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Wichita Garden Show ushers in spring a few weeks early

"Gardens in the Movies" was the theme of the great gardens at the 44th Wichita Garden Show.
"Gardens in the Movies" was the theme of the great gardens at the 44th Wichita Garden Show. Correspondent

We're a week and a half away from daylight saving time, two and a half weeks from the official first day of spring. But the Wichita-area garden industry has brushed off the last of winter and introduced spring early at Century II.

The Wichita Garden Show opened Wednesday with dinosaurs, waterfalls, music and all manner of garden plants, furniture, whimsy and education.

"We love this show," said Leola Brake, who drives down from Topeka every year for it, this year with friend Janet Johnsen of Auburn and Johnsen's 23-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Benson.

"The gardens they put up — I can't believe they bring in large rocks for that," Benson said after her first look at the five centerpiece gardens in Expo Hall.

The theme of this year's show is "Gardens in the Movies," and Benson's favorite was "The Secret Garden," a peaceful, walled enclosure with live ducklings. Brake liked a garden that had the opposite effect —"Jurassic Park," which comes complete with an impending sense of doom, looming dinosaurs and the boom of an impact tremor. Oh, and fragrant hyacinths.

Johnsen had a different favorite — the "Up!" garden, featuring a landscape of tropical plants up against a towering waterfall and a colorful little house suspended by a slew of balloons.

"My first car was that," Jim Chambers of Hutchinson said, heading over to a 1948 Ford sedan parked in "Mr. Miyagi's Courtyard" from "The Karate Kid."

Brake bought a foldable cart that can hold 250 pounds just for the show. She and other showgoers dipped into colorful "Texas trash" made from roofing material off old tobacco and hay barns, a twist on gnomes — gone Tuscan — at the Treescapes booth, and artistic birdhouses with real roofs locally made by Jacqui Adams, at the Brady Nursery booth.

Showgoers can buy plants, of course, even right out of the gardens, and there are other surprises too: Brown-recluse spiders and bed bugs have a booth. It was pretty popular Wednesday.

At least two chiropractors were spotted — doing our gardening in the wrong posture, anyone?

The Kansas Pond Society is floating a big pirate ship in its water garden, and vegetables are flourishing as beautifully as Bilbo Baggins must have grown them in the Shire in the Extension Master Gardeners' Hobbit garden, which also features a Hobbit-hole built into a hill.

Kathy Mills of Kechi took a photo of the Shire's red-veined Redbor kale, which she plans to try at home. "I think it looks so pretty. And it's good for you," she said.

Can you really grow vegetables that look that gorgeous in the non-Shire?

"If you don't run out of elbow grease," master gardener Dick Dobson said.

If you go

Wichita Garden Show

Where: Century II

When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today, 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; multi-day pass, $19.50

For more information, visit www.wichitagardenshow.com

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