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


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Flower Show through the lens of a non-plant person

So I met Hyejin through a former ex of mine and learned that she was an avid photographer. She asked if I wanted pictures of my plants, flowers and gardens and a few weeks back, a group of mutual friends, including Hyejin, hit up Washington Park Arboretum's Winter Garden. This was her first time visiting the WPA and she seemed to enjoy herself!

She will kill me for posting this! LOL

I asked her to join me during press day at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show so she can practice her photography.

As an employee of Microsoft, this was quite a departure for her, but I think she enjoyed being able to see the show and be around people who promote events such as this so she kind of has an idea of why it's a big deal for a lot of us. One of my aims was to see what she would capture and what caught her attention as someone who didn't really look at plants, flowers and gardens on a regular basis.

Here's a link to the result of her observations. I find it remarkable how she's able to compose such great shots.

It just goes to show how the beauty and lure of gardening and nature is so powerful and transcends to a broad range of people.

Oh yes, she also does amazing portraits and more "artsy" stuff. Check out her work and give her some feedback! Her Flickr page.



Almost showtime! And snow flurries have started outside.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

So the story begins...2011 Flower and Garden Show opens!

Early Spring Color

Check out my photos from the press tour. This will be an exciting show that promises to have something for the avid gardener both beginner and professional, but the target are the little ones as famous stories come to life in gardens that aim to entertain, educate and inspire!

Photos first. Praises and trash talk

Click here for photos!

My friend Hyejin Yun joined me in photographing plants and gardens and her camera work is on display with some beautiful shots during the tour. I guess one must befriend her on Facebook to see it, but I might coax her into posting it for more people to see.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I'm wearin' all my own brands brands brands brands...

and wearing it proudly!!

Riz with RHR Merchandise
"I teach and do for you garden! You no plant Arborvitae!!! NO!! Plant Osmanthus hedge instead! Okay, pay now!" LOL!!!

I took my marketing and exposure to a new level and finally have RHR Horticulture and Landwave Gardens merchandise to show off the work my cousin, Nio Subaran, created with me a few years ago.

Embroidery done

Bellevue Embroidery in Factoria Mall did an outstanding job with the shirts, caps, vests, aprons and canvas tote bags I had screen printed and embroidered. Evelyn Hou, one of the proprietors, was a treat to work with as she walked me through the entire process and put forth suggestions that really made a difference in the final products, which included having my website URL. With "" seemingly awkward to have on a t-shirt, she suggested that I have a separate URL for both RHR and Landwave. A quick visit to and I was set. I didn't realize how big the lettering would be in the back, but she insisted that, "They need to really see you!". A great call.

RHR Brand

Telling her a bit about what I do, we talked plants, flowers and this unusual vegetable that she used to have back in Guangzhou called "Ba Wang Hua".

Ba Wang Hua

When I picked up my merchandise, she included a bag of it for me so being the curious botanist I can be, I had to look it up immediately. It's the flower of DRAGONFRUIT! (Hylocereus undatus). She said to cook it in a soup with pig hocks. Hmmmmmmm. Thank goodness its dried. I'm gonna have to wait on that one.

Now I feel totally official and legit! I'll be sporting these during my talk at the NW Flower and Garden Show and I hope it's a brand that sticks in people's mind like this song by Taio Cruz that inspired the title of this blog post.



Former Prof. launches new book!!

One of my professors and advisers as an undergrad at the UW is having a book launch tomorrow night at the UW Botanic Garden's Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle. Professor Sarah Reichard has written "The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating A Garden Ethic". A total departure for her as someone who's used to technical writing for scientific journals and such, but as an avid gardener, she's combined both worlds into a book that looks to be an easy and pleasant read.

Sarah is an authority on invasive species and has played an important role in raising awareness towards plants that have become so problematic in our ecosystems. She's also a conservation biologist and has put that knowledge base to work in a program called Rare Care. Rare Care enlists a large group of volunteers each year to head out into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and monitor species known to be threatened and study their population to ensure their survival and continued existence. Pretty awesome, huh?

The very first class I took in my major was her Intro to Urban Ecology course, which definitely set the tone of my studies and my awareness towards the heavily utilized and disturbed environments around me and how plants and people play their roles. It's one things to garden and make the world a more beautiful place to live, but what Sarah has instilled is, you have to do it responsibly and this is what the book is all about.

As much as I'm stoked about her new book and all of her efforts in putting it together, I have to be a bit critical about it's "imaging". We never should judge a book by it's cover; no, but we're human and will often do so anyway. In a highly competitive field where books in print are slowly and sadly dwindling, the publishers could have done a MUCH BETTER job with the cover. The photo is nice, but the choice of font is very "old school" and the whole packaging gives it a "just picked up on the 50 cent pile of used books at the local Goodwill". I had similar comments about Dan Hinkley's "The Explorer's Garden" a few years ago; I just hope people actually open it up and start reading about a lot of vital information we should be keeping in mind as we work in our landscapes.

Do join us and help launch her book and support a great conservation program as well as proceeds go towards Rare Care:

* Thursday, February 17, 2011
* 6:45 pm Reception and Book-Signing; 7:30 pm Lecture
* Co-sponsored with UW Botanic Gardens
* Location: NHS Hall, Center for Urban Horticulture
* Tickets are $15; for reservations, contact Karin Kravitz at or 206.780.8172

Her books will be for sale. Let's help her out in numbers so they reprint it with a better cover!!! heheh



Thursday, February 3, 2011

Celebrating the year of the rabbit!! 新年快乐!!

The Chinese New Year brought with it a visit to the nearly complete Knowing The Spring Courtyard at the Seattle Chinese Garden.


Entry Shadows

Courtyard Aaron Scale

Rock Bed

Rock Bed Detail

Southeast Corner

Stone Grove Bamboo

Pond Corner

Rear Gate

Covered Pathways

The courtyard will be open to the public this Sunday, Feb 6th at 12PM. Visit the Seattle Chinese Garden website for more information!

Just in time for the festivities, the ever so fragrant wintersweet was in full bloom near the Song Mei Pavillion and its richly scented blossoms could be detected in the courtyard several meters away.

Chimonanthus praecox v. luteus .

What a treat for us after a meeting of the horticultural committee for the garden: landscape designer, Phil Wood, who hosted our meeting, cut us sprigs of his wintersweet growing in his garden in Wallingford.


May the year bring you many warm and humble moments and the presence of loved ones around you at all times.


a test tube baby (courtesy of Judith Freeman from The Lily Garden) I'll be sharing with folks for a plant propagation lecture today!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011