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Breath of Spring
Indoor gardens bloom amid home improvement booths
By Joyce Rosencrans
Post home editor

It was freezing outside, an arctic wind whipping around downtown Cincinnati corners, the day I visited the 2005 Fifth Third Bank Home & Garden Show by Hart Productions at Cinergy Center. Inside the convention center, the coat could come off as I passed show visitors resting on benches among the show's "Neighborhood Gardens."

Various landscape firms' best efforts at forcing blossoms for these 20 garden plots-under-roof put a mini-forest of flowering trees, blooming azaleas, clumps of purple tulips and a circle of bright yellow daffodils within my sights first thing.

All the gardens are clustered like so many outdoor rooms near the show's entrance, along with Fifth Third Bank's immense exhibit for on-the-floor financing of all the home-improvement projects show visitors might be enticed to undertake.

Then, the sound of waterfalls and the faint fragrance of spring flowers penetrated my senses and chased away the chill memory of hiking to convention hall from Court Street.

Finally, when kneeling eye-to-eye with the cherubic garden figure in the middle of all those cheerful daffodils, the frosty feeling left my cheeks, nose and fingertips. I was ready to move on from the gardens into the aisles of 340 exhibits by area contractors, designers and craftsmen showing off how much more convenient and pleasant our dwellings can be.

The annual gathering of home-improvement vendors that opened last weekend will continue until 9 p.m. today and run from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, the big show's final day. Admission is $10, $3 for youngsters 13 and under.

The convention hall was not too crowded on a weekday, so I could buzz through within an hour's time and pile brochures and business cards into a plastic courtesy bag provided at the entrance. But I'm a homeowner, so all the pauses to chat with company reps kept me in the exhibit hall for more than a few hours.

Here are some of the show highlights that attracted my attention because spring is almost here, and the checkbook is chafing under an avalanche of ideas for improvements and purchases to make before the lazy days of summer:

•  Homecrest Eural Chat Chairs and Firepit Table: Whoa! The Eastgate Pools area had plenty of spas from which to choose. One had its whirlpool jets turned on, and the spa tub, oddly enough in a visual sense, was surrounded by a group of Amish people. The girls in bonnets and the bearded men were laughing among themselves as they peered into the bubbling depths. They might've been contrasting their choice of no electricity and no indoor plumbing, with the luxury of lounging in the many-jetted, plug-in tub.

After the Amish cleared the Eastgate area, no doubt headed for the Amish-built pergolas and arbor display, a round table with four low-slung chairs came into view. It's the first example I've seen of an outdoor firepit that's actually built into a patio table -- sort of a firelight centerpiece for under the starlight.

The Eural sling chat-chairs are termed "conversational seating," double-speak for seats slung extra low, said one Eastgate Pools representative. The Brownstone-beige chairs surround a 54-inch green-marble inlay table. The four sections of marble make it lighter to move around than a one-piece marble top.

In the center of the green marble: a copper bowl and grate. Nice for a teeny fire to warm up friends' toes and noses after sundown or for toasting marshmallows after a picnic. Get extra-long toasting forks to reach the table's fiery center from those low-slung, laid-back chairs. Regularly $1,700; Home & Garden Show price: $1,399.

•  Buckeye Putting Greens LLC: Wanna know what's a lot less trouble than a swimming pool in the back yard? Your very own putting green: No rolling, sanding, re-seeding or top dressing. Cost is about $12 a square foot, with a 10-year warranty, and it's tons-o-fun for the whole family. This exhibit can test your skills or those of youngsters; there's a rack of pint-size clubs so little ones can try to sink a putt. Representative Robert Zielinski of this Springboro firm said that a putting green at home "appeals to people who don't even play golf." It's for anybody who ever enjoyed miniature golf. He showed a picture of an elaborate layout with several holes surrounded by greens. It was installed by grandparents who didn't mind spending thousands of dollars for something different to keep their grandchildren of all ages entertained.

Catch this exhibit when lots of little kids are putt-putting golf balls to and fro.

Buckeye Putting Greens: (937) 886-1737 or http://www.buckeyegreens.com./

•  ShadeTree Retractable Deck & Patio Canopies, (800) 894-3801 for an authorized dealer. ShadeTree Systems is a Columbus-based company. Go online to www.shadetreecanopies.com. These are really handsome awning strips, modular canopy sections that interlock to cover as wide an area as you like. Canopies glide effortlessly along a rugged aluminum or vinyl track system overhead. The mesh fabric, which is available in stripes or solids, blocks up to 77 percent of the sun's rays.

Available as well in Sunbrella fabrics that block 100 percent of the sun's rays. Water-repellent, too.

Create a pergola effect for a picnic area away from the house; shade a child's play area or extend it from the rear wall of the house. There are matching Backyard Blinds that pull down for extra shade and privacy. If garden and patio areas are meant to be "outdoor rooms," this is one way to create the effect with panache and practicality.

•  Orner's outdoor additions, now at Natorp's, 5371 Morten Drive, Mason, (513) 229-0272. Southern pine or no-paint vinyl pergolas, arbors, gated arbors and "corner wings."

The decorative "wings" are another way to delineate an outdoor "garden room." One corner wing of unpainted pine is regularly $229, just $199 for the Home & Garden Show.

Check out the deluxe pine pergola, Amish-built, that measures 12 feet wide and 16 feet long, show-reduced to $1,695. Picture the healthy green vines that would love to climb aboard this stately structure. Maybe some morning glory vines, moonvine, bottle squash or runner beans.

A pergola-plus-vines is one way to make a naturally green "outdoor room" that's shaded.


Publication Date: 03-05-2005




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