Inside the Garden Show: Helping With a Show Garden

It was loud when we arrived with our ladders and buckets. Back-up beeping echoed through the cavernous concrete hall. They let us drop off our painting supplies inside, so I drove our old Subaru right up onto the show floor, among the giant trucks and front-end loaders.

My wife and I were at the Washington State Convention Center to help build the Arboretum Foundation’s display garden for the big Northwest Flower & Garden Show, which opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday. I’d never really helped before, but this year they asked Susie to design and paint the backdrop for the plantings, so I signed on to assist.

The build started on Saturday, and as soon as the raw plywood wall was up, we popped the lids on the paint. Through Saturday and Sunday, we rolled and brushed, standing back and eyeing the results, fending off the garden creators who wanted to get those ladders out of the way so they could shovel in the sawdust and move in the plants. I didn’t blame them. But our part needed its time.

A Seattle Times videographer, Lauren Frohne, “embedded” herself with the team who was designing and building the garden. See her results in the linked video.

Led by Bob Lilly and Phil Wood, the team was building platforms and bringing in plants large and small, from cedar and cherry trees to trays of tiny succulents. They placed the potted treasures carefully, fussing over the angles, teasing the blooms out of the leaves, poking tiny flowers up through rolled-out sod.

I love the design for its realness. Titled “Picture Yourself on Azalea Way,” it evokes the Washington Park Arboretum’s most famous strolling path. Although it’s clearly a fantasy, put together and bloom-forced for a five-day show, it is a showcase of many of the plants that you would see if you actually took that stroll.

As they always do, the Arboretum Foundation designers have inserted a subtle teaching message into their beautiful creation: here’s a garden you could have at home. Kudos, Bob and Phil.

You won’t see us in that video, because the garden is all about the plants, as it should be. But look beyond the plants to the backdrop, a green-and-black canvas upon which the flowering palette is spread. I’m proud of the effect, which is especially effective if you see it in person, under the dramatic, subdued lighting.

The garden has been awarded a bronze medal, but I’m still seeing green. And scraping a little of it from under my fingertips.

Garden Show Images

Got some old stuff sitting around? How about repurposing! The toolbox could be a planter, and the old door might make a great chair back. Much more at the ReStore booth.

ReStore

Rustic garden archway with Ginny Ruffner’s organic glass sculptures.

Ginny Ruffner's art on trellis

Look out for zombies!

Zombie defense tools

Orchids.

Orchids

Darwin’s muse, on a grand scale.

Darwin's muse

Vertical gardens, framed.

vertical gardens

On “rusty lane,” handmade

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In the small space atrium, a jungle aquarium…

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and a nod to the Impressionist painters.

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A metalwork flower and hummingbird.

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Edibles, Fresh, Cultured and Preserved at Garden Show

Had a quick look at the display gardens at this year’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show, which opens today, and here is an instant star, and an award-winner.

Nature's Studio

I love the tower of mushrooms being cultured in logs, and the bench filled with preserved veggies. In the foreground, asparagus spears poke through compost, surrounded by salad greens.

Called Nature’s Studio, this garden was created by the Washington Association of Landscape Professionals – King

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County Chapter and the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association, designed by Gardens ALIVE Design and installed by Avid Landscape Design & Development.

Congratulations on a great creation.

Bloomin’ February! It’s Garden Show Time

A north wind blew strongly across the giant truck loading doors at the convention center Monday, setting a chill on the 22 extravagant show gardens getting their final trim-and-polish. It’s probably for the best–the cool blast will keep the blooms from opening too early. After all, the Northwest Flower & Garden Show doesn’t start until tomorrow, and you want everything to be fresh.

bike in garden show

At last year’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show, I was delighted to see this old bike included in an artistic display garden.

But the seasonal breeze was appropriate, too. We’re used to chilly gardens around here, aren’t we? Any February garden walk in the maritime Northwest is bound to send your hands to your pockets pretty fast. That is, unless you visit the giant, temporary gardens created high atop the Washington State Convention & Trade Center in downtown Seattle. Once the show is up and the crowds are milling, this garden walk is plenty warm.

