The show is open - I spent eight hours on the show floor yesterday..where display gardens are blooming away in the dead of winter, which in itself seems a miracle. Fritillaria, narcissus, hellebores, witch hazel, camellias, a haze of wintering flowering currants...you won't find summer here, but spring bumped up a month or two. Today I'm going to hit the commercial booths and plant markets and will publish a full report here tonight of what is worth your while tracking down...
The verdict on the show? There aren't many knockout gardens this year (no Molbaks - don't we sigh for those extravaganzas??, no crowd-pleasing Christianson's Nursery....) but there are many beatiful plants, modern materials, repurposed items, and good design on display, as well as chickens, koi, and vegetables. Dwarf conifers in all their bristle and various colors and textures are definitely the plant of the year - they're everywhere.
But can I just start with a little rant? The show never used to have a theme, and now I know why. This year's theme of "A Floral Symphony" was taken way too literally by too many of the garden creators. From pianos to guitars and drums (being played by dripping water in two different gardens) there are too many distracting musical instruments worked awkwardly into way too many of the gardens.
Enough of that - I had two favorite gardens, very different from each other, and I really liked pieces and plants in many of the other gardens. We gave the Pacific Horticulture Magazine award to the Arboretum Foundation's "Birdsong" garden which is gorgeously, convincingly naturalistic way - more habitat than garden, with a masterful mix of natives and ornamentals. How did they force those witch hazels to be perfectly and fully in bloom? They smell heavenly. From snags to the walkway through the trees, to the cunning and covetable bird blind, the garden feels fully real and realized. It has quiet, subtle little ponds, and birds in it (which you think might be corny, but isn't, probably because Audubon was involved),and you can do something clever with your cell phone and hear their songs.
The most modern garden on the floor is all about growing food. "Dinner Bell Rings: Eat Your Yard" is 99% edible plants, with a big, welcoming dining table beneath a kiwi-draped trellis. Paved in warm-colored slabs of stone, filled with recyclables and metal feeding troughs, chickens (above left) and an old volkswagen van, this garden is just so well-thought out and so 21st century. It's welcoming and appealing, practical and utilitarian. I wish more of the gardens integrated edibles into the ornamentals...it doesn't need to be either/or. Love the VW van - the back half is chicken coop, the front half garden shed, and strawberries grow out of the collapsed old tires.
A couple more highlights:
Liked this shaggy green wall
Clever cloque/coldframe hybrid...unfortunately this isn't the only line-up of primroses...
And how about the artistry of a pink waterfall of tulips beneath the most gorgeous Japanese maple?
And I loved the April in Paris garden for its flower stall, bakery, and glimpse into interiors, as well as the cool commuter bike - it looked like the creators of this garden had great fun with it - oh, and the most beautifully forced Itoh peonies...