Archive for the ‘Pacific Northwest’ Category

Birrell garden at the Garden Blogger’s Spring Fling

In late July, I was lucky enough to meet up with 70 wonderful and somewhat crazed garden bloggers at the fourth annual Garden Blogger’s Fling, held this year in Seattle. Hosted by Lorene Edwards Forkner of Planted at Home, Marty Wingate of In the Garden with Marty Wingate, Outdoor Living Expert Debra Prinzing, and Mary Ann Newcomer of Gardens of the Wild Wild West, the Garden Blogger’s Fling was a four-day garden-touring, people-meeting, drink-swilling extravaganza. Good times.

We saw so many fantastic gardens during the Fling, but one my favourites was actually the very first. Belonging to Suzette Birrell and her husband Jim, this North Seattle garden stood out for me for a few reasons: it was personal (and infused with personality!). It was full of charming vignettes and subtle garden art without veering into kitsch or having the details overpower the garden as a whole. And it had the most fabulous vegetable garden.



Top 10 Highlights from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2009

There’s always so much to take in at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, and this year’s – possibly the last ever – was no exception. But where to focus your energy? Here’s what stood out for me.

viburnum new dawn

1. Japanese fusion. There’s something so very Pacific Northwest about modern minimalism-meets-Japanese tradition. One could almost say it’s a cliche. But it’s not to the point of being overdone, so let’s refrain from dismissing it just yet. And personally, I love this look. Click, the display garden by Shapiro Ryan Design is a gorgeous example of this garden style done right. Not only are the physical structures of this garden beautifully constructed but the colour echoes in the plantings are stunning yet subtle. In the top photo, Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ stands out against a backdrop of Anemanthele lessoniana (New Zealand wind grass).


Love the cedar boardwalk. So Pacific Northwest!

Rebecca Cole garden

2. NYC rooftop lust. Rebecca Cole’s Sky’s the Limit gave me serious garden envy (I wasn’t the only one lusting, apparently; this garden won Best in Show.) I love the innovative seating – both the structure, created of wireframe-enclosed logs – and the bold modern fabric of the cushions. She’s also created “area rugs” of hardy succulents – under the coffee table, for example. What a great concept. They’re permeable water-holding areas, slowing down rain water runoff and looking great in the process.

Rebecca Cole green wall

Sky’s the Limit makes a big impact with a limited colour palette. Love the Mondrian-esque greenwall.

modern shed

3. Fab Prefab. Modern Shed has been making waves in the design community for its minimalist prefabricated sheds. Their Studio Shed was featured in this display garden by Serene Scapes Seattle.

Smith and Hawken booth

4. 200 square feet of cool, clean modernism. The unofficial award for best sales booth goes to Smith & Hawken. Green wall panels (modified from the ones they sell, perhaps?) framed the area, while succulents and orchids spilled from oversized containers. The flooring was an attractive – if a bit unstable – mix of wooden decking and faux sod.

rainwater harvesting

5. Fresh water. This waterfall (by Mark the Pond Guy) is fed by rainwater harvested from the metal roof and stored in a cistern under the patio. Neat.

Poly pots

6. More succulents than you could shake a stick at. Poly Pots had a lovely display of cool-toned pots, along with a fantastic selection of rare succulents and other plant oddities. I only wished I could bring a few back over the border.

glass mushrooms

7. Doing shrooms. Fungi is hot this year. Fungi Perfecti was there, of course, but mushrooms were also popping up as garden art. Could we be seeing some cross-pollination from the popularity of the woodland theme in fashion and interior decor?


8. Citrus reign. Splashes of citrus dominated many of the display gardens. Here’s lemon yellow in a display by Pots2Go in the container garden gallery.

sunglo greenhouse

9. Compact greenhouses. Okay, so it’s not the sexiest thing in the world, but it’s seed starting time and I’m liking the compact nature of this “space-saver greenhouse” by Sunglo. Still too big for my space, but we’re getting there.

Willi, Lila and I

10. Going live. Seattle local Willi Galloway from Diggin Food met up with me and my family at Vios, a hopping Greek deli in Capitol Hill. It was great to meet in person after so many virtual exchanges. And as other Seattle garden bloggers have suggested, next time (and I have a feeling there will be a 2010 show) we’ll have to set up a garden blogger’s meet up.


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.


Last-ever Northwest Flower and Garden Show starts February 18, 2009
Andrea Bellamy |

under the arbor

From the 2008 Show: Under the Arbor display garden.

