By Susan Scheen
Whidbey Island, Washington
Starting off our day with Ciscoe Morris with stories from the seminar The Good, the Bad, and the Bloopers kept me laughing all day. I brought away the idea of pruning plants back to different levels. Not only does it add interesting dimensions in height, but the plants will bloom at different times keeping color blooms in the garden longer than normal.
A special treat was watching Marianne Beneti chat with Duane Kelly, founder of Pacific Northwest Flower & Garden Show. They were together on the first seminar stage sponsored by Sunset Magazine many years ago. Marianne’s ideas for the garden included using opposites (contrasting colors, the darks and light, the intense and softer) within the many shades of foliage.
The awesome show gardens took center stage. They focused on both practical and whimsical using many of our Pacific Northwest mosses found in trees and on forest floors. Moss added great depth and character to steps and gardens spaces.
Garden Art comes in all shapes, sizes, colors and materials. The artist’s work reflected unusual, whimsical and stunning ideas including vibrant glass and softer tones of stone and metal. I purchased a pearl triangular-cut flower holder.
Of course no market place at a garden show is complete without plants, and I found all the local nurseries, large and small, showing off with displays of color. I found a great bargain towards the end of the show where I bought 3 pots of succulents.
Is this really the last Pacific Northwest Flower and Garden Show? No way! As Marianne Benetti said, “We all plan on meeting here next year, same time, same place, as we keep on sharing about Gardening!”
When Susan was eight years old, she loved her mother’s garden. She would bring all sorts of things to plant there like obnoxious plants, seeds, pinecones and anything she could find to add to her garden. Her mother was not always pleased. Susan continues to garden by the seat of her pants, random and haphazardly, watching plants grow and mature.
I was reading recently in Mother Earth News about an ancient technique of using charcoal for soil improvement. Author Barbara Pleasant says that the technique is 3,000 years old and involves digging a ditch and burning the weeds (with woody matter) after weeds have gone to seed. They call it biochar.
According to Wikipedia, “Biochar is charcoal created by pyrolysis of biomass. The resulting charcoal-like material can be used as a soil improver to create terra preta, and is a form of carbon capture and storage. Charcoal is a stable solid and rich in carbon content, and thus, can be used to lock carbon in the soil. Biochar is of increasing interest because of concerns about climate change caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”
Barbara says that the idea originated from the Amazonian rain forests of Brazil. Apparently the tribes there grew crops in soil made from compost, mulch and smoldered plant matter. The Amazonian “dark earths” hold many plant nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium. “Many scientists are working around the world to beter understand how biochar works,” she says.
Barbara outlines the steps to making biochar in Mother Earth News.
- Pile up woody debris in a shallow pit in garden bed.
- Burn the brush until the smoke thins and then damp-down the fire by covering it with about an inch of soil.
- Let it smolder until the brush is charred, then put the fire out.
See this month’s Mother Earth to learn more on this amazing technique and the benefits to your gardening.
Karen Chapman from Le Jardinet Designs just sent me a picture from her recent seminar. She knew I loved the colors in this second pot I saw her make at the NW Flower and Garden Show so she sent this one for me to “oooo and ahhh” at. I did, of course.
I asked her about the beautiful apricot flower and she said “I think you must mean the Primabella Primrose. Actually both the primroses are that type and the color is called Apricot Shades. That basically means that the seed is a mix of shades within that color family so no two flowers are identical. I particularly like them as they look more natural than the screaming hot pink etc, have burgundy flushed leaves (which works well with the color scheme) and are perennial in my garden despite abuse and neglect! There are other shades available too. I seem to remember there was a mix of white/soft pinks (at Molbaks).”
Do you see what Karen does with the layers of the plants? This is a key to any good container. Tall in the back, medium in the center and the shorter plants in the front. Notice that there are no gaps in those layers-which means there are more than three layers. And it’s a very smooth transition from one to another which means the eye doesn’t break from the display and wander elsewhere before taking it all in. And taking in the full picture is essential to our good impression of the display.
I am seeing more yellow this year. How about you? Both at the show and in gardens around the Northwest. I like it-reminds me of SUN.
It’s the last day of the show-perhaps for good-and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there is a little sadness about it. I am sad. My guest-posters are sad. The people on the floor enjoying the show are sad. My speaker friends are also sad.
