Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Building A Show Garden: "The Lost Gardener"

In just a matter of weeks, I'll seemingly disappear (more so!) and hanging on for dear life as I coordinate the construction and installation of my very first show garden for the 2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

The show's overall theme "The Silver Screen: Gardens Go Hollywood" sparked an idea in my head shortly after the 2012 show and a meeting with the show's long time show designer Cyle Eldred. I never intended to ever do a full show garden, but he convinced me that it was a great opportunity to showcase the work I do, get different colleagues involved, and take advantage of the extensive resources the show provides.

So, I took the plunge, typed up a few emails and dropped the exciting news to friends and colleagues who may be interested in contributing. Here's what I came up with and proposed for the show:

Fatsia polycarpaThis garden was inspired by themes and elements from the motion pictures Jurassic Park, King Kong, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Rather than actually recreating these movies in a show garden, my aim is to capture various aspects from these films to depict a gardener's dilemma: the desire for the newest, rarest and most unusual and how man has stepped in to improve, protect, and alter plants to satisfy the ever changing environments we live in.       “The Lost Gardener” transitions from a wild and mysterious island jungle of assorted woody and herbaceous species and features a rope bridge that takes an explorer from the forest and into a clearing where he encounters the iconic “Skull Island” as a warning of the implications of what could happen to a wild species if removed from its habitat.

A dry river bed of assorted dryland, alpine, bulbous species, succulents and grasses transitions to a more rigid and confined landscape with paved surfaces and formally laid out planting schemes. It will also feature a fence like structure to represent the high-voltage barriers in Jurassic Park, but instead of dinosaurs being confined, it’s a rare and endangered plant species.

The garden will display the richest, most diverse plant palette representing a number of small specialty growers in the Pacific Northwest who have generously loaned their finest plants for this exhibit. Many of these growers often keep a low profile or simply don’t have the time or resources to have a display or presence at the flower show.  It’s my full intent to support the smaller, local growers who are a wealth of knowledge and expertise; this garden aims to bring our community of adventurous plant nerds and geeks together in a cohesive and sophisticated display that aims to encourage gardeners to seek out and grow something new and extraordinary.

This is a conceptual sketch I drew as a little preview. The skull rock will be done in a different fashion as the likelihood of finding stone close to that shape will be next to impossible.

This is the first draft of the schematic I submitted. Call it the base plan if you will. More detailed construction documents are underway so materials are sourced and we can build as much of it before to make move in and install go quickly.

The past few weeks have involved emails with nurseries, meetings with contractors, tweaking the design and making sure I'm on top of what needs to happen now until February rolls around, so there isn't much time.

I hope to have a blog post about each contributor for "Lost Gardener" so people can learn about the wonderful work they do.

I have a stash of plants being forced by a nursery in Sumner, WA called Windmill Gardens who have been hired by the show to force plant material for exhibitors. Here's what things looked like when I came by to check on them: still a ways to go...less than 2 months!!

It's a long way from a lush tropical jungle, but we'll get there!

More soon...I promise!  It's almost show time!



  1. I'm really looking forward to this show garden, Riz. It sounds like it will be freaking awesome! Not the same old, same old. New and extraordinary? Yes please!

    1. That's the goal, Alison! Remember, this is my first show garden so nothing overly innovative and mind-blowing, but a good representation of unique plants!

  2. Can't wait to see this in person, Riz!

  3. Replies
    1. Hey, wanna volunteer? Shoot me an email. I could use your plant knowledge to chat with people

  4. Exciting! Hope all the forced material turns out great for show time too. The Colocasia and Echium are particularly nice.

    1. Thanks, Jacob!

      We'll see how they're looking. I need to head back down and do a walk through and see what will make in in a month and what I can take back.