Gardens with themes from "Avatar," "Jurassic Park" and "Up" will move the Wichita Garden Show further into the realm of entertainment this year under the theme "Gardens in the Movies."
It's a theme that will see the show's great gardens decked out in Jurassic Park gates, the Tree of Souls and the Hallelujah Mountains of Pandora, Paradise Falls and Carl's house afloat in balloons.
"The gardens are so much fun," says Alex Lingg, director of the show, which begins Wednesday and runs through March 6 at Century II.
"There's something about the movies that's fun. It's fun to go where it's spring.... It's a real celebration."
As winter wears out its welcome, the garden show steps in to provide a breath of spring and access to garden products and services that have longer-reaching benefits.
At the same time, the show continues to be developed as an event that offers entertainment along with gardening advice, and it will feature concerts, contests, and art and craft exhibits as well as seminars, speakers, flower shows and wildlife demonstrations.
The show drew about 42,000 people last year. (The biggest attendance ever was 50,000.)
"We're trying to give them a whole lot back for their money," Lingg said of the show. People spend an average of four hours there, she said, and should bring a camera and a notepad to record what they want to try in their own yards.
There will be more than 200 booths offering garden- and outdoor-related products, services and education.
Tree Top Nursery is back after taking a few years' break from constructing a great garden, Lingg said, and it is building "Jurassic Park."
"We're going to have gargantuan columns, and the gates, we're building those," said Mark Matney of Tree Top.
Complete Landscaping is doing "Avatar" and has contracted with Ilusion Productions of Haysville to build the hanging Hallelujah Mountains and the Tree of Souls from that movie. The landscape business is bringing in tropical plants from around the country for the garden, which will also have a waterfall.
Scenic Landscapes is featuring "Up," where people will come face to face with Paradise Falls. This movie garden's message could be an echo of the garden show's: "Like others who search for paradise, Carl learned that, many times, it is wiser to look closer to home than to journey to far lands."
Johnson's Garden Center will take people into "The Secret Garden," where, according to the garden show, "there is something amazing and healing about tilling the soil, planting a seed, nurturing it, and watching a tall green plant or brightly colored flower grow."
From "The Karate Kid," Hong's Landscape & Nursery will go into Mr. Miyagi's courtyard, with five kinds of redbuds, including the yellow-leaved Rising Sun; different levels of wooden decks; and a fountain trickling into a basin.
Workers started building the great gardens last Wednesday.
"It takes about 6,000 man-hours to make one great garden happen and thousands of dollars in cash outlays to pay for time, plants and labor by the garden contractor," Lingg says.
Stone Creek Nursery, a strong presence in recent shows, will not be doing a garden this year, she said.
There will also be two midsize gardens — the Shire from "Lord of the Rings," by the Sedgwick County Extension and master gardeners; and "A Pirate's Life for Me," inspired by pirate movies, by the Kansas Pond Society. And there will be two small gardens, by the Kansas Orchid Society and Johnson's Legacy Landscapes.
Films and music
The theme of movies will continue into a "Cinema Alfresco" theater in the gardens throughout the day March 5, with the showing of a specially curated selection of short-film programming from past Tallgrass Film Festivals.
It's part of the show's goal to be as entertaining as possible.
"We've found that people want to be educated but they want to have fun," Lingg says.
The fun will come in short bits such as brief concerts and attempts to win contests. The talent will be local, including the Ramblers (6:30 p.m. Wednesday), St. Mark United Methodist Church Praise Team (7 p.m. Wednesday), Kevin May and his saxophone (7 and 7:45 p.m. Thursday), the Diamond W Wranglers (5 and 6 p.m. March 5), North of Fifty (6:30 p.m. March 5), and The Good Guys (3 p.m. March 6).
Each day of the show has a different theme, from Spiritual Night to Ladies Night to Family Night to Artists Day on March 6.
For details, see the garden show's guide in The Eagle on Sunday and the website www.wichitagardenshow.com.
Speakers and contests
Two out-of-town speakers will join the ranks of Kansas experts giving free seminars throughout the show. Judy Allmon, a landscape architect from Jefferson City, Mo., will speak about "Livable Landscapes: More Color, More Interest, More Results" at 2 p.m. March 5, and Alan Branhagen, director of horticulture for Powell Gardens outside Kansas City, Mo., will speak on "Edible Landscaping" at 3 p.m. March 5.
Contests that will be reprised this year include the decorated hats of Ladies Night —"that contest has been such a winner," Lingg says — and the decorate-your-wheels contest on Friday night. That can be any wheels, from a stroller to a skateboard to a bicycle to a wheelchair.
"I want a Harley" this year, Lingg says.
The put-together-a-grill-with-no-instructions contest is also back, on March 5. Last year's results confirmed what we already knew, Lingg says: "Men don't look at the instructions and they don't clean up."
Everyone with a ticket can register for a chance to dig in dirt for a Cub Cadet riding lawnmower on March 5 — and five chances will be given to the audience that night.
Art and dogs
Artists Day on the Sunday of the show will feature artists stationed around the show painting; at about 4 p.m., they will be rounded up, and showgoers can judge their work.
There also will be an art exhibition, quilt and needle-art exhibits, and two amateur flower shows
An event called Meet the Breeds will feature more than 20 breeds of dogs on March 6. It's presented in conjunction with the garden show and the Art Show at the Dog Show exhibition, in the gallery foyer of Century II. Admission to that event, from noon to 4:30 p.m., will be free for anyone, whether they go to the garden show or not.
Ticket prices have increased this year by 50 cents, to $11.50 for adults. However, a multi-day pass will cost $2 less than last year, at $19.50. Seniors pay $9 on Wednesday and get a $1 discount other days.
People seem to be getting the hang of taking shuttles from the free parking lot at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, Lingg says, and that makes the package pickup service at the garden show all the more valuable. When you buy something at the show, you can have the seller deliver it to the east side of Expo Hall for you, and you can pick it up there once you're back in your car. (Or you can carry it to the drop-off point yourself.)
If you go
Wichita Garden Show
Where: Century II
When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and March 5, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 6
How much: $11.50 for ages 16 and older, $6 for children ages 10 through 15, $2.50 for children ages 5 through 9, and free for children 4 and under, $10.50 for seniors ($9 on Wednesday); multi-day pass, $19.50
For more information, see the garden show's guide in The Eagle on Sunday and the website www.wichitagardenshow.com.
Meet Eagle reporters at show
You can visit with garden writer Annie Calovich and other Eagle reporters during the Wichita Garden Show. Find them at The Eagle booth, where you can also register to win prizes.
* Annie Calovich, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and March 5, and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday
* Beccy Tanner, 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday
* Suzanne Perez Tobias, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday
* Denise Neil, 3 to 5 p.m. Friday