Friday, February 10, 2012

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show, Part 1

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show this year is centered around music in the garden. In many ways, music existed in gardens long before Bach ever thought about tempering his clavier. There have always been the melodic elements of native bird calls, rustling bamboo in the wind, and endlessly bubbling creeks. Additionally, there are parallels that can be drawn between a well-composed symphony and a well-composed garden. Elements do not just occur randomly, but they're all connected to embody a work of art that is unique and inspiring. In a garden, these elements are orchestrated by man, but they are executed by nature. The gardener is the composer while nature is the symphony.

Now, for those who have never been, a little NWFG show 101. There are four reasons to go to the NWFG show. The main reason is the seminars. That is where you really learn a wealth of information on a wide variety of topics relating to horticulture. The second reason is connecting with people and learning from their expertise. I talked with a potato farmer from Ellensburg for a good 20 minutes, and learned pretty much everything I ever wanted to know about growing potatoes. The third reason is the plant market. Although all the plants are pretty much 1 gallon size or smaller, they have a better selection here than anywhere else in the universe. I usually end up doubling my plant budget by the time I'm done, sometimes more than once. The forth reason to go is to look at the display gardens. Granted, the display gardens are really just a fantasy. Nothing in the real world would ever look like them. But the whole point is really to inspire and get you in the gardening spirit. I think they do a pretty good job with that. Having said that, can someone turn the lights up on them? I know saving energy is cool, but it would be nice to be able to read the plant tags and take non-blurry pictures. Just a thought.

So here is a rundown of the seminars I've already gone to:

"Plant of the Week" by Ciscoe Morris. Ciscoe talked about his favorite plants, organizing them by the months they're at peak-performance. As usual, he only got to July before running over and being kicked off the stage.

"Shade Gardens Rule" by Kelly Dodson & Sue Milliken. These are the owners of the new best nursery in the world: Far Reaches Farm. Some of their favorite shade plants include Beesia calthifolia, Podophyllum versipelle, and a pink-flowered Cardiocrinum giganteum.

"Container Garden Compositions" by Barbara Wise. Barbara is a garden designer in Nashville, and grows a lot of subtropical plants I love: Alocasias, Mandevilla vines, and Bougainvilleas to name a few.

"Survivors: Indianola" by Dan Hinkley. When I was growing up, even while I was in college, I had assumed that all the plants on earth had been discovered. That is far from the case. To this day there are perhaps thousands of garden-worthy plants that are not available in the trade. Dan Hinkley has done a lot to bridge this gap, which is why I am a huge fan of his. Some of the plants he discussed that weathered the previous three brutal winters include: Rhodocoma capensis, Embothrium coccineum, Musa sikkimensis, and the genuses of Eucomis and Dierama.

"The Peak of Perfection" by Colin McCrate. The first 15 minutes of this seminar consisted of a discussion on basic plant biology. I almost fell asleep, but then he discussed how he cultivates individual vegetables which was interesting and informative.

"What the Cluck?! Part 1" by Jessi Bloom. She discussed her personal adventures in raising chickens and made a very good case for integrating chickens into the garden.

"Reliable Plants for the Shade Garden" by Richie Steffen. Richie is the curator for the Miller Garden, an incredible garden in North Seattle filled with hundreds of rare plants. One plant he grows that stood out was the evergreen maidenhair fern, Adiantum venustum.

In spite of a slight scale-back this year in terms of size and scope, creativity abounded everywhere at the show. So much so that my head was about twice the normal size by the end of the day. One creative display garden had drops of water hitting differently tuned drums at different intervals (see the picture below). I got to thinking, there must be a way to be able to control the timing automatically, in which case you could have the drops of water play a song with a set of diatonically tuned drums.

Finally, here is a picture of some of the plants that managed to hitch a ride back with me:

Pictures from more or less left to right: 'All Red' potatoes, two free pansies, Arum italicum 'White Winter', Dierama 'Dark purple-violet', Arum 'Chameleon', Acanthus mollis 'Tasmanian Angel', Syneilesis aconitifolia, Oxalis adenophylla, Taxus baccata 'Amersfoort', Polygala chamaebuxus 'Kamniski', Euphorbia tirucalli 'Rosea', Butia capitata (Pindo Palm), Helleborus foetidus 'Wester Flisk' and Selaginelia braunii.

On to Part 2...

1 comment:

  1. You will love that Syneilesis. I have several Syneilesis hybrids I think are a S. aconitifolia & S. palmatum cross that is very cool...coming up now in my garden and looking very other-worldly.