Hundreds of winter-weary Mainers got a whiff of spring at the Portland Flower Show opening gala Wednesday night at the Portland Company complex.

“It gives you a chance to come in and smell the fresh earth and the mulch,” said Garrett Klinger, who owns 133 acres in Otisfield with his wife, Eileen. “It gets you excited about springtime.”

The opening night gala ticket price of $45 at the door or $30 in advance included hors d’oeuvres, the chill sounds of live music by Anna and the Diggs, and plenty of elbow room to explore the gardens.
“It’s not as busy and you get to have a glass of wine as you go around,” said opening-night regular Betsey Timm of Falmouth.

Given the common theme “Timeless Gardens,” many of the garden designers went back in time.
“There are a lot of different ways to have a garden, but what’s nice is you can smell spring in here,” said show director Joanna Sprague, who has been involved with the event since 1998. “We’ve looked at water features… and I’ve become a very different gardener because of the show.”

While it might take a trained eye to recognize historical horticulture, everyone recognized the past in features such as an old mill, an outhouse, or a 1931 Chevrolet.

Dave Remington of Gorham works with O’Donal’s nursery and helped with that garden. But his 3-year-old son Anthony was captivated by a model train traveling through a village with more than 20 buildings and – of course – mini landscaping. Hobbyist Richard Young of Portland had set up the more than 250 feet of track.

Exhibitors had just four days to create a garden with their allotted square footage within the large Portland Company complex.

Toby Jacobs of Portland had visited when most of the exhibitors had been setting up the framing and hadn’t yet moved on to vegetation. “It’s a pretty amazing transformation,” he said, walking through the “Maine in the Shade” walking trail garden by Jeff Marstaller of Cozy Acres Greenhouse of North Yarmouth.

“It’s different every year, but there are similarities,” said 14-year-old Ellie Sapat of Falmouth, noting that the smell of mulch is one of the similarities from year to year.

“The color green exists!” laughed her older sister, Emma Sapat.

New homeowner Kelcie Martin of Portland also mentioned the smell of mulch. “It brings me back to my childhood,” she said, describing a cul-de-sac with kids playing kick-the-can.  “We’re trying to get inspired to see what can do with our exterior.”

“Spring fever is coming,” laughed Diana LaPointe of Old Orchard Beach, stopping to take photos at the Jaiden Landscaping display, which received the Palette Award for skillful use of color.

The Portland Flower Show continues through 5 p.m. today with tickets costing $15 at the door. For more information, see One more award will be announced today: the People’s Choice Award for the exhibit receiving the most votes from flower show attendees.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer from Scarborough. She can be contacted at:

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