Thursday, January 31, 2013

Building a Show Garden: Can I getta keis keis.. Leucothoe keiskei

Leucothoe keiskei winter leaf colorA most fabulous and not commonly grown plant is this stunning species of Leucothoe from Japan called L. keiskei. It's one of the rare and exciting plants to be discovered by "The Lost Gardener" at this year's Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

It's a small, evergreen shrub that has a stunning cascading habit that looks great on the edge of a shady rockery or as a container specimen as shown below. It greens up come summer, but the winter color it takes on is absolutely gorgeous. The glossy leaflets arranged in a zigzag pattern makes it truly unique.

Like most members of the Ericaceae, it prefers slightly acidic, well-drained soils and regular moisture to really thrive.

Aralia Sun King with Leucothoe
A stunning container display designed and grown by garden designer Meghan Fuller using the Leucothoe with Aralia 'Sun King'

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Building a Show Garden: Bringing in the young guns: Terry Huang

One of my objectives ramping up to the show is assembling a team that reflected my mission in representing the next generation of avid gardeners. It’s so important in this industry to network and gain work experience wherever they arise. Jobs are very scarce so your skill set has to be broad. One of my installation and design leads for “The Lost Gardener” is a young man my former professor, Dr. Sarah Reichard, insisted that I meet. He was taking her plant indentification course and showed the interest and enthusiasm that Sarah saw in me when I took that course 10 years ago! Terence Huang and I shared a similar path as undergraduates at the University of Washington.

We had retail experience working at a nursery, took in any bits and pieces of cool plants we would attempt (and often succeed in) to grow on and propagate and sell and, of course, we made the botany greenhouse on campus like our second home with ongoing projects and volunteering our time when our schedules would allow.

Also coming from a culture that demanded so much that you excel at everything you do, he was able to pursue this strong interests in plants and capitalized on the various opportunities that allowed him to grow both as a horticulturist and as a person. He’s travelled to Iceland, interned at the Smithsonian, grew orchids in a lab in his native Taiwan, and now, he’s praying to the heavens that he gets an interview for a prestigious fellowship through the infamous Kew Gardens in the UK.

Terry with Fern 1
Terry admiring the details of a lovely fern at UBC Botanic Garden in Vancouver, B.C.

Terry has a natural eye for placement. His close connection and open understanding of nature allows him to effectively create compositions both in a garden setting and also on paper as he’s also a skilled illustrator.

For my display, not only is he is helping out with installation, writing out the labels for the plants, and creating the artwork for our brochure, his most important role is simply being a friend and sharing in a valuable experience that will take him wherever he wants to go in the plant world.

Check out Terry's blog here.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Building a Show Garden: Rockin' It with CEM Design and Construction


How thrilled am I to be working with Clayton Morgan  and CEM Design and Construction once again. I wrote up a little profile on him awhile back and you may have seen our photo when I attended his wedding two summers ago. He's been a very busy guy and now he's even busier having been married and, now, he's also A DAD!!  Congrats to Clayton, Jamie and their precious daughter, Hope.

IMG_8502Clayton and I informally discussed maybe doing a show garden together at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show many years ago. Having just taken the plunge on my own, I wanted to him to have some part of the show to gain the experience and get his work out there. Business has picked up for him considerably, but he was gracious enough to help out with the rock work involved for "The Lost Gardener". That meant my very first visit to the infamous Marenakos Rock Center in Issaquah, WA. They are one of the main sponsors for the show and graciously provide the awesome rocks for almost all of the show gardens being created.

 Being sort of new to the world of selecting landscape rock, Clayton was on hand when I met with Mr. Bill Hyde who was so informative and helpful throughout the process. Knowing that Clayton was on a tight schedule, I did my best to be as efficient and direct as I can. This whole process has been a true practice in taking control of a project and trusting those around you to guide and support your thoughts and decisions and overall vision.


I think we got a few useful pieces to be placed strategically by Mr. Morgan's crew come show time and about three pieces that are in the running as the main focal point of the display.

This was too small, but still intriguing

Will we figure it out and make it work??   We'll find out February 16 when Marenako's bring these rocks to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Building a Show Garden: It's the little things - Bouquet Banque Nursery

There are several specialty nurseries contributing to "The Lost Gardener" and I took some time to pay Bill Roeder and Judy Zugish a visit at their small nursery and studio (yes, they're renowned basket weavers!)!

Bouquet Banque has made an appearance at most of the major plant sales over the past few years offering wonderful, unusual perennials, but the past few seasons have concentrated their efforts in producing hardy Cyclamen (ie C. hederifolium and C. coum).

Photo from Thompson & Morgan

 Most of you are probably familiar with the florist Cyclamen that everyone sees in the flower shops and garden centers all around. These are usually hybrids derived from C. persicum. They come in a multitude of colors and leaf patterns and make wonderful houseplants, but they do not tolerate deep freezes.

While not as large as their highly bred relatives, the species and selections of hardy cyclamen, meaning they will withstand cold, are truly outstanding as garden plants. They are exceedingly tough for such delicate looking plants and thrive in difficult conditions in the garden. They're also very sweet and charming little things to bloom so very early in the season. Cyclamen hederifolium flower in the fall, while Cyclamen coum are just beginning to open and will look absolutely stunning as a mass drift at the flower and garden show.

My friends, Terry (who you'll meet in a few weeks) and Tina joined me as we drove up to Marysville, WA (about 35-40 minutes north of Seattle) to pay Bill and Judy a visit. It was my first time visiting Bouquet Banque and, being the plant geeks that we were, had a pleasant and worthwhile visit as their season is just starting and I'm super anxious to show off their fabulous selections!

Here are some photos from out visit:

Here's Judy sharing with us their wonderful selections and qualities that they look for.

Here's how they start. All of their plants are seed-grown and carefully grown and selected.

Cyclamen coum just starting to pop! Look at the diversity of foliage patterns. Bill says both coum and hederifolium hold their foliage well into April before they go dormant for the rest of the season until fall.

Stunning contrast in foliage coloration and lovely colors on the flowers.

Silver/pewter forms are much sought after and they have a amazing selection!

The "Christmas Tree" patten is also very popular

Here's Bill showing how he prepares willow for weaving.

A basket in progress

They have some upcoming open houses (ONE THIS WEEKEND) and their plant sale schedule posted for 2013, so do visit their WEBSITE:


It was such a fun visit for all of us and what kind folks to share their love and passion for what they do with the next generation of avid gardeners! I'll be seeing Bill and Judy again in a few weeks to get their plants all groomed and, hopefully, blooming for the show!


Friday, January 11, 2013

Building A Show Garden: The Nuts and Bolts

Ok, here's my first post via mobile. I'm getting my brakes and tires looked at and my laptop is on the fritz.

This past week has been all about meetings and making sure things are on track. I've been inundated by numerous details as mailings have come in concerning move-in procedures.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm dreading the chaos and making sure my team and I are on track. My worst nightmare is having other garden creators getting pissed off and having to save my butt because I haven't come prepared and organized.

The key is to keep my cool, be an adult, communicate to the best of my ability and rely on my experience to produce the best looking display with the resources I have. I've tried to make this endeavor as straightforward and uncomplicated as possible.

When I get back on my computer, I've got a few people I want to introduce to you.


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!


Happy New Year! Looking back at 2012

Who do you recognize??

2012 was a reminder to love what you do and embrace the people who "get it"!