The annual Portland Flower Show is known for helping people get in the gardening mood, and as a place for finding new ideas about what a garden can be.

Take, for example, an exhibit planned for this year’s show that features a garden with a model train running through it. The exhibit will include dwarf evergreens and other tiny plants from O’Donal’s Nursery in Gorham, water features from Robin’s Nest Aquatics in Hollis, and trains from Portland garden train enthusiast Richard Young.

“When they see the garden train, every adult becomes a kid and every kid wants to be an engineer,” said Jeff O’Donal of O’Donal’s Nursery. “Not only does this help people learn about the hobby (garden railroading), but it shows people a different way to use plants.”

The garden railway layout will be one of 14 elaborate garden exhibits at this year’s Portland Flower Show, which runs Wednesday through Sunday at the Portland Company Complex on Fore Street. The show, in its 17th year, features the 14 gardens and more than 100 vendors spread out in five warehouse buildings along Portland’s waterfront.

There will also be a Children’s Discovery Garden for kids to learn about composting and chickens, explore a fairy house, and go on a scavenger hunt. The popular flower show auction will take place Sunday afternoon, when people can bid on or buy at full price items donated by local garden centers and plants and materials used in the show. Money raised from the auction benefits the University of Maine Cooperative Extension demonstration garden in Falmouth and the Maine Harvest for Hunger Gardens program.

The show, organized and hosted by Portland Yacht Services, is a chance for local gardening supply companies to show off their wares. The companies creating exhibit gardens this year are asked to follow the show’s theme, “Storybook Gardens.” The gardens will be judged by a panel of garden experts Wednesday night, and about a dozen awards in various categories will be handed out, including Best in Show.

“The show gets people in the mood for gardening, and hopefully it’s a chance for me to see some customers,” said Christopher Paquette of Robin’s Nest Aquatics. “I think it basically creates goodwill for people in the gardening business.”

It’s a chance for people to wander around and browse plants and tools, and ask questions of experts in their field. Young, for instance, will be at the garden train exhibit to answer questions about his hobby of garden railroading. It’s actually a pretty widespread hobby, with its own publication, Garden Railways Magazine.

Young can explain how to lay track outdoors, by building trenches and filling them with the proper materials to make the track “float” on the soil. He also can talk about how to protect the metal buildings against weather, and how to pick the best sort of plants for a train layout.

Young is a train buff, and his partner, Michelle Higgins, is a gardening fan. So this hobby helps them combine their passions, spend time together, and create an attraction for their whole neighborhood.

“It’s fun for everyone,” said Young.

The vendors scheduled for this year’s show include nurseries and greenhouses, landscape companies, and businesses that specialize in garden-related items ranging from pottery and flagstones to stone walls and water features. There will also be several lectures each day by experts on various topics, including moths, composting, daylilies, English gardens, and beekeeping. More information can be found online at portlandcompany.com/flower.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at rrouthier@pressherald.com