Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2011 NWF&G Show - the Display Gardens

For most attendees of a garden show, display gardens are a big reason they go. I am definitely in that camp, and I have to say some of the designers outdid themselves this year. For some reason, I was actually prepared to be underwhelmed by the display gardens, but NO!

The several visually lush, but elementally simple gardens were my favorites among the over 20 gardens. I spent a little while talking to Karen Stefonick, the designer of this garden, "A Wrinkle in Time."

We discussed the value of repeating elements to achieve rhythm, and she mentioned that there were only about twenty different plants used in the entire garden.

Karen used a new introduction of Melianthus major 'Antonow's Blue', pairing it with what I'm guessing is Choisya ternata 'Sundance' for a fabulous color contrast.

The simple, geometric shapes of the pavers add to the garden's appeal, while the alternating layout and river rock filler keep it from feeling stiff.

More Melianthus and Choisya, with something purple in there for more contrast.

Aloes, and tree ferns also figured in, with widely diverging textures and striking results.

The front of the garden used golden spike moss and dark purple heuchera for color impact, with some type of low grass for great textural contrast. I also spotted bright green and dark purple colocasias in the pond.

"The Japanese Garden" was designed by the Arboretum Foundation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Seattle Japanese Garden. I love this kind of serene eastern style. The huge boulders and sea of green mondo grass just drew me in.

This garden appeared to have even fewer than the aforementioned 20 plants, but the designers used their limited plant palette with beautiful results.

I like the use of rounded flat rocks and irregular pavers. It's a very different approach from the first garden, but equally successful.

And now for something completely different: This garden, "Alice's Labyrinth", was over-the-top color and craziness in one place. But it had pink flamingos in it, so how could I hate it?!

The designers even included a white rabbit.

The Alice in Wonderland theme ran riot through the garden. Perhaps this colocasia (c. esculenta 'Black Magic'?) represented spades?

The 'labyrinth" was created from long fabric tunnels filled with something mulchy and pocketed with all kinds of small plants. It was Wooly Pocket on steroids.

If you click on this small picture to enlarge it, you can better appreciate "Stepping Through a Timeless Tranquil Forest" and the scale of this garden with its amazing waterfall. 

Then there were a few little details that caught my eye.

This green glass cattail sculpture was about two feet high and lit from underneath. It was in The Wind in the Willows garden. I'd be happy to have this in my garden.

In another garden, English Daisies and Babies Tears had been carefully tucked into the corners of the steps. The cottage garden isn't really my style, but this garden was so nicely thought out and finished, it was a delight.

Outside an otherwise unremarkable garden (really just raised platforms full of various plants and "walls" hung with white filmy fabric) perched goofy little papier mache birds - some with crowns.

Next up, if you're still with me: 2011 NWF&G Show - the Plants, and what I brought home with me.


  1. Great photos and an excellent review, it is wonderful to see what appealed to you in the display gardens.

  2. Great post about the display gardens! I was prepared to be underwhelmed too, but I loved it. I agree, the best thing about the garden with the papier-mache birds was the birds! I love how your pictures almost make it feel like we were allowed into the gardens. They really draw you in, and make it feel like it was a much more intimate experience than it was.

    Now wondering what treats you brought home.

  3. Your verbal description of the show hardly needs the visuals to back it up, but I am enjoying seeing them. Next time I will make sure to have a clean docket. Who would have thought that two near-strangers could gab endlessly without running out of material? Too much fun!

  4. Thanks for bringing you readers with you to the show. You managed to take great photos in what are usually awful photo conditions.

  5. I'm so jealous of you getting to go...I almost conned my partner into it...but in the end, decided against it. I love, love, love that Melianthus...I saw that one at some random nursery last fall and ALMOST bought it...but had nowhere to put it, now I totally regret not taking the chance. I would totally find somewhere for those glass cattails...they are amazing! Do you, by chance, know who made them?

  6. dg - yes, I am uncomplicated, and I like my theoretical gardens that way, though I have a hard time keeping them simple in practice!

    Alison - it WAS very crowded at points on Friday, but I made a lot of these photos on Wednesday, when the crowds were scared off by weather.

    Ricki - just shows you what two gardeners can find in common!

    Denise - Coming from you, that's praise indeed. I fear you're being kind, but it was fun trying to record what I liked.

    Scott - you really must go next year. If driving and downtown parking are not your thing, did you know the Metro area Master Gardeners sponsor a bus trip? You don't need to be an MG to go: just pay your $60 and they take care of everything, including tickets, quick transpo and space under the bus for returning plants and goodies. And, sorry, no, I didn't get the glass artist's name. Pretty cool, though, isn't it?

  7. Wonderful post, Jane. Your observations and details are the next best thing to being there.


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