Thursday, February 28, 2013

So about those display gardens at the NW Flower and Garden Show…


I don’t know anyone who would name the display gardens as their main reason for going to a garden show (I stand corrected, Alison says they are one of her main reasons for going), but once there we all love to gawk at them. Whether they inspire, shock, or just make you ask “what were they thinking” it’s fun to wander and wonder.

By my count there were 21 display gardens at the NWFG show, and that’s not counting this one at the entry, which obviously pays homage to the Wizard of Oz, Seattle’s nickname “The Emerald City” and the theme for the show “Gardens Go Hollywood” (has the Tin Man ever looked like more of a dude? And what’s with that pose Dorothy is striking?).

I must admit there were several display gardens that I didn't even bother to point my camera at, that’s not to say their creators didn't work hard, and I’m sure they provided inspiration for some show-goers, but they left me yawning and thinking…boring. Then of course there were the ones I can’t help but call bad, like the popcorn vending, daffodil and primrose hardscape nightmare. Or the floating disco ball garden with the leather (looking?) couch and stereo system bigger than my car that just made me wonder who exactly they were hoping to appeal to. But then there was the one called “Alien on Vacation” which just made me laugh (in a good way). After all where else are you going to see agaves labeled as biohazards?

Or a glowing neon flower with a giant alien egg behind it (at least I think that’s what it was; I didn't stand in line to peek inside like others were doing). The folks working this display were having fun for sure.

So with the boring, bad, and alien eliminated that left me with 8 gardens, today I’ll talk about 7 of them leaving my favorite for tomorrow. First up is “A Hobbit’s New Zealand Garden”…I was prepared to hate this one. A hobbit house? Puh-lease…

But how could I hate a garden that featured a bunch of fabulous New Zealand plants like Astelia nervosa ‘Westland,’ Cordyline australis ‘Cherry Sensation,’ Corokia cotoneaster ‘Sunsplash,’ Phormium colensoi ‘Flamingo,’ Pseudopanax ‘Sabre,’ and Dicksonia fibrosa, the Tree Fern … clearly I could not. Especially since it was designed to pay homage to the New Zealand Forest being planted this summer at the Arboretum’s Pacific Connections Garden, which I visited, and fell in love with, last fall.

Look the hobbit is returning home! Wait, no, he’s a little tall to be a hobbit.

I want a tree fern on my roof!

And maybe a Pseudopanax ‘Sabre’ or two…

Not to mention an Arthropodium cirratum…

In the ‘Jardin Noir’ I was oddly intrigued by this planted drain pipe…

And coveted these pipes used as a retaining wall, especially since I've been meaning to do something similar but haven't yet gotten to it.

‘Urban Castaways’ featured a pair of very tall Trachycarpus fortunei with a hammock between them. Yes please! (sadly it was impossible to get a good photo…you’ll have to use your imagination)…

Another tree that caught my eye...this 50 yr old Sumac was in the garden titled “Honey I Shrunk the Yard”…

I tried to find out more about it, where it came from…how they moved it in, but once the fellow manning the display realized I only wanted to ask questions about the tree he moved on to someone who was worth his time and ignored me…

And I moved on to “It’s all in the Movies”…I’d heard about this garden and was prepared to not like it; after all it featured a dead body! Instead I really enjoyed the concept and thought it well done. In one display you went from the wild west garden…

To the black & white garden…

Where the crime had been committed (look close).

On to a romance (remember the theme of the show was “Gardens Go Hollywood”)…

Before coming back around to the western again!

Next I visited “A Pacific NW Beach Garden” where it’s “Never too Late to Learn to Dance.” I was surprised by their use of small agaves throughout the garden, even in deep bark mulch next to a very green lawn (I know this is fantasy gardening but that one just kind of irked me…can you say "rot?").

I did like the way these little guys looked like starfish washed up on the beach…

And loved these thick sempervivum in between the rocks and driftwood.

As well as the daffodils mixed with ornamental grass (it tones down their cheerfulness)...

Of course the multiple Schefflera taiwaniana ‘Yuan Shan’ did not go unnoticed by moi.

And for the final garden today I give you “Living Amongst the Stars”…

This one had a little bit of everything, some great plants…

Great hardscape, and sexy lounge chairs (which really are comfortable judging by the similar one I “tried out” at Flora Grubb in SF)…

So there you have it, my speed tour of the 2013 NWFG Show display gardens. Tomorrow I’ll slow down and take a long look at my favorite garden. For those of you who went to the show, or have been perusing other bloggers posting on the show, I’m sure you can guess which one that was!

28 comments:

  1. You made lots of points here that never occurred to me while checking out some of these gardens. I love that you always have more to say, and point out so many things, that I didn't see or that didn't even enter my mind. I'm glad to hear those lounge chairs are probably comfy. All I could imagine when I saw them was trying to awkwardly haul my fat butt out of one, with no arms to lean on! I tried to get a good picture of that hammock with the big elephant ear nearby, and couldn't.

    Thanks for posting your insights about the display gardens. They are actually one of the main reasons I go.

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    1. It sounds like you shared quite a few insights with Peter as well, as you guys walked the show...another set of eyes can see things do differently.

