.
Photo contributed
Pops of color surround the “The Party” and a view of the 100-Acre Wood.

Little gloom shined on the faces of people as they passed by the murky depths of Eeyore’s dark and gloomy place. Audible gasps of delight could be heard as visitors gazed upon “The Party” from the bridge, centrally located in the grand garden display.

In three and a half days, a team of builders and designers transformed the 15,000-square-foot space inside the Champlain Valley Exposition into a whimsical indoor landscape inspired by the classic story of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.

“Out of Hibernation, Spring Comes to the 100-Acre Wood” — the event was aptly titled. The first Vermont Flower Show in four years was produced by the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association. The event’s imaginary forest was inspired by Milne’s view of the real Ashtown forest, located south of London. In addition to the display, the event featured exhibitors, seminars, food vendors and a family entertainment room with crafts and a magic show.

Nate Carr, owner of Church Hill Landscapes in Charlotte, was one of the many volunteers. He’s been helping since 1997. “I volunteered over the years and kept showing up, so they kept asking me to do more,” he said.

Carr is part of a committee who helps the hundreds of trees and shrubs bloom early inside the warm greenhouses at Claussen’s Florist, Greenhouse and Perennial Farm.

“Starting in the beginning of January, every week we bring donated plants into the greenhouse, warm them up and trick them into thinking it’s spring,” Carr said. Hundreds of plants are donated by local and regional nurseries for the flower show.

Photo contributedPiglet’s house in the middle of a “beech tree.”
Photo contributed
Piglet’s house in the middle of a “beech tree.”

Once inside the show, the warm smell of fresh mulch drew visitors to peer behind the wall of black curtains as they waited to enter. The walking path began with a stroll past a large open book built entirely from stone, with the sound of Milne’s voice reading his stories. To the right, Christopher Robin’s house led to a bubbling stream and a view of the tall Bee Tree set in a grassy green meadow.

Visitors moved slowly through the grand garden display pausing at other characters’ houses along the stone-lined pathway. Several were beautifully crafted from wood and natural design elements with a level of detail that was hard to see without pausing to stop and sit on a granite bench or peer in to the windows. Piglet’s house seemed to be entirely constructed of fragrant slabs of evergreen bark and Owls’ House nestled between two large trees. Moss-covered caves rose from the landscape, depicting tiny bedrooms and tea parties, all set among fragrant spring floral of hyacinths and tulips.

The journey ended with steps up to a viewing platform. From here, visitors had a panoramic view of “The Party” — a table set for a picnic in the middle of the landscape of gently rolling hills, flowering trees and party decorations.

“Thousands of hours go into it,” said Carr. “Not just the display, but the exhibitions, the children’s room, the judging.”

Organizers anticipated nearly 10,000 people attended the event.

While there’s only one weekend to enjoy the Vermont Flower Show, for those who wait to stroll through its beauty again, it is as timeless as the story of Winnie-the-Pooh.