The 26th annual show is the best way to shake off the winter doldrums and get ready to get back in the garden. This year’s theme, Art in Bloom, will combine well-loved Northwest artists with the plants, amazing rockery and outdoor rooms that are always in evidence.

I’m looking forward to the Arboretum Foundation’s display, which will feature the work of the incomparable Ginny Ruffner. You can see one of her creations just a few steps from the convention center, at the corner of 7th and

Susie at the show

Susie enjoyed the Arboretum Foundation’s recent display garden, and found an echo of her Seattle Art Museum scarf in its backdrop.

Union. It’s a giant flowerpot with permanent blooms and a watering can that moves. Her glass sculptures will no doubt simultaneously highlight and outshine the plants in the always expertly designed display.

Garden art studios, a recycled greenhouse, and homages to Monet and Darwin are sure to be among many other display highlights.

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popular now, and can be quite artistic.

Besides the gardens, there are three other main areas of focus: the retail marketplace, the greening nonprofit section, and the seminars.

I am proud to be appearing again

on a seminar stage, this time with two friends in a Saturday tag-team talk on growing great edibles. Our 90-minute talk, which starts at 11:30 a.m., is part of the “Gardening 101” series, and I’ll be joined by Willi Galloway and Colin McCrate.

I’ll offer tips on year-round, cool season gardening, Willi will wax enthusiastic about her favorite veggies and Colin will give you the down an

d dirty on pests and diseases. I have seen both of them in action — Willi’s eyes light up when she discovers the color and flavor of a vegetable at the height of ripeness, and I once saw Colin zap a cabbage butterfly out of midair with nothing but his bare hands.

Take a look through the program and plan your attack on the seminars, because there’s a lot to draw you in, every day. Here’s just one first-glance pick from the 20 or so talks going on each day:

  • Wednesday: The Circle – Discover a Secret to Great Garden Design, by Phil Wood
  • Thursday: My Biggest Bloopers Ever! (his exclamation point, of course), by Ciscoe Morris
  • Friday: Backyard Solutions for Our Declining Bees, by Dave Hunter
  • Saturday: Did I mention our talk? OK, here’s another one: Farmer John’s Top Ten Tips for Seed to Table, by Farmer John Muller
  • Sunday: Going Native: Are NW Natives the Best Choice for Gardens? by Linda Chalker-Scott

In the nonprofit area, I always take time to stroll around and visit my friends from Plant Amnesty, the Seattle Tree Fruit Society, Seattle Tilth, Master Gardeners and P-Patch, but there are so many more. Bats Northwest, for one. You can scare up a good time by chatting with these folks.

catchment tank

A big plastic water catchment tank strapped to your house could become a canvas for art, as in this recent display garden.

And last but not least, hit up the retail bazaar, which ranges from plants and seeds to gadgets and tools. What will be the show’s gotta-have gizmo this year? There always is one. And I always find interesting stuff at stores set up by the local nurseries.

I hope Hardwick’s will be there again this year – great selection of odd or hard-to-find tools. Tim is bringing his fantastic horticultural posters to the Good Nature Publishing Company booth, Raintree Nursery will bring

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in the berries, and Irish Eyes Garden Seeds will very likely have bushels of potatoes ready for planting.

On Thursday and Saturday at 3 p.m. each day I will be doing one-hour book signings at the University Book Store booth.

One final shout-out to our World Champion Seahawks and their equally champion fans: if you’re heading downtown for the team’s victory parade on Wednesday, plan to spend the rest of the day at the show–at a discount! In honor of the team, the show is offering a $17 full-day ticket ($5 off the regular price). Could be a great way to ease yourself out of football season and into gardening season.

See you at the show!

 

 

At the Garden Show: Onions, Seeds, Tools, Art

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sets, heirloom seeds, tools, free information and great ideas. Here are some images, and check back for more over the weekend.

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