Monday, February 11, 2013

Building A Show Garden: Reconnecting with those that helped me start

As the days tick away and I'm rounding up all my materials and resources,  I couldn't help but go through memory lane and reconnect with those that helped me from the very beginning.

Cultus Bay Nursery and Minter's Earlington Greenhouses were two independent nurseries that supported my early endeavors.

Back in 1997, I created a small garden vignette at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and was sponsored by one Mary Fisher who helped me through that first year of planning for an exhibit that would feature her plants coming from Whidbey Island. I remember meeting her for the first time while we were still living in an apartment back when I was 14 years old and the autumn of 1996, I was hit by a car crossing a crosswalk and had a cast on my arm as we met and discussed details of this garden.

UntitledShe picked me up and took me to my first ever trip to Whidbey to see her nursery and select plants for the display. I remember it was a very cold, damp day, yet we walked her gardens and I didn't realize it then, but this was my very first foray into plant selections and made me truly understand just what a specialty nursery was. "People come and complain why I don't have petunias and pansies."

UntitledMany of the plants I didn't really know then, but it would take years of study, visiting gardens, and garden friends sharing little bits and starts of their plants that I would expand my interest and admiration for all things unique and not commonly available.

I made an effort to reach out to Mary again and have, at least, a handful of her choice plants to feature in my display. During a recent visit, we had an opportunity to catch up and look back at the last 15 or so years since I first visited her nursery. It was a special treat and I couldn't be more pleased to know such a creative, generous, and really wonderful person and a small specialty nursery with a most outstanding display garden to be represented in my garden for the 2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

(Photo to the right) Mary shows me a lovely and very rare willow called Salix fargesii. Known for its lovely red stems and prominent buds during the winter time, it is exceedingly slow to propagate, but it's one she hopes to keep a small stock of for her customers of avid gardeners.

The dead of winter, but things are turning around quickly
Paul Ferrington sparked my interest for all things lush and tropical. Back in those days, Earlington Greenhouses was in full production with plant material bursting at the seams of their poly tunnels. They produced much of their own material and had selections of every Fuchsia, every Geranium, every Impatiens and had things in full bloom that no one else did!

They still produce most of their own plants!
These days, it's a different story. I haven't been back since the late 90's and was surprised to see how much of the original infrastructure still remained. However, production has been cut way back, the selection diminished, and not much was being forced for display and bloom as they are just starting up again for the season. It's been quite obvious that the recession had hit this local nursery very hard.

A rare golden selection of Saxifraga stolonifera from Minter's.

 As rough and dilapidated as the walls may be, the desire to grow and propagate their own materials and still keep an eye out for the rare and unusual was still very evident. The desire to experiment and revive old growing techniques and methods long abandoned by today's gardeners who are all about convenience, low-maintenance and sustainability. At Earlington Greenhouses, a cool and beautiful plant was still a cool and beautiful plant.

Catching up with Paul and chatting with his partner, Ron, after all these years was a treat. I appreciated how things were still the same and the concept of a local community garden center is still alive.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Building A Show Garden: At the base of it all - Orion Rockscapes & Greencliff Landscape Co.

A basic composition of the stone work to be done at the show.

One of the major elements of any show garden is the construction of the hardscape. I will fully admit that I have very limited experience when it comes to this very important aspect of landscape design and construction; therefore, I’ve teamed up with three main players who will showcase their talents for “The Lost Gardener”. 

You’ve already met Clayton Morgan of CEM Design, and you’ve met one member of the team from OrionRockscapes and then there’s a hardworking guy that’s looking to add to his already full repertoire of experience and skills.

An example of their clean stone work
 Hardscape (rocks, paths, patios, walls, etc.) is probably the most expensive aspect of a landscape, but it’s so incredibly crucial being that it’s the backbone of just about any landscape. You need structural elements that hold a plant collection together otherwise it would just be chaos and you’re left feeling overwhelmed and almost intimidated by a space. 

Hardscapes are familiar to most people because its something they see all the time no matter what and for a show garden like mine that’s more plant focused, I need to bridge the gap with these “hard” structures as to not lose my audience: the general public. 

Informal stacked stone walls and precision cut concrete patio
Wow, I definitely want to live here!
Orion Rockscapes is run by a talented and kind craftsman, Alejandro DeLucio. Along with his wife, Jade Waples, who I profiled on my post on Gardening with Kayaks, they will oversee the materials acquisition and construction of a stone wall on the "cultivated" side of "The Lost Gardener". They've also agreed to transport other materials and my goal is that the public will take notice of the quality of work they do. As the landscape transitions from the will to the confined, they are also constructing a small section of the edge of the garden which includes a gabion wall (a barrier of "caged" rocks) that will blend into a dry river bed. Gabion walls are becoming very popular with property owners who aim for sustainable landscapes and Orion Rockscapes is certainly on top of these types of landscape features.Their rock is kindly being loaned by Rock Mountain Products, LLC in Redmond, WA.

Another member of the LOST team is Crane Stavig of Greencliff Landscape Co. He was a former student of mine when he enrolled in a shade gardening course that I taught at Edmonds Community College. He's been active with a lot of great residential projects and he's a trained pruner! I'm so pleased that he's taken his education to heart and applied it in his work!

Ballard Residence Before
Ballard Residence After
 I've asked Crane to construct the "high voltage" fence reminicent of the fencing used to cage the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. He's also involved in other construction details and materials and will have a hand at install. He does a little bit of everything.

Pine Tree Before Pruning

Pine Tree After Pruning
Without these guys on board, this garden would NOT be possible. Their experience, skills and also their ability to work well with others is key to not only a project such as a flower and garden show, but also in their daily work so clients can rely on these companies to do quality work backed up with integrity and heart.

My sincerest thanks for their time and efforts for this show. Click on their links and learn more about what they might be able to do for you (if you're in the Puget Sound Area of Washington)