Thursday, February 9, 2012

2012 Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Part 1: A critical eye


2 Marty shows insect hotelI've been trying to figure out all day how I could present this: I collected some notes and photographs during the press tour for the 2012 Northwest Flower and Garden Show and part of me feels the obligation to highlight all the wonderful things about it, but then another part of me goes into work mode and wants to just be overly critical. After years of attending and being a part of this show (and yes, having also visited the famous Chelsea Flower Show last May in England), I know a lot of the challenges both attendees and exhibitors face when it comes to putting together award winning gardens and displays that people will admire. After talking to friends and colleagues, both amateur gardeners and professionals in the field, I summed up some of their thoughts and my own as I walked the show floor. I won't name names, but they were observations that struck a chord somehow and this is just beginning to scratch the surface.


*IT'S A LOT OF HARD WORK that takes a team of dedicated and organized people to put exhibits like this together. Always remind yourself of that no matter how hideous and poorly built some of the gardens are, they took months of planning and just a short amount of time to put all together. 


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*DO away with the theatrical lighting for the show gardens. Light those that want/need to be lighted, but let people see what they're going during move-in and let the plants and ornaments stand out so they can be fully admired and photographed.

*ENOUGH white birches. Love them white stems and peeling bark, but THERE ARE OTHER TREES you can use!!!


*IT'S THE SAME PLANTS EACH YEAR. You'd think that growers know what's been done before, but they seem too reliant on the same plants each time and it's totally understandable. It's winter and the palette can be very limited, but even a friend who's a non-gardener attended last year felt that everything was very "romanticized".


6 Birdsong


Orchid tuxedo

*EVERYONE'S INTERPRETATION OF THE "FLORAL SYMPHONY" KINDA SUCKED with the exception of the orchid folks with their cleverly interpreted music stand signs and tuxedo pots. Others just tried to pull off a music theme and it all seemed pretty half-ass.

*MAKE IT LOOK LIKE A MATURE LANDSCAPE! Yes, you put it together in just a few days or even under 24 hours. This is a show to inspire gardeners what they can do with their landscapes and, yes, you want to demonstrate how to plant and do things, but THIS IS A SHOW! Make it look like it's been growing that way FOR-EV-ER!!.

*EXHIBITORS TRYING TOO HARD TO BE SUSTAINABLE. They're trying to get a message across and demonstrate how to be more "green", so they display the concept and embellish it with plants and garden art to make it look good to the point where it looks gaudy and unrealistic.


DSC04904


*IF YOU'RE GONNA INCLUDE EDIBLES, MAKE US WANT TO EAT IT! Not something we should tear out because it's not doing anything. Yes, it's a tough time of year to even have veggies looking good, but sheesh....run down to the Pike Place Market and throw some great produce on your display garden or something!

I could go on and on; and I probably will later on, but this gets us started. For the seasoned professional, they can be pretty critical, but for the casual show attendee, it's simple something spectacular! Both, however, will acknowledge the time and effort it takes to create these displays and marvel at the fact that such a show like this exists for all of us who enjoy gardens, plants, flowers, fruits, vegetables and also bear in mind: THE SHOW ISN'T JUST ABOUT THE GARDENS and that's probably the reason why I love this show.

More soon...









20 comments:

  1. I'm with you especially on the lighting. I've never understood why they keep it so dark in there!

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    1. Lighting creates a mood: it highlights certain prominent and dramatic features, but it also conceals problem spots and make young children trip hazards.

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    2. Oh, they also piss off many members of the press. LOL!

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  2. Have to confess I agree with many of the comments. That is not to say that I don't love the show and am proud to be a part of it. It's just that in past years I have shared many of the frustrations above. I must say that I enjoyed the 2011 gardens more than the 2010 overall so perhaps the designers are evolving and gaining confidence in doing something different. Sadly I can't make it to the 2012 show.

    I am grateful for the opportunity to visit as a writer so I can get quality photos in better lighting. Those inspirational nuggets can then be used to inspire others and act as a springboard for my own professional designs.

    Overall, thank you to all those who put in so much work and be encouraged that we are right behind you to explore new ideas

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    1. Such hard work from everyone behind the scenes, it's quite remarkable. Thanks for chiming in, Karen. Welcome back!

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  3. This was refreshingly un-cheerleader-ish! You make some excellent points. I liked last year's gardens better than this year's. Maybe I was noticing different things, but the theme this year, it seemed like it forced the designers to focus more on infrastructure and hardscape and decor rather than the plants. I thought the plants were boring this year too.

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  4. AHHH, Riz you dinged at my heart a bit because I did one of the gardens and used white birches. My dilemma, we need more plant support from the industry! No one will loan or cut us a price break and the trees I REALLY want to use are expensive; after dumping thousands of dollar in plants just to cover the mulch surface, it is a tough budget item to face. I refuse to use red twig dogwood (a a list of others) and never have because it is sooo overdone each year. My question...what are our options for plant support and sponsorship?

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    1. Oh pssshh, I would have used white birches as well. I didn't make that comment at first because I love groves of B. jacquemontii. A colleague of mine did.