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show, held in downtown Seattle’s convention center, starts Wednesday, February 18 and runs through Sunday, February 22. I’m heading down tomorrow to cover the event. I’m lucky enough to be able to attend a media “sneak peek” of the always-fabulous display gardens… and of course I’ll be reporting back to you. Check back on Tuesday night for your own sneak peek!

As you may have heard, this is likely to be the last Show in the event’s 21-year history. Wanting to retire and unable to find a suitable buyer for the Show, Duane Kelly, chairman of Salmon Bay Events, the company that founded and owns the event, has decided to close the Show for good.

Salmon Bay Events also owns and produces the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, which will also be closing barring a last-minute buyer. The Northwest and San Francisco Flower & Garden Shows are the second- and third-largest flower shows, respectively, in the United States; the largest is in Philadelphia.

The theme of this year’s shows is “Sustainable Spaces. Beautiful Places.” The 26 display gardens are pretty much guaranteed to be spectacular; in keeping with the theme, many promise to offer inspiring ideas about sustainability in gardens. Sustainability will also be the focus of many of the 120 free seminars presented by speakers from around the world.


From the 2008 Show: Molbaks container display.

I’m stoked to attend the show for a few reasons: first, it’s really the best garden show in the Pacific Northwest (and thus the only one I regularly attend). Second, I missed last year’s show because I was too pregnant to get health insurance for travel to the States. Third, it comes at the perfect time of year: a breath of spring at the end tail of winter. All the inspiration needed to jumpstart the growing year. Fourth, it’s probably going to be the last one. And I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

The last Northwest Flower and Garden Show will be held Feb. 18-22 at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. The cost of admission, which includes entrance to gardening seminars, is: $20 for adults; $9 for students 25 and under with valid student I.D.; $4 for kids ages 6 and under.


Fall colour fallen flat? Blame it on the rain.

Gratuitous baby photo: Lila in the leaves, 6 months old.

The autumn colours are pretty spectacular in the Pacific Northwest this year (at least by PNW standards). Sure, normally we get a few weeks of pretty leaves, but it’s nothing compared to the show back east. Which made me wonder: what makes fall colours more vibrant from one year to another?

Autumn colours at Trout Lake, East Vancouver…

As I suspected, it’s all in the weather. Chlorophyll, the chemical compound that makes leaves appear green, disappears fastest during an autumn with dry, sunny days and cool nights, exposing the leaves’ orange and yellow pigments. Dry weather concentrates sugar production, which brings out the red.

…and on my back patio. (‘Fireglow’ Japanese maple.)

That explains it. We’ve had an uncharacteristically sunny, cold autumn. So next time we have our usual ho-hum fall colour? I’ll just blame it on the rain.


Gotta have it: Pheasant’s Tail Grass
Andrea Bellamy |

Compared to ubiquitous carex and calamagrostis, Anemanthele lessoniana is a less-frequently used ornamental grass (not to mention a bit of a mouthful!). But it deserves wider fame, so I thought it was time to show it some love on the blog.

Commonly known as Pheasant’s Tail Grass (and once known as Stipa arundinacea), this is a cool-season grass that is hardy to zone 8. (Grasses are classified as either cool- or warm-season. Cool-season grasses start to grow as soon as the soil warms up in the spring. They flower in mid-summer and then their growth slows and they just kind of hang out. Warm-season grasses don’t start putting on new growth until late spring. They flower from late summer until frost.)

I love my Pheasant’s Tail Grass. Its glowy spring colour, not really done justice in the photo above, is absolutely stunning, especially when backlit. Its flowers are delicate and whispery, and it maintains a good arching mounded shape all year (I don’t cut mine back). This grass is said to do really well in the Pacific Northwest, and mine’s certainly lived up to that plug. Love, love, love.


Book review: Hardy Succulents
Andrea Bellamy |

Hardy Succulents cover.jpg

Hardy Succulents in two words: Eye candy.

I love the look of succulents: their drama, their modernism. And maybe, just maybe, I covet them because I can’t really grow many of them all that successfully here, even though I’m in practically-balmy Zone 8. So I was really excited to receive a copy of Hardy Succulents: Tough Plants for Every Climate by Gwen Moore Kelaidis, with photography by Saxon Holt.

When I opened the cover, I was confronted by a gorgeous photo of an agave. And then a cactus. Confused, I flipped back to the cover, to make sure I had a book called Hardy Succulents. “Surely agave and cactus don’t count as hardy,” I thought. “I mean, they certainly wouldn’t survive the winter here.” Or would they?

This book certainly challenged my assumptions, describing truly cold-hardy succulents (with the majority being hardy to Zone 5, and even some to Zone 3) – including those covet-worthy agaves and cacti.

Problem is, it’s not just tolerance for lower temperatures that contributes to hardiness. While technically hardiness is defined as an ability to withstand the average annual minimum temperatures of the zone, cold-tolerance doesn’t paint the full picture, especially when it comes to succulents.

In her introductory notes, Kelaidis recognizes that (besides temperature) “other factors contribute to hardiness,” notably wet winters or soils, a need for winter freezing, or an aversion to very hot summers.

Wet winters, eh? Could that be the reason many of the plants in this book wouldn’t survive here in rainy Vancouver, despite being tolerant of our winter temperatures? As I read on, I began to believe so: “Succulence can be an adaptation to climates where rainfall is low, seasonal, or highly unpredictable…” Kelaidis writes. “All succulents suffer if they must sit in puddles of cold water, with their roots in water-logged soil…”

The book does offer general methods of coping with rain and other succulent-destroying weather systems. Kelaidis suggests, for example, that, “in climates with more than 35 inches of rainfall, especially where this rain comes in spring and autumn, succulents will often grow well in 6 to 12 inches of pure sand layered above normal soil.”

My one criticism of the book is that these kinds of important details about hardiness aren’t always conveniently listed in descriptions about specific species. I found I often had to flip back and forth to determine whether a plant listed would do well in my climate. And in the case of the coveted agave, I’m still confused. The section on agaves lists several gorgeous cultivars that are hardy to well below Zone 8, but doesn’t go into site preferences or moisture tolerance. Obviously, I’m assuming they don’t like wet feet, but maybe they need more heat or sun than I can provide, and this book ain’t telling.

That said, it does provide a lot of great information, inspiration and, well, hope. The photography is excellent and really doesn’t help with my case of agave envy. Above all, I learned that there are succulent options beyond basic hens-and-chicks, and you can be sure some of them will be making it into my garden this summer!


Guest post: Top 10 highlights from the 2008 Northwest Flower and Garden Show

As you know, I was too pregnant to make it to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle last week. Thankfully, my friends Caitlin and Owen (aka “O”), the brilliant minds behind garden design group Aloe Designs, made the trip and took notes. This is Caitlin’s report back from the show. Thanks Cait! (P.S.: Caitlin has just launched a new blog called Nesting, about “all things home and garden.” Check it out!)

Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2008
by Caitlin Black

With all this yucky rain, we have really been itching for spring and some garden inspiration. So O and I headed down south to the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle. We took a break from it last year, so we were pretty excited to see what was in store for ’08. Lots of great goodies. We managed to complete it in a day and were definitely inspired by some great ideas. Some of the highlights:

1.0 Going Native

weekend escape.jpgIt seemed a few years back the overall theme was bulb mania. This year it was replaced by lots of exhibits featuring indigenous plantings and mild mulches, which as we all know require little maintenance and are drought tolerant – an easy recipe for any urban gardener. One we loved: A Weekend Adventure – by New Leaf Creations (above).

2.0 Eat Your Greens

potager patio.jpgThanks to the Northwest Horticulture Society, we were so thrilled to see that a large amount of the show was dedicated to kitchen gardens. From small container arrangements to large potagers this was definitely my favorite part of the show (above and below).

urban_garden_2.jpgI was just as ecstatic when I saw the live chicken coop at the Seattle Urban Farm Co. display. This was way too cool for its own good, with a vegetable garden-lined brick pathway, edible green roof, mini orchard, farm kitchen and the beloved livestock. Way to go guys!

3.0 Contemporary Arrangements

pots_2.jpgWe always seem to gravitate to the modern, but there were so many great
container arrangements this year. Check out these sleek planters (above
and below).

pots_1.jpg4.0 Think Green

Sunset sponsors this event, so I felt like a kid in a candy shop trying to make sure we made enough time to hear some of the speaker series. The most memorable talk was by one of their editors, Lauren Bonar Swzey, who spoke on the design savvy sustainable gardens she has visited over the years. Can we say “job envy”?

5.0 Designer Spotting… And a Little Bit of a Crush

jamie durie.jpgTo say that I didn’t go bright red and a bit sweaty when I got to meet one of my favourite international designers, Jamie Durie, would be completely lying. He was just as gorgeous and lovely in person. I talked with him for a bit about his books and even scored an autograph. O was thoroughly embarrassed for me.

