Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Farwest Tradeshow, 2014...

August 21st and 22nd found me at the 2014 Farwest Tradeshow here in Portland. This an annual event for the nursery trade, one I’ve attended the last few years. This year my show experience was a little different, I was one of the judges for the New Varieties Showcase. What the heck is a new varieties showcase? I'm glad you asked:

“Plants in the showcase have been selected for characteristics that are new to the market. All selections must be available for ordering by at least one Farwest Trade Show exhibitor, and they must be in large-scale production for the first time.” (source)

“The 2014 showcase featured 52 different trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals with interesting shapes, colors, growth habits and other characteristics” (source)

That’s a lot of plants!

My fellow judges and I had to select a “Best in Show” and 3 “Plants of Merit.” These fine ladies were my co-judges, on the left is Suzy Hancock, general manager at Portland Nursery and on the right Lorene Edwards Forkner, editor at Pacific Horticulture Magazine...

What was I doing in their company? I have no idea, these ladies are the real deal. In my attempt to act like I belonged I put aside my personal bias and thought objectively. Or at least I tried. Not all 52 plants we looked at will be shown here, but if you're curious they can be seen here.

I was very excited to see this one, Eryngium × zabelii 'Neptune's Gold', sadly the plants didn't make it to the show. Neither did Cornus kousa var. chinensis 'Madi-II' PPAF, which is reported to have "distinctly colored pumpkin-yellow fruit".

This is the foliage of Styrax japonicus 'JLWeeping' PP23755, which blooms pink...

Callistemon rigidus 'RutCall' PP23848  (Scarlet Torch™ Bottlebrush) below, if those flowers are really as red as in the photo this one is a winner. Sadly there were no flowers to see, and I did wonder about the hardiness (reportedly Zones 8-11).

Skyline Heather Collection - Calluna vulgaris 'Stockholm' PPAF and 'Sydney' PPAF I was surprised how much I loved these little guys. Soft spikes reaching up for the sky.

I couldn't help but put these in the "do we really need more..." category.

And these, well, I just wonder. They'll make someone happy I suppose.

Bad photo of Berberis thunbergii 'BailJulia' PPAF, Toscana™ Barberry. This was one of our three “Plants of Merit” and this is where having three judges that have to agree is probably a good thing. I wouldn't have necessarily chose this one but we had to compromise and another made a good argument for the Toscana. That yellow/green leaf margin is pretty sweet.

Sambucus racemosa 'SMNSRD4' PPAF, CBRAF, Lemon Lace™ Elderberry. This was another of our “Plants of Merit,” the foliage was amazing.

And gorgeous with the Physocarpus opulifolius 'Podaras 1' PP22361, Burgundy Candy Ninebark, which was one of my personal favorites. Why? It's size: 2–3 feet tall and wide. Who couldn't squeeze that in somewhere?

I think I need one of these.

This, Stachys 'Bello Grigio' PPAF, was our third “Plant of Merit," Suzy had great things to report about their performance in the border at Portland Nursery and as you know it's been very popular all over the blogosphere.

The fact there was only one small plant on display here speaks to just how hard it is to get a hold of.

So, I know you're on the edge of your seat wondering what plant won our pick for "Best in Show" I give you Chionanthus virginicus 'Spring Fleecing'...

Seriously. The foliage was gorgeous, long and shiny, and the contrast with the dark stems was remarkable. Add in the fact this is a male cultivar, and thus "no messy fruit" and it's just a stunning small tree. I would love a pair to replace the messy Styrax Japonica planted in my hellstrip.

That's it for the NVS, which is just a small part of the show. Here are a few highlights and other things I saw...

Proven Winners seems to feel caladium are going to be popular next year.

And I saw more Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' this year, lots more. Hopefully that means the price will be coming down and I'll try it again.

For a side by side comparison here are the heathers I liked in the NV Showcase. On the left Calluna vulgaris 'Sydney' and 'Stockholm' on the right.

I like this idea, but done with different materials.

I was the lucky recipient of one of these, Cornus sanguinea 'Compressa', from Vanessa Gardner Nagel last spring. It's a fabulous plant.

The Little Prince of Oregon booth is always crisp and colorful, one of my favorites. This year their sign made use of their popular sempervivum offerings. It's only a matter of time before they're selling those letters too, don't you think?

These rusty offerings were from Garden Gallery Iron Works, I loved them! (nice people too)

The Walla Walla Nursery Co always has a good looking booth. This year however I saw something that stopped me in my tracks, and not in a good way.

These. Shame on you!

Luckily most of their succulents escaped such inhumane treatment.

Another good looking booth, T and L Nursery...

With more good looking 'Cousin Itt'...

How many agaves per square foot?

'Lanham's Purple' Shining Sumac...

Love the shapes and colors of these garden stools from Pottery Paradise (Richmond, CA, wholesaler). I hope some local retailer ordered a few.

There should have been a big screen TV in this booth, to go with the sofa.

Fabulous sculpture in the Bamboo Garden booth.

It was the creation of Charissa Brock and if you're curious it's worth a look at her website to see more of her work.

Monrovia seems to be still invested in the succulent "trend" (it's not really a trend any longer though is it?)...

Great combination of the Agave bracteosa and colorful sempervivum.

Here's something I haven't seen before, a vertical garden of Hakonechloa...

