BOSTON (AP) – The New England Spring Flower Show has been as much a part of the Heimlich family’s life as the dirt under their finger nails. Sandy Heimlich still has his father’s program from the 1936 show.

He won’t have a chance to pick up another one this year.

The Massachusetts Horticultural Society, reeling from financial problems and management turmoil, has canceled this year’s exhibition after sponsoring the show for the past 137 years. In its place, the society and its volunteers are staging scaled-down displays in office and hotel lobbies.

The organization outlined its perilous financial state in a letter sent to its 8,000 members last June.

“Arguably, few nonprofits in New England have been as challenged by the shifting priorities of our traditional philanthropic constituencies, fading local corporate support and the rising cost of energy, as MassHort,” the letter read.

The society’s executive director, Bob Feige, resigned over the summer after it was revealed he spent three days in jail in 2007 for failing to pay workers of a business he owned.

The society then announced it was cutting most of its 30 staff members, as well as doing a strategic review to consider how it might continue.

“BLOOMS!” is being held March 13-15 in the lobbies of buildings along the Greenway in downtown Boston.

“Our 8,000 members are still committed and passionate about horticulture,” the society said on its Web site when it announced “BLOOMS!”. “With their enthusiastic support, we have decided to move forward with a new event, free to the public, called “BLOOMS!” This event is made possible by volunteers, in-kind support, and a generous grant from the Bartlett Tree Experts Co.”

The society also announced a fundraising drive to resurrect the Flower Show in 2010.

Heimlich said he’s not participating in BLOOMS! but is hopeful the show can return to its full glory.

What the show once represented, and what has been lost 10 years hence, is evident from the roll call of winning entries at the 1999 New England Spring Flower Show.

The Massachusetts Flower Growers Association won a gold medal exhibit for a display featuring characters from Beatrix Potter.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston won a gold medal and the Superlative Award for Tropical Flowers and Plants for a display that had a television beaming from behind a waterfall and sod-covered Adirondack chairs for those interested in resting their soles.

Wilson Farms of Lexington had a courtyard titled, “Garden Artistry from the Broadway Stage.” The scene was reminiscent of the sets from the musicals “My Fair Lady” and “Oliver!”

Luczai, the Flower Growers executive, said the show did more than entertain flower enthusiasts; it also gave an annual spark to the region’s agricultural industry.

“The show followed with Easter and then pansies,” he said.

Heimlich added: “For us, it was a tradition, but we did get some business out of it.”


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