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Spring things to sing about: Show: Maryland Home & Flower Show will bloom with ideas and signs of the season.


Jon Cook doesn't promise you a rose garden. Instead, he'll create a low-maintenance backyard paradise with dwarf shrubs, miniature flowering trees, lush ferns, blooming perennials, a patio, waterfalls and ponds, arched trellises and meandering brick pathways.

You will be able to see examples of Cook's work starting tomorrow at the Maryland Home & Flower Show at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

All week Cook and his son, David, have been hauling mulch and thousands of plants to the show site in the Cow Palace, working long hours to create a 3,000-square-foot spring oasis for visitors.

"It will be breathtaking, but also practical," said Cook of his design. "I want the visitor to walk in and relax . . . enjoy the soothing sounds of trickling water. It will be their own Shangri-la."

Cook, who owns Low Maintenance Landscaping in Ellicott City, has created the show's "Feature Garden," an honor he earned after being awarded "Best in Show" at last year's exhibit.

With the theme "Signs of Spring," this year's home and flower show offers 175,000 square feet of exhibits, including 20 professionally landscaped gardens, more than 450 booths offering the latest in home products and services, a plant market, fresh-cut flowers, educational exhibits, crafts, free seminars and cooking shows, said Jay Plummer, vice president of S&L; Productions Inc., organizers of the event.

"Just about anything you could want for indoor and outdoor spring home improvement projects can be found at the show," said Plummer, "from kitchens to carpeting, decks and hot tubs to unique gardening items and crafts."

Brian Hudkins, owner of Gramophone, a stereo and video store in Lutherville and Ellicott City, said his company will show the newest product on the market, a DVD - Digital Versatile Disc - in addition to the latest in home theater equipment.

"A DVD has the same width and thickness as a compact disc but can play movies as well as music and can store up to 13 times the data contained on a CD," said Hudkins. "One side alone will store up to 135 minutes of movies, and the picture quality is superb - sharper, brighter and clearer than a video."

Gramophone will also exhibit large-screen televisions, furniture designed for the home theater and whole house music systems that can be operated from every room in the house as easily as flipping on a light switch.

Hudkins added that outdoor sound systems are also becoming more and more popular and that his company will exhibit a variety of speakers designed for the garden and patio.

Also new to this year's show will be DeckMate, a new concept in deck and patio covers from Silver-top Manufacturing Co. that contributes to home energy efficiency by helping homeowners use the light and warmth of the sun to their advantage.

PanPiper Services will unveil the DeckMate at the show, demonstrating the modular design's ability to lower indoor air temperatures and reduce air-conditioning use.

The newest in high-end appliances for the discriminating consumer will be shown by the Kitchen Arts Center, said sales manager Thom Young.

"We'll be featuring subzero, built-in refrigeration that completely integrates into the cabinetry . . . nothing that indicates it's a refrigerator or freezer will be showing - no hinges, no frames," said Young.

Visitors looking for in-depth information can attend free seminars and talk to experts in the home improvement, decorating and landscaping fields. "Perennials for Sun," "Working with Laminated Floors" and "Renovating Your Landscape" are just three of the many topics to be discussed at more than 20 workshops sponsored by Edrich Lumber Inc. at the Green Thumb Theater.

And visitors can admire floral creations entered in the annual florist competition.

Kathy Miskelly, a floral designer and manager at Perry Hall Florists, is hoping that her creations will capture a blue ribbon at this year's show after winning second and third place at previous competitions.

She's entering designs in several categories, but said: "I'm really excited about my silk arrangement for the 'Spring Party Centerpiece' competition."

Thinking of spring showers and May flowers, Miskelly said she will incorporate a child's umbrella into her arrangement of

lavender and pink blooms.

While Miskelly is hoping to catch the judges' eyes with her creation, Cook's feature garden will not be eligible for judging this year but is in the running for the people's choice award.

Cook said he started designing his garden while disassembling last year's entry, but the real work started in December when he began forcing plants and flowers into early bloom in his hothouse.

In addition to waterfalls, a gazebo, patio and winding brick pTC walkways, Cook has used thousands of flowers, shrubs and trees and close to 50 yards of mulch in the creation of his garden.

Visitors will be able to enjoy the fragrance of 200 blooming miniature daffodils, 300 assorted perennials, 75 azaleas and a ground-cover mix of 5,000 periwinkle and pachysandra.

"There's also lots of hosta, two blooming dogwood trees, a magnolia and ornamental dwarf grasses," said Cook.

He estimates the value of his garden at $20,000 but said that not all of it is out-of-pocket money. "Luckily my suppliers let me borrow some of the material," said Cook.

The money is well-spent, he added: "About one-fifth of my business comes from the show."

And just how much would a customer have to spend to move the show's feature garden into his own back yard?

"About $40,000 to $50,000," answered Cook. "But we can modify or expand to anyone's budget."

What: Maryland Home & Flower Show, "Signs of Spring"

When: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. tomorrow, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 7-8; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 9

Where: Maryland State Fairgrounds, Timonium, in Cow Palace and Exhibition Hall

Tickets: $7.50 adults, $6 seniors, $2 for ages 6-12, under 6 free; coupons available at participating Giant Food locations for $1.50 off adult admission

Call: (410) 863-1180

Pub Date: 2/27/97

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