In the same booth (Blooming Nursery) I spotted a garden celebrity. That's Dr. Allan Armitage chatting up Grace Dinsdale (founder of Blooming Nursery) and an employee.

Prunus persica 'Pix Zee', love the foliage, don't really want a fruit tree though.

And finally I'll end this lengthy post with a walk through a dream forest of sculpted plants. The next best thing to visiting Pearl Fryar's garden (okay it's a stretch, but I enjoyed it)...

I'm not wild about the swirls, but I suppose they offer a nice counter point to the clouds.

Which I love...

Especially when they're in powdery blues and bright greens.

Or they swoop a little in one direction.

Oh and there was this. Of course if I had my own sculpted forest I would need one of these to haul my plants home with...

All material © 2009-2014 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. I've been looking for that Stachys this year, and you're right, it's hard to find. I hope maybe it'll be easier next year. Peter saw it at Vassey, but they were out by the time I got there. Every year I'm intrigued by your posts about Farwest, I should go next year. I have a bit of a soft spot for a nicely cloud-pruned specimen too.

    1. I had the opportunity to grab one a couple of times but just couldn't take the plunge. I was afraid it would look dingy in my garden. I think I'm over that now and will have to include a couple next year.

  2. I'm going to be keeping an eye out for the Burgundy Candy ninebark -- I need to add another small one to the front garden I think and that one looks so nice! It surprises me that Barberry is still being cultivated. Don't all of the varieties produce seed, and eventually naturalize? I know that it's on the "naughty" list in several states.

    1. I have not a clue about the seed producing tendencies of barberry!

  3. Nice post, Loree! I think you covered it well! I too really liked that callistemon, I was kind of rooting for it. Anyhow, it was a fun first experience for me, thanks to Dawn Hummel of UpShoot who gifted me tix. Also, those Garden Gallery Iron Works pots are great, would love a couple of those! And the nice folks at Little Prince did it again with a very cool booth. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I considered arguing hard for the callistemon but realized it was a lost cause. I lost a few last winter and some that survived were knocked back. Who knows how hardy this one will really be?

  4. I would have a hard time picking out plants objectively. How do you put your personal preferences aside? I guess that's why you had three judges :-).

    Were those Agave 'Blue Glow' really vertical?

    1. Having three definitely helped to even out the peaks and valleys of our opinions. Smart of the OAN to do with that number.

      Yes they were, the boxes were being displayed that way, perhaps to demonstrate how shipping won't hurt them? Although that's probably not right because I imagine they'd be potted up before selling...I should have asked!

  5. Was there a story behind those spray-painted succulents?

    1. I couldn't bring myself to ask about them Kris, my disapproval would have been obvious and the salespeople were busy answering questions. I held my tongue rather than get all preachy on them. Thankfully there were only two and they weren't being displayed prominently.

  6. That's quite a nice experience to be a judge for the show, nice selections too. Those rusty tin planters would fit right in my garden. Lots of great plants and introductions. That Stachys will take a while to make it this far south and east. I "rediscovered" caladiums this year and have been enjoying how they add great color in the summer when little else will grow. I've been looking for the right combination of planters to stack since I like the idea. The metal rings look very commercial and would need to be covered with trailing plants.

    1. When you do discover the right combination of planters I hope you'll post about it! I can see metal rings working for me, but they'd need to be galvanized. You know to "blend" with my tank farm.

  7. The Chionanthus deserves its accolade, it's lovely with leaves and habit reminding me of some small tropical trees. I was reading your post extra slow, trying to digest everything as there were so many new plants to lust for! Loving the cloud pruned conifers too. They're slow to train to look like that but well done ones like that are great statement plants in the garden.

    1. You guys should visit during the Farwest Show some year, what fun we could have.

  8. The Little Prince succulent letters are amazing! I would love to do something like that in my garden.

  9. The show looks like fun! Did you bring any plants home? The spray painted aeoniums - why? Whenever I see that Stachys, it looks a little droopy like it needs water. I got two earlier in the year and they never really look happy but the color is great. So much cool stuff to see! Thanks for sharing it with us your honor (you know, because you're a judge and all.)

    1. I did not. You can't buy plants at this show until closing time on Saturday (when the vendors pack up) and I was at the beach with Andrew's family on Saturday. Thank you for sharing your experience with the stachys.

  10. That 'Lemon Lace' Elderberry is lovely. Who would find spray painted plants appealing? Ick. Judging would have been so hard (to do without letting personal taste cloud your judgment), well done. "Bigfoot" would fit right in with your colour scheme!

    1. I know right? Judging by these and the ones that keep popping up at Home Depot someone must be buying them, but why?

      We're thinking about replacing my car sometime soon, I wonder if I could talk Andrew into "Bigfoot?"

  11. There are so many fun events related with plants! That really looks like fun. Thanks for sharing!

    1. There really are! Sales, lectures, shows, tours...

  12. The people responsible for the violated succulents--do they spray-paint their children, too?

    Funny you mention 'Bello Grigio' as mine dropped stone dead last week, reason unknown. It was lovely while it lasted...and Cousin Itt goes bald here. Surely it is better in your climate?

    Many cool plants, you must have had great fun!

    1. Ha! Perhaps, but just at Halloween.

      Sorry about your 'Bello Grigio'...it will be interesting to hear reports post-winter about how it held up. As for 'Cousin Itt' I killed one, and heard reports from the grower I'd bought it from that they were having trouble keeping it alive too...


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