Gardeners looking for an early taste of spring will find something to fill that need next weekend, though it will be less elaborate than the Maine flower shows they attended in the past. The flower show was cancelled in 2020, 2021 and again this year because of the pandemic. Sponsor Maine Landscape and Nursery Association hopes to be able to hold a full flower show next year.

The new event – the Maine Garden + Marketplace – will be held at Thompson’s Point, as were the flower shows that preceded it, but it will be contained within the Brick South building without the connecting tents that in the past provided extra space for flower show display gardens.

“We wanted to give people the chance to come to an event and not have the crush of people we have seen from the flower show in the past,” said Mark Faunce, flower show chairman for the association. If flower show history is a guide, expect the event to be busiest just after opening each day at 10 a.m. and less crowded from the middle of the afternoon until closing time, he said.

Don Sproul, executive director of the association, said he anticipates about 100 booths, encompassing local nurseries like Broadway Gardens and Skillins, which typically bring a variety of plants for visitors to see and buy; lawn and garden companies, where attendees can ask for advice and hire landscapers; and groups like the Cooperative Extension, Master Gardeners, Maine Forest Service, and the American Chestnut Foundation.

The Maine Flower Show included many display gardens, like the edge of the tulip, daffodil and hyacinth bed here. This year, the show has been scaled back because of the pandemic. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Since mask mandates are lifting and Americans are traveling again, why not hold a full-fledged flower show this spring? Organizers would have had to make that decision last autumn to give nurseries enough time to force trees, shrubs and other plants into blooming in March, unnaturally early, for the show’s display gardens. But at that time, with the Delta variant roaring through the U.S., nobody could predict what the status of COVID-19 would be this spring.

I asked how much money was spent growing flowers and otherwise preparing for the 2020 show, which was shut down by state mandate after the pandemic reached Maine. Faunce declined to give an exact number, but allowed that, “It was in the six figures,” meaning more than $100,000. The association did not want to take the chance of losing that much money again.


In addition, while many people are comfortable going out in public now, others are still avoiding crowds.

“For the Flower Show to make money, we need 15,000 people to show up,” Faunce said.

By reducing expenses – no shuttle buses from distant parking lots, no tents or guest lecturers, no cost to grow plants for display gardens – the association hopes to raise a little money, which is used to support association activities, even if the Marketplace audience is smaller.

The smaller, less-complicated event also requires far fewer volunteers. Volunteers numbered about 750 for the flower show, while the Marketplace will need only about 75.

In addition to renting the hall, the association has purchased parking spaces – including 15 handicapped spaces – around the building so Marketplace visitors can park free, Sproul said, or at least until the spaces are filled. Motorized carts – not the buses of past years– will circle spaces in the Brick South lot to convey people to the show. The organizers would also like to encourage attendees to take the Metro bus, which has a stop at Thompson’s Point, to carpool and to come later in the day.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at: