Sneak Peek! Display gardens of the Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2009

I took the media tour of the display gardens at Seattle’s Northwest Flower and Garden Show today, and wow – what a trip! I’ve never seen a garden show in its assembly phase (although I’ve participated in disassembly). It’s great to see the gardens before the Show actually opens; you don’t have to fight through hoards of people to snap a photo. On the other hand, most of your photos are full of extension cords and ladders and garden designers’ butt cracks.

Before I share some of my observations and photos – sans crack – ponder this:

– 415,000 lbs of rocks and bolders are placed in the elaborate display gardens each year – several weighing in at over 7,000 lbs each.

– 60 dump trucks filled with dirt and mulch are trucked into the Convention Center to form the foundation of the display gardens.

– 3 1/2 days are allowed for display garden creators to turn their flat, cement space into the gardens we see.

Pretty impressive. Pretty grand. Not all that in keeping with the current climate of modest spending. And yet, there’s something so thrilling about it all. It’s just so over the top. Which brings me to the gardens themselves. The theme this year is sustainability, of course: “Sustainable Spaces. Beautiful Places.” Call me a cynic, but how do you reconcile that with the above?

Even if the stated theme hadn’t been sustainability, I think we would have seen “green” inform a lot of the 26 gardens on display this year. I expected to see a lot of green roofs and walls, and a lot of veggies. Green roofs and walls – definitely. Veggies? Not so much. I guess they’re just not as impressive. I’d love to see a garden show elevate the humble vegetable. Consider this a formal request. Thank you.

On the flipside, I was happy to see that the outdoor kitchen has quietly taken its leave, only appearing in one display garden, and even then, more modestly than in the past few years. (Now, could someone let Garden Design magazine know?) The firebowl also seems to have regretted its past indiscretions and vanished, which we can all be thankful for.

So if that’s the Not List, what’s the Hot List? Besides the surprising scarcity of edibles, here’s what jumped out at me at the 2009 Northwest Flower and Garden Show:

Entry to Cascadia

Native plants cropping up everywhere. In this display, by the Washington Park Arboretum, Phil Wood Garden Design and Bob Lilly, they’re the main contender, but they made an impact in several display gardens.

Elandan Gardens

Reusing and repurposing materials. The stumps used in this display by Dan Robinson of Elandan Gardens, Ltd. were harvested from clearcut sites. And what did I say about native plants?

WSNLA garden

Awareness of water conservation. Drought-tolerant plantings made several appearances, but so did the humble rain barrel, like the one in this garden by the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association, Partnership for Water Conservation, Walden Garden Services and Lucinda Landscapes.

Rebecca Cole Design

Green walls. Everywhere. This one’s in a garden by Rebecca Cole Design, Smith & Hawken and B. Bissell General Contractors, LLC. (More on this garden, a personal fave, later.)

New Leaf Creations garden

Green roofs are hotter than ever. So is solar power. Look up to see these technologies in play. The above green roof (and accompanying rain barrel) is in a display created by New Leaf Creations.

There you have the Heavy Petal overview of the 2009 Northwest Flower and Garden Show display gardens. Tomorrow I’ll have a closer look at my two favourite display gardens, as well as a report on the rest of the Show. For now, I’m going to bed.

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