PORTLAND – On Monday morning, the Portland Company Complex was abuzz like a construction site, but less organized. Instead of building one project, workers were putting up 18 — displays for “Gardens Gone Wild,” the theme for this year’s Portland Flower Show.

By midmorning Tuesday, the scene was less hectic. Some exhibitors had almost completed their displays. Others, looking like students who had waited until the last minute to complete a term paper, were just getting started.

All of the gardens will be complete — or as complete as they will ever be — by 1 p.m. today, in time for the show’s grand opening.

“We opened the doors (to the landscapers and nurseries) at 8 a.m. Saturday,” Jan Love, director of the flower show, said as she watched the gardens going up. “By 1 p.m. (today), they will all have to be out of the building. We give the judges the whole afternoon, and they have the place to themselves.”

The judging will be finished by 6 tonight, when the gala opening and award ceremony will open to the public. Tickets at the door cost $40. General admission will be Thursday through Sunday, for $15 at the door. Children younger than 12 will be admitted free with a paying adult.

The work to create the flower show began well before the garden workers were admitted Saturday.

Portland Yacht Services employees first had to remove all of the yachts being stored and repaired at the complex. They then set up the felt backdrops for the flower show and the Maine Boatbuilders Show, scheduled for March 19-21. After the boat show, the yachts will be moved back inside, where repairs and painting will go on until sailing season.

For the duration of the two shows, Portland Yacht Services employees who work in the building will be employed by the shows.

Friday was stone day for the flower show. The creators of the gardens had put in their orders with Genest, Gagne and other stone companies, and they all came on Friday.

“Some people complain because there is so much stone in the gardens,” Love said. “But stone is the element that sets off the flowers. And the stone workers are artists, as much as anyone who paints on canvas.”

After the stone comes the mulch. The flower show ordered 250 cubic yards of it, delivered in a pile just outside the building. Front-end loaders delivered the mulch once the stone — or in some cases, wood — was in place to hold it. The plants mostly remain in their pots, which are covered with mulch.

The gardens are also made with sand.

Jon Snell of Jaiden Landscaping in Durham used almost 100 cubic yards of sand to create a background rise in his garden. The work was almost done by Tuesday morning, minus some of the smaller plants.

On Monday, Cheryl Rich of Southern Maine Community College was putting stucco on a building for the college’s exhibit, “Where the Wild Things Grow.”

“Everything takes longer than you thought it would,” she said with a smile.

By Tuesday, the stucco work was complete, and others were continuing to work on the project.

Cheryl Damon of the Grounds Crew in Falmouth watched workers repair a leak in the pond of her “Marooned in Madagascar” garden Tuesday morning.

“The idea is that you are marooned on an island, and you’ve decided that no one is coming to get you, so you have to do something,” Damon said.

The show’s theme let her use many tropical plants, which she got from the Morrison Developmental Center in Scarborough. Some of the plants came from the personal collection of Kevin Kearns, director of the Seedlings program at Morrison.

Damon’s vision is just one of the 18 that will be on display in the gardens, up from 16 display gardens last year.

Every one of the 11,000 square feet in the 18 gardens will be fretted over and tended during their creation. And every one will be filled with plants, mulch, stone, water or something else from a garden designer’s imagination gone wild.

 

Staff Writer Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at: [email protected]