6.0 Monrovia Plants

Monrovia is, in my opinion, one of the best plant suppliers out there. If my long-desired job at Sunset doesn’t pan out, I think these guys would be my second choice. It was great to see some of the new species they have developed. Two that intrigued us were Baby Bliss Flax Lily and Wate’s Golden Pine. Now if only our nurseries carried more of their stock.

7.0 Farmers Rock

We talked with some great suppliers in the Marketplace but our favorite couple were from Half Moon Bay, CA. Farmer John Muller and his wife Eda run Farmer John’s Pumpkins and distribute Franchi old world heirloom seeds from Italy. We bought up some gems and successfully managed to smuggle them back home – yippee!

8.0 Classic Designs

boots 1.jpgI have been on a serious search for some girlie-as-girlie-can-be rain boots. I finally found them at the Smith and Hawkins booth. As much as I am ready to see the rain disappear, maybe a few more days wouldn’t hurt so I can sport these cuties.

9.0 Eco Friendly Products

Two interesting products caught our eye. One is a non-toxic organic pesticide spray that has packaging reminiscent of Method. It’s called Pharm Solutions and is made locally in Washington State.

The other was a five gallon compost tea brewer made from a company called Keep It Simple.

10.0 A Resting Place

After being on our feet all day we were ready for a seat and a tall one. We found the perfect answer in Ballard at Kings Hardware – a local watering hole that served cold local brews and mini little burgers. A nice end to a great day.


Gardening events February 20 – 24, 2008
Andrea Bellamy |

Update February 20. I’ve just found out that I’m not going to be able to make it to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show because I’m 32 weeks pregnant and can’t get insurance coverage. (I can’t risk going to the States without it, especially in my “condition.”) Thankfully, Caitlin and Owen of Vancouver-based garden design team Aloe Designs are going to cover the event for Heavy Petal. Thanks guys! I’ve also added another event closer to home – the BC Home and Garden Show (thanks for the reminder, Ren!)

Who knew late February was such a peak time for gardening events? If you live in the Vancouver area, there are three four worth checking out this week, from a big-ticket show to a small-but-enthusiastic celebration.

Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2008

The 20th annual Northwest Flower & Garden Show starts this coming Wednesday, and will take place February 20 – 24, 2008 at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. The highlight of the show is always the gardens, which, come February, are a welcome – if artificial – taste of the season to come.

The cost of admission, which includes entrance to gardening seminars, is $19 for adults, $8 for students 25 and under with valid student I.D., $3 for ages 6 – 17 and free for children under 5. Show hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

BC Home and Garden Show

This show focuses a little bit too much on the magic mop crowd for my taste, but since I can’t make it to Seattle, I’ll likely poke around the BC Home and Garden Show for an afternoon. There is a good list of speakers, and the display gardens look promising.

Wednesday, February 20 through Sunday, February 24 at BC Place Stadium, 777 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver, BC.

Seedy Saturday

Seedy Saturdays are taking place all across BC this month. In Vancouver, visit Van Dusen Gardens‘ Floral Hall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 23 for a celebration of heritage
varieties and organic gardening featuring more than 30 growers, seed
companies and exhibitors, plus a heritage seed swap.
Admission is by donation.

Seedy Saturday is also being held in other communities across BC, including Nanaimo, Cobble Hill and the Comox Valley. Check it out! Seedy Saturday is great place to find vegetable seeds for your entry into The Growing Challenge, or to stock up on seeds for your seedballs.

Hellebore Hurrah

Local nursery Phoenix Perennials holds its annual Hellebore Hurrah (“celebrating early spring and all things hellebore”) on February 22nd, 23rd and 24th, 2008 from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. They’re carrying Heronswood Hellebores for one more year – better not miss out!


First snowfall of winter
Andrea Bellamy |

snow on fern.jpg
Yesterday morning, we woke up to snow. As if the turning of the calendar page triggered Arctic chill. It seems snow has become more and more common in Vancouver over the past few years. I guess that’s part of the global warming/weird weather phenomenon. At this point, please allow me a short lecture, since I’ll be asked, anyway:
No, actually, Vancouver is quite mild. Snow is rare, though lately we’ve been getting it two or three times a year. It melts quickly though. No, I don’t live in an igloo or drive a dogsled (I swear to God I’ve been asked this more than once). In fact, I don’t own winter tires or a snow shovel, though today I wish I had a Crazy Carpet. Those were good times.



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