Colorful Garden Show Unveils 30th Year

You’ll see plenty of color, crowds and cake at the big Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, going on right now in Seattle. The annual gardening season kickoff turns 30 this year — hence the cake — and fills the Washington State Convention Center — hence the crowds. The opulent show gardens are the big draw — hence the color.

I always enjoy the show gardens, although this year I saw hardly a nod to edibles, which is disappointing. I get it — it is hard to force tomatoes to fruit in winter. But when I see edibles incorporated into the lush landscapes, I am more inspired to imagine elements of the fancy designs into my own garden. Maybe next year.

It’s also great fun to see friends from the gardening world, like other garden writers Lorene Edwards Forkner of Pacific Horticulture or Laura Watson, formerly of Plant Amnesty, who knows more about clematis than I thought any one brain could hold. She’s sharing her expertise at a seminar, another important segment of the event for me — and not just because I’ll be doing the same. If you’re at the show on Sunday, look for my talk “Eat Your Year: Month-by-Month Actions for Continuous Edibles” at 4:15 p.m.

Vendors performing the difficult task of staffing a booth for five long days get my admiration too. I like chatting with Charlie and Carol of Charlie’s Greenhouse, the folks at Diggit and other local tool manufacturers, the always-helpful University Bookstore staff, and the volunteers at the non-profit booths, like aforementioned Plant Amnesty and the Washington Native Plant Society.

Far beyond the colorful gardens, the show is truly a wide-ranging gateway to the gardening year.

Here are images of my day at the show yesterday.

Arboretum garden

The Arboretum Foundation garden showcased plants of the Witt Winter Garden, plus a well-painted arbor and a reproduction of the new loop trail. It opens officially in April.

Chess set

A giant chess set, luxurious grill setup, and sculptural slices of ancient tree trunks combine for this imposing garden.

Beehive gate

This hive-inspired gate, complete with a bee at bottom, welcomes you to the Bee Simple garden.

Bee Simple

An orchard mason bee house sits hopefully next to an espaliered apple tree.

Colorful greenhouse

This show garden’s multi-colored greenhouse, accessed via a floating wooden deck, grabbed me.

Spa Garden

A “spa garden” inspired by Japanese “wabi-sabi” is themed in white.

Vanilla Farm

Orchids and a vanilla vine (in pot on left) surround a funky shed in the tropical Vanilla Farm garden.

Vintage Market

The Vintage Market provides a funky corner to the show.

Plant Amnesty

The Plant Amnesty booth was busy. It’s heartening to see the organization doing well after the tragic loss of its founder, Cass Turnbull, last year.

Ikebana

The ikebana display is always cheery.

Diggit

The folks at Diggit have created another comfortable tool — a hardened stainless steel hori-hori with their signature colorful soft handle.

Useless shovels

Useless shovels. But cool!

Raintree Nursery

Sam Benowitz dispenses wisdom along with edible fruit starts at the Raintree Nursery booth.

Tiny Terrarium

A tiny terrarium sits in the window of the convention center’s skybridge, with Pike Street below and Pike Place Market in the distance.

Opots

These Opots come in striking colors, great to enhance a wall garden.

Bonsai

This Catlin Elm was raised from a cutting by American bonsai forefather John Yoshio Naka, beginning in 1970. Amazing.

Bionic gloves

Colorful hand-painted pots, yes. Bionic gloves? Definitely!

30th dinner party

A 30th dinner party is set in this show garden to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary. Here’s to 30 more years!

Layer Cake

The festival’s own show garden resembled a layer cake of colorful flowers and plants, enhanced by art-glass candle flames.

Cheers to 30 years, and here’s to 30 more!

Art Blends with Plants at the NW Flower & Garden Show

Sculptures, fountains and water features blend gracefully in garden landscapes, and the Northwest Flower & Garden Show display gardens showcased inspiring combinations.

