The 26th annual Northwest Flower and Garden Show, at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle is huge, bustling, and runs through Sunday evening (February 9th). There's plenty you can skip -fake stone vendors, one more booth selling hoses - and even more you won't want to miss, like the hand blown cloque, left, in the Chocolate Flower Farm booth.
You enter the show along a bouquet-lined promenade.. Outside all the windows is Freeway Park and freezing temperatures. Inside is a fragrant fantasy of flowers; the arrangement below mixes carnivorous pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) with hellebores and unripe blackberries. This arrangement, by Nicole Cordier Wahlquist and Riz Reyes, won the People's Choice Award. Where to find such unusual materials? Seattle Wholesale Growers Market in historic Georgetown, open to the public every Friday...
"Nature's Studio" is the display garden that won the Founder's Cup, the biggest prize at the show. Designer Kirsten Lints skillfully integrates edibles like kale, rainbow Swiss chard and asparagus, with showy stands of red twig dogwood and small evergreens. The garden is fully 3-dimensional with a centerpiece of an ancient-looking cedar nurse log sprouting a hemlock. Stone, water, wood, rusty metal - the design somehow manages to be both elemental and hip; be amazed by the shitake mushroom pyramid..
The winning garden...asparagus spears and a tiny root cellar backed by brilliant twig dogwood.
The skybridge features smaller, more focused displays, often by younger designers. Check out the work of Todd Holloway of Pot Inc. (from Vancouver B.C.), which has a mid-century modern vibe. The colorful, dish-like containers he calls "hover pots" are covetable in their bright, slightly retro colors. And practical - shallow enough so that even filled with plants and soil they aren't too heavy to hang, perfect for succulents or trailing annuals.
Glass art shows up in nearly every garden this year, perhaps inspired by the Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit at the Seattle Center...Look up to see the fantastically shaped and colored glass pieces by Ginny Ruffner (her studio and home are in the Old Ballard neighborhood), that wind and curl around an arbor in the Arboretum's display garden, looking as organic as if they've just sprouted from the wood...
Notice the pale flowering shrub to the left in this scene? That's winter-blooming Edgeworthia papyrifera, also called the paper bush. It's the plant of the year at the 2014 show; you'll see an edgeworthia or two in nearly every garden. Here's what the fragrant little clusters of flowers look like in close-up (left).
When you need a break, head downstairs to the seminar rooms, where horticulturists share their expertise...Plant explorer Dan Hinkley speaks today at 1:30 p.m (arrive early, Dan's talks are always mobbed). The Garden to Table demontrations on the DIY Stage are popular. California designer Debra Lee Baldwin dishes on succulents at 3:00 on Saturday, and Jessica Bloom speaks from experience about keeping chickens in "What's the Cluck?!" at 4:15 p.m. the same afternoon. The seminar schedule for all five days is here.
When you're rested and ready to shop, you'll find plant vendors on the far side of the skybridge, offering everything from orchids to begonias, lilies to kangaroo paws, dahlias and more dahlias...
The Flower & Garden Show is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday...Be sure and dress warmly (the temperatures are geared to keeping the plants happy), wear comfortable shoes, and know that the 4th floor coffee shop near the escalators now sells Stumptown coffee.