Thursday, February 24, 2011

2011 NW Flower and Garden Show: Yes, another highlight blog!

I guess there are actually people out there who want to know what I thought about the displays at this year's Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

I merely took a quick glance, at most, as I tried to take photographs and notes on some of the gardens, so during the press tour, I thought that many of the displays were excellent. More emphasis on plant material and it was so great to see plant forcing playing a role in creating the "magic" that a show like this can possess.

With many of the exhibitors being close friends and colleagues over the years, I'm going to refrain from being overly critical of their work. The whole reason for this show is for our gardening community to gather together and share in the love and passion that reminds us why we love what we do either professionally every single day or every other weekend when one has time to putter around a yard or tend to some containers. Therefore; I'd rather just focus on what I enjoyed seeing most.

One of the first of these displays is one of the biggest stories of the event was the entry of a 17 year old high school senior who designed and created a garden that showcased reclaimed items re-used in innovative ways and a drought tolerant plant palette that anyone can acquire and have growing in their gardens.

Courtney Goetz shares her garden

Courtney Goetz, daughter of a colleague and friend/garden designer, Sue Goetz aka The Creative Gardener, gets the credit and applause for an interesting, functional and well laid out design that is not over the top. I hope she can continue her work and build on this remarkable experience.

Allium sculptureWhere there wasn't anything all that interesting in her garden in terms of plant materials, I did find this art piece very intriguing. The garden needed a splash of color and this was aimed to do so. Reminiscent of a statuesque Allium or "flowering Onion", but shorter.

Moon Sphere Portrait
One of my favorite garden features of the show was this composition designed and created by a design team that included members of APLD (Association of Professional Landscape Designers - NW Chapter). A simple yet effective feature and with the red-twig dogwood against the "moon" was captivating. The entire raised garden display was jammed-packed with plant material (typical of installs done by LA's, right? hhaha) and the overall garden, dubbed as the "signature garden" of the show, was quite unique attempting to set a mood with hanging silk screens with poetry and art projected onto it. From those not in the know, or at least when the house lights were on, it looked as if the garden pergola was T-P'd! by a group of fraternity brothers (or a rival landscape company). Ok, sorry, I said I wouldn't be critical, but

DSC08976 APLD Garden drapes

A great balance of hardscape, garden art, and lavish plantings was the garden designed and built by Karen Stefonick and B. Bissell General Contractor, LLC. The sculptures were spectacular and complimented and didn't distract from the plantings and the crystal ball in the reflecting pool was an exquisite centerpiece. This is a type of landscape that not everyone can afford to obtain (I mean, c'mon, several thousands of dollars for a friggin glass ball shipped from London. Who needs that?!!!)

Sphere Garden Crystal Globe main

Forcing of plant material for a winter flower and garden show is exceedingly challenge and very expensive. To time plants so they're in peak bloom during the show takes skill, the proper facilities, years of experience and a little bit of luck. Ms. Stefonick's design included many specimens of a popular selection of Melianthus or Honey Bush called 'Antonow's Blue'. During judging, these looked fabulous, but after a few days under the stress of poor theatrical lighting (ugh, don't get me started on this) and the usual stresses most plants go through after being forced (very tender growth), you get this "goin' on up in here":


English Rose and lady bugs For the most part, a lot of exhibitors and growers got it down. Bulbs are probably the most common and easiest to force and can flower at the precise hour you want them to open. Other plants such as these require a bit more skill and scare to carry them. This English Rose from Christianson's Nursery wasn't prolific in bloom, but the few along the rustic fence of their cottage style display was lovely and the fragrance: absolutely magical.
Itoh Peonies
Then Wight's Home and Garden featured the increasingly popular Itoh Intersectional Peonies (a hybrid cross between the herbaceous garden peony with the shrubby tree peony)timed perfectly with just a few blooms open prior to judging with swelling buds ready to burst open into full glorious bloom.

If there was a garden that people could really relate to and jot down some ideas from probably has to be the Washington Park Arboretum's Japanese Garden designed by my buddies Phil Wood and "Uncle" Bob Lilly. It has so many design concepts in such a small space with a humble, yet interesting palette of plants and talk about forcing, they had the finest flowering cherries ever seen at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show thanks to the horticulturists at Seattle Parks and Recreation. Too bad visitors couldn't fully appreciate them in that horrible lighting. Then, under better lighting is a fragrant "new" Pachysandra axillaris introduced by Dan Hinkley he named 'Windcliff'.

Japanese Garden view

Cherry Trees in bad lighting Pachysandra axillaris 'Windcliff'

Alice in Wonderland CatterpillarSo my friends and colleagues, students and instructors at Edmonds Community College, have done it again and devoted sleepless nights and stressful moments to go all out again in a very popular display depicting "Alice in Wonderland". Zsofia Pasztor, owner of Innovative Landscape Technologies and her team of designers and workers put together a crazy and over the top display joined with Cedar Grove Compost, who put together "Alice's Labyrinth" where visitors could walk through the checker-board flanked with Filtrexx Garden Soxx, large sacks or pouches filled with compost creating a new means of planting a garden. Usually used for erosion control, these were planted up with endless purple heucheras, red tulips, primroses, cyclamen, and twig dogwoods.Alice in Wonderland Checkerboard Paths

Again, you can find pics from the show on my Flickr Set.

There was a lot more to the show than these gardens, of course, but I'm getting tired. As ideas come up, I'll try and post them, but this just gives you a small sampling of the week's events.

The show can be quite overwhelming for a newcomer (ie grad student who I showed around), but in a way, it should be! To see the possibilities of plants, gardens and landscapes is what's so cool about the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. If people recognized just how much work goes into planning, designing, organizing, creating, building and promoting this show and see the finished result has to strike a chord with people; this is no easy feat!

DSC09028Now, looking ahead, I saw some wonderful container displays and wondered if I could make a "comeback" by doing this more manageable display. It'll still be a lot of work and money invested in creating a display, but it is the NW Flower and Garden Show and the exposure is tremendous. Or maybe it's time to tackle a real display garden and collaborate with those who have approached me with the idea of doing a show garden. DSC09046

We'll, there's less than a year to plan and prepare...I better think hard and see if this is something I can tackle.

It really is a lot of strenuous hard work, folks, really it is! It's also quite an honor and rewarding when all falls into place you allow the magic to just happen!

Placing Pagoda



  1. Riz:
    This has been a wonderful post to read! I will admit to being more than l little curious as to what your oveall opinion of the show would be.. Judging from the photos alone, the Japanese inspired garden was by far my favourite. I should have liked to be able to walk through the 'Alice' inspired garden, as the concept of the childlike wonder is a wonderful way to introduce new gardeners, young and old alike! As for you entering...... what's stopping you? Even if it means you work on a collaboration... but something akin to your plant explorations with 'he who shall not be named!' would make a wonderful theme! I'm a plant whore and would love to see shows like this get back to the plant materials that leave that specific percentage of we plantaholics dizzy with excitement, instead of theatre inspired lighting and bedsheets! Just my two cents worth! [LOL!]

  2. Thanks for letting me relive the F&G show and see what I missed. The comment by Barry took the words right out my mouth. I already told you, the japanese garden was my favorite. And those bedsheets/toilet paper made me dizzy. -T

  3. The silk screeny thing didn't do much for me either. Somehow I completely missed the Courtney Goetz garden - that's a bummer. Nice write up!