Detroit Free Press
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Detroit Free Press
Daryl Toby stands outside his Sylvan Lake office, staring at a big pile of boulders and imagining how they will look in an Oriental garden in Detroit.That’s what Toby’s garden design and construction company is creating at Bloomfest, the flower show that opens next Thursday at Cobo Center. The AguaFina display includes a teahouse that Toby had built in Bali just for the flower show. To his relief, it finally cleared customs and arrived in a 20-by-8-by-8-foot steel shipping container this week.
After months of planning, this is crunch time for Toby and the 13 other major exhibitors at the DTE Energy Detroit International Bloomfest. They got into Cobo to start construction two days ago. Bloomfest runs Thursday April 9 to Sunday April 13. Organizers hope the second annual event will draw 60,000 to 70,000 people, up from the 44,000 who attended in Bloomfest’s inaugural year. Produced by the Michigan Horticultural Society, Bloomfest is part of an area gardening show triple-header in the week ahead. The Ann Arbor Spring Home & Garden Show will be in Novi Thursday April 9.
In downtown Detroit, Bloomfest visitors will be able to see the landscape displays, take in seminars, view professional flower arrangements and sculptures that 30 artists have created for Bloomfest, as well as learn along with their youngsters in the Children’s Village and shop an expanded marketplace. The show covers four acres on two floors.
This year’s theme is “Garden Places. City Spaces. More for Living.” Organizers say the emphasis will be on showing ideas people can use in their own gardens. It also will explore links between plants and health, how to use plants to relieve stress through horticultural therapy, and growing and cooking with herbs. Garden retailer Smith & Hawken will host cooking demonstrations using organic ingredients.
A teahouse from Bali
For Toby, 30, of Pleasant Ridge, creating a tranquil island inside a bustling convention hall is a repeat challenge. He was also a major exhibitor at last year’s Bloomfest. It required a lot of work, he admits, but the show gave visibility to his Oakland County firm, which specializes in water gardens and in Asian artifacts Toby imports himself. He finds the latter on annual trips; he recently returned from Bali, where he commissioned the teahouse for Bloomfest. It is made of several types of wood and will overlook a Zen garden made of fine sand.
AguaFina’s Mystic Isles exhibit – with two ponds, a waterfall, a dry stream and a bridge – will be built with 130 yards of sand, 40 tons of boulders and 15 pallets of brick. Toby worked out the plan with AguaFina designers Mark Hanford and Karen Skandarlis. It will be a busy weekend for the firm; while Toby is at Bloomfest, Skandarlis will staff an AguaFina booth at the Novi show.
While still in high school at Cranbrook, Toby got a pickup truck and started his own lawn maintenance business. He went to Michigan State University and took courses in Brazil, where he caught the travel bug. Since then, he has been to Europe, Central America, Vietnam and Thailand, often traveling with just a backpack, hammock and camera.
Eventually, Toby made a connection between the items he was seeing on the trips and what he could do with them back home, where his business had evolved from cutting grass to designing and constructing gardens. “In Asia, I saw fantastic garden pieces that would fit in with our clients,” he says. For example, he recently negotiated with a home owner in China to buy the man’s picturesque front door, which Toby will use as a gate in a client’s garden.