Massive fountain

Massive square stones stacked into an imposing fountain, which is skirted by blooming daffodils, greet visitors to the show gardens.

bird scuptures

These steel and wood sculptures pair nicely and seem about to take flight.

patio pavers

The “Good Times Great Food” garden features a varied patio landscaping with an assortment of stone pavers and groundcovers.

bar fountain pool

This bar-fountain-pool combination nicely edges a patio in a small garden.

water scuplture

An artistic water sculpture echoed by another shapely sculpture behind highlights one garden.

espaliered apple

A stylish espaliered tree dresses up this shed wall.

Taste Spring at the NW Flower & Garden Show

I can almost taste spring. Can’t you? When a warm wind casts across the yard like a fishing line tossed into a lazy stream, I cast my eyes toward the ground, seeking shoots and sprouts. When they appear, my spirit soars.

.pea shoots

Another way to get that feeling is to visit the giant Northwest Flower & Garden Show–excuse me–Garden Festival being held this week at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle (blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest).

Over the weekend I was in the cavernous show garden area helping set up the Arboretum Foundation’s always-enticing garden, so I’ll give you a tip: brave the crowds, traffic and parking, and come on down. It looks like it is going to be a blooming success.

Here’s another tip: buy your tickets online before 11:55 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21 and get the early-bird price, $5 off.

Display garden 2016

Giant colored pots lit from within highlighted one of last year’s display gardens.

I’ll be there a few times during the week, and look forward to meeting readers and gardeners. On Wednesday, I present “Eat Your Year: Month-by-Month Actions for Continuous Edibles” at 6:45 p.m. slide snapshot

I’ve mined my garden journal for cultivation and harvest tips throughout the year. You’ll be surprised what can be done in the doldrums of winter, and what needs to be done in the sweetest swell of summer if you want to eat from your yard year round. A book signing follows, and I look forward to personalizing a book for you.

Then on Saturday at 11:45 a.m., I employ my journalism chops by interviewing Seattle’s star restaurateur Tom Douglas and his business partner, wife and chief farmer in the family Jackie Cross. In “The Learning Curve,” we’ll discuss their quest to generate perfect produce for their many restaurants.

If you’ve eaten at Etta’s, Dahlia Lounge, Seatown, Serious Pie, Tanaka San or one of Tom’s other great restaurants in the last few years, you’ve probably eaten produce from Prosser Farm. Six years after breaking ground in the hills west of Prosser, they have learned much (I’ll ask about the rascally rabbits!) and Tom Douglas logonow deliver a significant amount of vegetables for the restaurants from their farm, taking the farm-to-table concept to a wild new level.

Tom will sign copies of his excellent cookbooks after the talk, and I’ll head up to the University Book Store’s booth (#211) to meet and greet and sign my own books for an hour, 1-2 p.m.

You might also find me at my publisher’s booth. The Mountaineers Books and their green living imprint Skipstone will have their books on display and for sale (booth #2354) and will have lots of authors as well as staff to visit with. Learn about recent and upcoming titles, including my next cycling book, Cycling the Pacific Coast: A Complete Guide, Canada to Mexico, which will be out this fall.

I hope you’ll consider attending one or both of my events, but do you realize how much there is to do at the show?

  • Attend one of the 110 seminars and demonstrations going on throughout the show. Besides learning and being entertained, you’ll get to sit down and relax after touring the giant exhibit hall and display gardens.
  • Speaking of which, tour the 22 show gardens for inspiration and that “taste of spring.”
  • Shop at the 350 exhibitors offering garden, nature-related and gourmet food goods in the Garden Marketplace. I especially like the non-profit organizations that offer information and help build our gardening community. I also enjoy touring the Vintage Garden Market to find some rusty old thing that would give my garden a bit more character.

    Windows

    Old windows repurposed into a shed — probably the easiest way to build a cold frame.

  • Snack and sip your way through the Tasting Corner, a new gourmet food and beverage marketplace offered this year. Nearly 30 vendors will offer samples of their tasty wares.

