By Tom Walton

Nothing says Spring like the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, the largest, world-class garden festival of its kind in the western United State. Now entering its 26th year with a bigger, better and greener approach that celebrates “Life in the California garden”, this annual festival will be held Wednesday through Sunday, March 23-27, 2011 at the San Mateo Event Center.

Twenty full-sized garden installations from top Bay Area designers (including the world-renown horticulture staff of Woodside’s Filoli Center) and seminars led by well-known experts (including HGTV personality Gary Gragg, syndicated columnist “The Dirt Diva” Annie Spiegleman, garden blogger Amy Stewart, author Rosalind Creasy, and award winning landscape architect Jeffrey Gordon Smith) will invite attendees of all ages to “Get Your Green On”, with a strong emphasis on forward-looking, environmentally friendly techniques that can be accomplished in urban, suburban and country gardens. Alice Waters who has achieved iconic status as a pioneer in promoting organic cuisine and gardening, will be featured at several Saturday events, including a lecture that will celebrate the 40th anniversary of her groundbreaking restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley and focus on the Local Foods movement.

“The Flower & Garden Show has evolved into a full celebration of the California lifestyle and how we connect to our landscape and environment,” explained Show Producer Kay Estey. “Because food has become so much a part of our identity, new this year will be both an expanded 5000 square foot Aesthetic Edible Garden by Star Apple Edible Gardens of Oakland with a special Sunset Magazine section and a wine tasting garden area created by the Livermore Valley Wine Growers Association. Sure to appeal to local foodies will be daily cooking demonstrations by several Bay Area celebrity chefs – including Esquire Magazine’s 2010 Chef of the Year Sean Baker of Gather Restaurant, Francophile favorite Roland Passot of La Folie, the very hot Jeffrey Stout of Alexander’s Steakhouse, and the ever popular Andrea Froncillo of the Stinking Rose Group – that will incorporate discussions with designers on How to Grow a Chef Worthy Garden.”
While experienced garden aficionados will be more than excited by the scores of seminars and book signings by top experts on a range of topics – flower arranging, design trends, water conservation, lawn alternatives and cutting edge growing walls – the festival is designed to be equally accessible to interested newcomers and area visitors seeking a unique outing. A Marketplace with over 200 vendors selling plants, seeds, tools and fabulous gift items, a special Children’s Garden called Sproutopia with fun-filled, hands-on learning opportunities, a Farmer’s Market with flowers and produce, and spectacular art installations are among the several draws that delight attendees from all over the Western U.S. and make this an annual activity for savvy Bay Area denizens and their families. Popular sections are sure to include those created by the California Garden Clubs, the Bonsai Society of San Francisco, and the Western Horticultural Society- whose horticulturists will be available to discuss both new and rare plants, as well as old favorites that have been bought back into cultivation.
“We’re also excited that nationally acclaimed filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia will show three short films fromher upcoming, documentary project “Symphony of the Soil” which examines the state of community based and scientific growing practices all over the world, with an emphasis on successful, environmentally sound options, “said Estey. “It will be the first general public showing in the Bay Area and the segments on dry farming in Napa, community gardens in England, and a successful biodynamic community in the third world should appeal not only to gardeners, but to anyone interested in both the technical aspects of this complex topic as well as sustainable green living practices.”
The 26th Annual San Francisco Flower & Garden Show is held at the San Mateo Event Center, 1346 Saratoga Drive in San Mateo, only a 25 minute drive from San Francisco and just one block from the Hillsdale Caltrain Station (Note: BART riders can easily connect to Caltrain at the Millbrae BART Station). Parking is available at a cost of $10 for the entire day.
Show hours are Wednesday, March 23rd to Saturday, March 26 from 10am to 7pm and Sunday, March 27 from10am to 6pm. Admission includes all regular seminars and demonstrations. For Advance Online Ticket Sales, General Show Information and a Calendar of seminars, chef demonstrations and film showings, visit