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  2. DG - it's fun to see the show through your lens in comparison to the other bloggers who also went. I enjoyed your 'tour' :) Jenni

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  3. Ohhh lala! Of course those trachycarpus and hammock setup would go just fine in my yard :) but actually I'm in love with the kiwi land gardens. Makes me want a whole kiwi corner in my yard!!!

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    1. Hey there Ciscoe! The time was definitely right for them to haul out the Cordy's and Flax. If that garden had been done a couple of years ago (right after the PKW's) do doubt they would have been boo'd right out of the Convention Center!

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  4. The OZ garden looks very amusing, the Dorothy made me laugh as she sure has attitude!

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    1. It looks like they just grabbed a mannequin from Macy's window and threw a blue and white checkered smock on her doesn't it? Even at her most insolent I don't think Dorothy ever had a pout quite like that!

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  5. Some very interesting things going on there, especially with the first set of photos....

    But some very nice ones on the latter part of the post, with nice plants and planting combinations. Often with show gardens you'll just have to take inspiration from isolated parts of it, sometimes if its really good then as a whole. Can't wait to see your favourite one, I can guess what it is.... :)

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    1. I think it's so great that you guys all the way over in England have seen enough pictures of this show to know what garden is my fav...ain't the internet grand?

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  6. I have no opinion on display gardens because it's kind of a foreign concept around here. Aren't flower and garden shows more of a northeastern / northwestern thing? And England of course. You don't see this kind of thing in the South, probably because it's green here all winter. I wonder. Anyway, I enjoyed your pics and was bemused by the gardens. It looks like people really had fun making some of these -- those stick horses in the Western garden, too cute!

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    1. Wow I never really thought about the fact that big garden shows aren't in the south. Great point! Although I will counter with the fact that it's definitely still green here in the PNW in the winter. In some ways even more so (the dormant lawns are all greened up). Oh and Anon below points out that garden shows are alive and well in SoCal.

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  7. Totally missed the dead body! Next year, I'm going to read more before I go. You made some great points & I found myself laughing at "it tones down their cheerfulness."

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    1. Really!? I there was a convincing pool of blood and a sharp knife, as well as a broken wine glass. It was Val Easton that tipped me off to that one, she didn't like it at all and I didn't think I would either.

      Being too damn cheerful is my number one complaint about daffs!

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  8. Best review I've seen. Didn't go this year after a disappointing trip last. Thanks!

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    1. Glad you thought so Hans. Next years is really early (beginning of Feb)...maybe you'll go?

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  9. I'm loving the combo of black mondo grass with Thalia narcissi...so there: I got something useful out of this post, as well as being entertained.

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    1. Will we see a black and white corner of your garden soon then?

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    2. Maybe, but I'm a slow study: ideas usually percolate long enough that in the end I think it's my own idea.

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    3. Ha! I love this...Andrew has mentioned me doing the same thing on occasion. Of course it's usually when he wants to claim one of my ideas as actually being his!

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  10. Great blog with some interesting posts. Have added you to my faves for future reading. Feel free to pop by my blog for some great gardening tips.http://www.plottips.blogspot.co.uk

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  11. I think I was more fascinated by that gnarly Sumac than by anything else at the show!

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    1. I so wanted to take that home with me! Andrew Key's pointed it out as something that I would appreciate and he was oh so right!

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  12. As a garden designer myself, I'm another person who attends garden shows mostly for the display gardens, and there are such shows in the south/southeast and here in California; San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego to name a few of the more prominent ones. Interesting to see your comments about inappropriate/non-realistic plantings regarding agaves, while all those purely tropicals in the last garden photos didn't seem to bother you in the same way.

    I tend to prefer display gardens that feature real designs you'd want to live in, as well as plantings that are realistic for the local climate and aren't just using plants as disposable fashion statements, but I realize many prefer to see a fantasy garden over the realistic. Using plants as disposable elements is one of my complaints with the central Getty Garden in Los Angeles as well, but perhaps mixed in with some envy about having the budget to treat plantings as disposable at such scale.

    Perhaps this is why I make more effort to tour gardens than attend garden shows, and typically find them more useful for ideas to borrow/learn from. I'm curious if one of these gardens was the one designed by Riz Reyes, or are you saving his for your next post?

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    1. Very good point about the tropicals! I think why I didn't have the same reaction was because the agaves were obviously planted (if a pebble mulch would have been used, which would've fit with the beach theme, I don't think it would have hit me as being so wrong as the thick organic mulch did). In the garden with the tropicals there was such a huge patio (and the plants were so dense you couldn't see the base of them) that I subconsciously put those plants in containers where they could be moved to protect them over the winter. I've grown many of those same plants (minus the croton) and successfully overwintered them so seeing them in a patio setting didn't seem at all incongruous.

      Touring real gardens is a definite must, unfortunately that has to wait until the warmer, drier, months in these parts. So until then garden shows fill that need. And yes, Riz's garden is the subject of today's post!

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  13. What great photos! Thanks for posting all of those. It was a great show.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Tamara!

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  14. I would go for the display gardens, if there were any garden shows nearby that actually had them. Here they mostly try to sell concrete pavers and outdoor kitchens. I can not make the Philly show this year, but hope to next year when I will have earned some paid leave.

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