This is the second largest garden festival in the U.S., so plan enough time to enjoy it fully. It’s a great way to get spring underway, even while waiting for those first buds to break.

Garden Show Images: Pathways, Ponds and Peculiarities

Back from my annual visits to the region’s garden shows, which filled my head with ideas for pathways and fun garden additions. I was also amazed at the materials used for the hardscape and water features, and had a very enjoyable time helping one display garden become reality.

Here are pictures from Portland’s Yard, Garden & Patio Show and Seattle’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

A scene from the Hoh Rainforest was the theme of the Arboretum Foundation's garden. I had the pleasure of helping bring this one to life.

A scene from the Hoh Rainforest was the theme of the Arboretum Foundation’s garden at the NW Flower & Garden Show. I had the pleasure of helping bring this one to life.

Hoh Path

A path through a nurse log was part of the Hoh Rainforest display at the NW Flower & Garden Show.

Lookout Path

Flowers line the path to a forest service lookout tower in this display at the NW Flower & Garden Show.

Circle Path

Large circular stepping stones blended beautifully with washed gravel in a pleasing curved path in this Yard, Garden & Patio Show display.

Grassy Bridge

“Tough to mow” was my first thought when seeing this grassy bridge in a garden at the NW Flower & Garden Show.

Stone Bridge YGP

Here’s a well-built stone bridge at the Yard, Garden & Patio Show.

Rocky Waterfall YGP

An impressive combination of stone products created this inviting waterfall at the Yard, Garden & Patio Show.

Salmon Stream

Salmon (of the porcelain variety) headed upstream to spawn in a display garden at the NW Flower & Garden Show.

Lit Pots

Giant recycled-plastic pots lit from within and gabion walls with galvanized metal screens highlighted this garden at the NW Flower & Garden Show.

Glamping

Glamping in a Southwest cactus garden was part of this display at the NW Flower & Garden Show.

Garden Theater

Movie night in the garden – complete with s’mores and a fire pit – looked very inviting in this display at the Yard, Garden & Patio Show.

Coghlan Ikebana

Simple and elegant with just two elements, this ikebana arrangement by Charles Coghlan caught my eye at the NW Flower & Garden Show.

Dizon Ikebana

Adding just a third element, this arrangement by Mina Dizon was also spare and striking at the NW Flower & Garden Show’s ikebana display.

Cezanne Quote

A quote from the artist Cezanne mirrors my attitude toward vegetables at the Hudson Valley Seed Library’s booth at the NW Flower & Garden Show.

 

 

Starting Your Edible Year: Free Classes Begin Sunday

Do you want to get started in the vegetable garden, but are unsure what to do right now? Come to my first free class this Sunday, March 15 at City People’s Garden Store in Seattle’s Madison Park.

seedling closeup

I’ll share a bunch of timely reminders in “Start Edibles Early for Longer Harvests.”

Now is a great time to get an early batch of edibles into the ground, and plan for multiple harvests.

The class is the first of “The Edible Year, a four-part series that runs through early June. Each class is at 11 a.m.

Here’s the whole series:

  • March 15 — “Start Edibles Early for Longer Harvests”
  • March 21 — “Soil-building and Amending for Edibles”
  • April 18 — “Growing Great Tomatoes”
  • June 7 — “Think Next Spring: Starting Long-season Vegetables”

If you’re in West Seattle or across Puget Sound on the Kitsap Peninsula, you might be interested in these other talks on my calendar this spring:

  • April 12, 1-2 p.m. I’ll do an interactive “Season Extension Demo & Talk” at West Seattle Nursery & Garden Center. Please note: this is an outdoor location, under a tent, so dress for weather.
  • May 20, 9:30 a.m. I’ll travel to Kingston for a talk on “Planning For Year-round Edibles.” It’s sponsored by the Kingston Garden Club, but open to the public.

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