What an incredible ride it has been. My fave memory? (Oh boy, hard to pick) The little girl who asked her mom where the Show Gardens were. The ones in front of her were surely fun backyards to play in-not Show Gardens. Then there was Ciscoe Morris’ hilarious talk last year on Tropical Plants. There was time with Joe Gardener this year. Our wonderful Tweet-Up with very cool friends. And-OK you caught me. It’s impossible to pick a fave!
I am reminiscent of a couple of scenes in my head. One is when I exited the Cow Palace last year after the San Francisco show and a passionate kid who was losing his voice was thrusting flyers into visitors hand saying, “Please save the Cow Palace!” Apparently it was slated to become something else and he was really upset. Because he cared so much about his message, people stopped and listened. I also think of the scene (this really dates me) in “Back to the Future” so long ago. Remember that? There was a flyer in that one too. “Save the Clock Tower!” It practically shouted off the page.
Now if anyone is passing out “Save the Flower Show” flyers outside of the convention center, I promise it’s not me (wink). The last I checked, the ones being passed out there were for a wine coupon. But I feel passionate enough to do so and after this week at the show, with my readers and my friends, I know that many other people feel the same.
Here’s a deal — WONDERFUL and amazing flower show for sale! Please pass it on. (Dear Paul Allen, since you have purchased much of downtown, would you kindly consider adding a flower show to your ventures?)
Speaking of last minute deals, you do know that it happens at the show right? Yes, those of us who have had experience setting up and staffing a booth all week know something you may not know: it’s so much easier if we don’t have to drag all the merchandise back home with us. SO it’s prime time for you to come make deals on plants and other merchandise from the show.
There are still a few hours left. Please come see us for perhaps one last time. In case you didn’t see it, here is one of my guest-poster’s video goodbye to the show.
Thank you wonderful readers and dear friends. It has been a pleasure to experience the show with you.
Each year the Garden Show rolls around just in time to scratch that itch for spring to arrive. Packed with greenery, tools, yard art and gadgets-it is a breath of fresh air for any northwest gardener impatient for the growing season.
While the hellebores and crocuses might be blooming outside, inside the Garden Show one finds a wonder world of full blown color and greenery.
This year I found myself drawn to the displays that wanted to green up everything . . . from a Volkswagen Beetle to garden walls, to a garden shed from the Flower Growers of Puget Sound that demonstrated how beautiful a green building can be. This little green building, with its striking sedum-striped walls and grass-highlighted roof, absolutely captured my imagination more than anything else at the show. As I was taking photos another woman appeared and declared in awe “It’s beautiful! How did they DO that!?” Indeed.
For my husband, it’s the whimsy that is most appealing. From glass sunflowers, to children’s hats, to garden mobiles, walking up and down the aisles of the merchants is like a treasure hunt for smiles. You never know what surprising idea you will find around the next corner.
We were both charmed by a curious display called “The Garden of Blessed Decay,” with an odd hodge-podge of rusting junk, a caterpillar-like bench, and a starry gauze roof. What it was doing there and why remained a mystery to us, but it fulfilled the Garden Show expectation of surprise and delight we have come to love.
While I love the displays, after a while I find myself anxious to get to the Plant Market because by this time of year, I really want an excuse to dig in the garden. I can always find a place for one more trillium, one more hosta and one more fern. Mike likes the Plant Market too – that’s his opportunity to take a break while I load up on goodies for the garden. Of course, he is the one who ends up carrying everything to the car, but I still try to resist purchasing heavy pots of plants, and stick to tubers or bulbs.
As we left the show this year we saw a couple leaving on a motorcycle and we both had the same thought – it was a guarantee they would not be leaving with plants! Well, maybe not – if they picked up tubers, as I did.
On the way out of town, we stopped by Joey’s on Lake Union to reflect on what we’d seen. We decided that wandering through the Garden Show is like visiting an old friend. From the astonishing flower arrangements at the entrance, to the growers whose booth one visits each year for just one more hosta, there is something truly comforting about walking through this horticultural haven. And just like a visit with an old friend, one walks away with a sense of renewal and resolve not to let it be so long between visits. To the Garden Show, we say, “So long old friend. We hope to see you again, but just in case we don’t, we made a little video to remember you by. Here’s to you.”
Nancy Crowell and Mike Carlisle live in La Conner, Washington, where they enjoy a large variety of plants in their garden besides tulips. They will sorely miss the garden show if it goes away.