January 16, 2012

Would You Like a Townhouse to Go Along With That Garden?

The Boston Flower & Garden Show opens on March 14 - eight weeks and two days from today.   I know this because, in the next 58 days, I have to pull a gigantic rabbit out of a hat: to wit, a townhouse.  Perhaps I should explain.

My wife, Betty, is a superb horticulturalist and gardening lecturer.  She also dabbles in gardening as evidenced by our two acres of dazzling perennials, containers and specimen beds.  She knows garden design though she does not practice as a professional.  For the past five years, she has created exhibits for, first, the New England Spring Flower Show and, for the past two years, the Boston Flower & Garden Show.

A few weeks back, I was looking over her shoulder as she sketched the elements of a garden for the upcoming show, the theme of which is ‘First Impressions’.  Her problem wasn’t so much the garden as it was the backdrop.  The garden she was creating won’t be one of the lucky ones surrounded by other landscape displays.  Instead, it will back up to the ‘commercial’ part of the show – the vendors that pay the show’s bills.  She was thinking in terms of tall evergreens to block the view of the vendors so that people viewing the garden wouldn’t be distracted by someone hawking shovels or statuary.

My bright idea: add the facade of
a 20-foot-wide, two-story
townhouse to the rear of an
entry garden.
“Too back you can’t just put up a house in back of the garden,” I joked. “That would certainly block the view of the vendors.”

She kissed me.  Normally, this is a very good thing.  When she kisses me after she has been growling in frustration, bad things can follow.

To make a long story short, my job became to build a regulation-size, twenty-foot-wide, two-story townhouse.  Fortunately, the townhouse has to be only a foot deep.  Also fortunately, the ceiling of the Seaport World Trade Center is sixteen feet high so the townhouse I need to build is just a story and a half.  It will kind of disappear into the ceiling.  I hope.

I should also note that my budget for this house of very close to zero because the organization sponsoring the garden is a non-profit.

This is what I found at the warehouse
(no, that's not me in the photo)
Last week, I got very dirty crawling through a warehouse where various staging for the old New England Spring Flower Show is stored.  The first thing I found was a door in a frame.  Then, miracle of miracles, I found an 8’x8’ clapboard panel with a window in it.  Then I found another.  I also found a plethora of 4’x’8’ framed plywood panels.  I recognized one of the clapboard panels because I nearly got killed installing it at the 2007 show for another of Betty’s gardens.

Having these pieces of lumber is a far cry from having a townhouse façade, but it is a start.  It will take the services of a couple of very good carpenters (volunteers, of course, like me) to turn it into a Beacon Hill townhouse.

This weekend, Betty found a perfect, half-round granite doorstep for it, plus a heptacodium that will be the 420-square-foot garden’s centerpiece.  She is now working with greenhouses to get forced plant material sufficient to fill the garden to appear like it is mid-May in the middle of March.  She has the hard part of this assignment.

And all I have to do is make a townhouse appear.

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