WEST ALLIS – Pandemic nesters rejoice: Milwaukee’s Home and Garden Show is back for its 96th year, and ready to inspire homeowners who have become a little tired of their all-too-familiar spaces.
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the nation’s longest-running home and garden show opens Friday at the Wisconsin State Fair Expo Hall. More than 350 vendors and exhibits will be on display for the show’s 10-day run.
Show organizers say homeowners are hungry to transform their surroundings.
“Over the last two years, people have had a lot of time to think about their indoor and outdoor spaces,” Amanda Falk, show director of the Home & Garden Show, said.
“Whether it was creating pseudo home offices, classrooms or backyard respites, the pandemic forced us to reimagine our spaces,” she said.
It’s the little things … and a fountain
This year’s show is whimsically dubbed “Gnome Sweet Home,” paying homage to a classic garden staple in a new age of home decorating and consumer needs.
The pandemic, as the pandemic does, changed homeowner priorities. The show seeks to reflect that, said Mike Ruzicka, president of the Greater Milwaukee Association of Realtors.
While during the early days of the pandemic many nesters sought to make the indoors bearable, the focus has now shifted to creating more livable outdoor spaces.
“Outdoor living, even in Wisconsin, the emphasis on it has grown dramatically,” Ruzicka said.
“The landscapers have been a lot busier. People are going beyond just a patio or a picnic table … they move their kitchens and living rooms outside.”
Jerry Schmitt, buyer for Wisconsin-based Stein’s Gardens and Gifts, said sale are being driven by individuals’ ideas of their homes rather than by specific looks or trends.
“It’s about creating feeling … there’s probably no right way or wrong way to do it … everybody is their own designer,” Schmitt said.
Specific new trends for 2022 include solar panels and solar-powered decorations, exploration of environmentally-friendly products like rain barrels and natural pesticides, gnomes, small indoor and outdoor plants and waterscapes.
“Everyone wants a water feature,” said Dean Pepito, founder and owner of Wales-based waterscape company Aquatica. “They want to create their own sanctuary in their backyard.”
‘Gnome Sweet Home’
The show’s theme this year is “Gnome Sweet Home,” a salute to gardeners’ bearded friends.
Aquatica is showcasing a 2,500-square-foot gnome-themed water garden. Guests can also participate in a scavenger hunt with “Gnorm” the Garden Gnome, and winners will be eligible for garden-themed prizes. The Wisconsin Garden Railway Association created a tiny village, fit for a gnome, inside a model train layout.
Gnomes may be back in style, but they’re nothing new. As early as the 1600s, gnomes were a staple in yards in Europe.
They represented good luck, and presided over vegetables and flowers alike as guardians against evil spirits.
There are several different origin stories for gnomes and similar creatures around the world, Gnomes as we know them today were first produced in Germany in the 1800s.
Little rosy-cheeked men with beards and pointy red hats have since immigrated to United States’ gardens, looking after our backyard landscapes
At Minor’s Garden Center, a Milwaukee garden-needs icon for 73 years, gnomes are back in style.
“It’s a huge category,” said Brian Uebelacker, general manager and product buyer for Minor’s.
“Back in the day, you had your basic four or five gnomes,” Schmitt said.
“Now there’s no limit … You can’t go wrong with a gnome.”
If you go
The Home and Garden Show will take place March 25 through April 3, but is closed Monday and Tuesday, at the Expo Center at Wisconsin State Fair Park, 8200 W. Greenfield Ave. in West Allis.
Full hours, which differ daily, can be found here.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for seniors (purchased on site) and children 12 and under are free. Veterans, frontline workers and emergency personnel are also free.
Parking is available through Gates 1 and 4 in the park, and costs $10 per car, $5 per motorcycle.
Wheelchairs are not available on site.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Cooped up homeowners expect to find inspiration at Home show