      I'm surprised that nurseries won't loan you plants for your displays!!! Here in WA and also OR, we should have well stocked nurseries who could use the advertisement and publicity!

      These show gardens are NOT CHEAP! What people are able to pull off is quite remarkable. In a way, we have to remember that even these are "artificial" installed landscapes, nature still plays a role in the availability of plants and how they look on the show floor.

      I didn't mean to ding your heart, Sue. **HUG**. One of my favorite moments of the show was seeing a couple dancing/waltzing in front of your garden as the music played. It created a wonderful image with your garden in the back!

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    2. I loaned a few plants for a display last year and would do it again for the right person (though a few things are off limits) - just give me a shout! I don't exactly do large specimen trees though.

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  5. sorry one more rant...one local wholesale nursery, hikes their prices to almost retail this time of year and graciously offers a small discount if we use their plants in the show. Really!

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    1. Rant away! That's what blogs are for! haha

      Hmmmm....I wonder which nursery.....

      R

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  6. Way to rant - personally I think constructive criticism is great; if the right people are reading perhaps the show can be improved bit by bit. Not that it isn't great. But my main concern is that the cost of a booth is simply well beyond what a normal nursery can afford. The show should be pursuing the nurseries with the best and most interesting plants/products to maintain interest in the show as a garden show. As it is the market area is getting really full of people selling gutter systems etc. I'm just a little worried that if the garden show coordinators don't figure out something to do about this it will gradually become the home-improvement-and-slightly-garden-related-stuff show. I hope not.

    As for the plants used in gardens, well I am not as familiar with that process, but I agree that white birch is overused! If I were ever to do one of these gardens (it's hard to imagine what would have to come together for that to happen!), I can't imagine doing it without most of the plant material originating in-house.

    Looking forward to seeing the show tomorrow then I'll offer my own feedback :-)

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    1. Thanks for chiming in, Ian. Glad to have a vendor post something here as they're in a whole other realm when it comes to determining the "success" of the show as a whole. Gardens might be well received, but sales in the plant market might suck.

      I think they ask those other non-garden vendors to come because a lot of them can afford a booth so they can fill up the space.

      Yeah, I'm kind of worried that it could turn into more a home-improvement kind of dealy. That's why I stress more interesting and diverse plant displays that truly show off what growers are growing and capable of.

      The most important aspect of this show is EDUCATING THE PUBLIC so they'll understand just how remarkable it is!

      R

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  7. I am not able to attend the show this year but have seldom missed it in the past. I tend to agree with all of your points Riz. As a 'plant person' I have come to dislike the dependence on theatrical props and garden art. I would personally like to see plants used in more of a creative fashion. I remember a garden featured in 'Garden Design' magazine that was limited to eight plants. While not to everyone's taste it WAS dramatic and quite unusual because of how the the plants were used. Maybe the show gardens need to be a bit smaller and garden creators and designers need to be a bit more realistic on the space they can fill. I have worked on an award winning garden years ago. I do realize the challenges faced, and yes many are unfortunately financial.
    Mary Palmer

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    1. Thanks for reading, Mary.

      Totally agree on the different uses of the plants we have and needing to be more creative, but I think I lot of that creativity is being shifted towards more "lifestyle friendly" trends and not so much plants and actually growing and composing combinations and such.

      Yes, it's a tough time of year for growing, but we still have a lot to play with.

      It's an ongoing challenge each year, no doubt.

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  8. Great post Riz, can't say I disagree with you on much of it either. My silly little contribution to the set of pet peeves; I laugh when I see display gardens planted for REAL LIFE spacing!! Veggies don't need room to fill in for the four days of the show- geesh. :-)

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    1. Uh huh!!! LOL! Thanks for reading, Christina!

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  9. Hey Riz (& co.)
    I had a blast working with the washington state nursery and landscape association (WSNLA) and Oly Mountain Fish Compost this year. I was the garden designer. Being my first show to be involved in I was very happy with the results. It was still a whole lot of work and time but WSNLA gave CPH credits to all who volunteer during set up, break down, or the show itself. I tried to keep the list of nursery providers rather limited however we still sourced items from about 5 different nurseries. Being the association gave us a lot of flexibility with a budget, I got amazing items made and donated or loaned. I can't imagine trying to do it on my own. It wouldn't happen!
    Great comments and conversation to have though!
    Thanks, Gregory Smaus

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    1. Thanks for chiming in, Gregory! Great to see you as well. I'm glad you got a lot of support for getting your display together! It's such an involved show and as showtime nears, you do whatever it takes to make it look its best! Being at that show is such a huge honor and I remember one year I had a display I did on my own that I got a little too ambitious with. Being that I was by myself doing this 8' x 8' garden, I didn't quite finish it and I was so distraught. However the nice master gardeners who had a display next to me kindly plugged in my water pump shortly after we were asked to leave for judging and I didn't find out until the next day when I had to water.

      Definitely a learning experience! I can't wait to see what else you create in future years if you decide to take it on again!

      Cheers,

      R

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