Tag Archives: northwest flower and garden show

Edible Gardening @NWFGS 2011

I’m interested in all sorts of plants and the weird things they do. I admire beautiful flowers and strange foliage and interesting growth patterns. I love almost every plant, even the mean pokey ones (except you, English Ivy, you are my enemy). But the plants that get my heart racing are the ones you can eat. So of course my focus at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show is finding interesting or creative ways to grow food-bearing plants. Last year, the inimitable Jessi Bloom created a “Little Farm in the City” (cough cough urban homestead cough) with Seattle Tilth. It was a thing of beauty – chicken tractor, rhubarb border, compost bins, rain barrels, goat pen, and so on. Here’s a photo of the chicken tractor at the Little Farm in the City in 2010:

After that bar was set, my expectations might have been too high this year. I did find some crops in the demo gardens this year, but I had to look a lot harder. Wight’s Garden, “Once Upon a Thyme” included creative use of edibles. They had blueberry bushes and a variety of herbs not pictured here. This child-sized mushroom table sat in a carpet of lettuce — not such a practical application because children trample lettuce, but it shows how lettuce can fill an empty space.

Also in Wight’s garden, I spotted a table centerpiece made of alpine strawberries growing in burlap bags. At home it would be a challenge to keep the strawberries moist enough. I am lazy about watering, which I get away with because of my location. This is an issue of “right plant, right place.” My garden is not the right place for anything that needs a lot of attention. All issues of practicality aside, I like the strawberry-bearing centerpiece.

In the Shamazan garden, there was a focus on native plants and a meadow, which provides medicine, food and fiber. There were some unusual edible plants in this display garden – native rhubarb, amaranth & miner’s lettuce. I wouldn’t have noticed them if I didn’t read the designers’ supplemental pamphlet. While this garden was not my style exactly, it was good to see a functional alternative to lawns. Us beekeepers wish more people planted meadows instead of lawns. And now I’m trying to figure out where I can tuck a little (lot) of amaranth into my yard.

I also found food-bearing plants at the Christianson’s Nursery garden, “A Day Well Spent.” This garden was an example of a small family run nursery of olde times. There were some berry bushes, maybe some rhubarb, and possibly some other edible stuff I can’t remember. Their plant list isn’t online, so I can’t verify any of this. I love the rusty metal stock tank, too.

Edibles were wildly popular in the Marketplace, though. I saw vendors hawking seeds (e.g. Irish Eyes Garden Seeds) and a variety of edible perennials (e.g. Raintree Nursery). Fungi Perfecti brought their ever-popular kits and spores for growing mushrooms at home.

Someday when life slows down a little and our teenage child gets over his objections to mushrooms, maybe we too will become mushroom farmers. In the meantime, I plan to continue foraging for mushrooms in small quantities. In lieu of a Fungi Perfecti mushroom log, I brought home some new raspberries and huckleberries.

I wish there had been more edible landscaping at the garden show. My fingers are crossed for next year. Every time I turn around, there is a new report that more people are gardening. Food prices are out-pacing our incomes. The likes of Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva, Joan Gussow & Slow Food International are spreading information about our industrial food problems. You can bet your galoshes that people are planting berries and tomatoes instead of tea roses and creeping juniper. I believe display gardens should jump-start the imagination and give you an opportunity to dream about beautiful possibilities, but I want those beautiful possibilities to be delicious ingredients, too.

So what kind of food are you growing this year?

My other 2011 Northwest Flower & Garden Show posts: Chicks and Bees, Container Gardening and Themed Display Gardens

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Chicks & Bees @NWFGS 2011

As I mentioned, we’re adding chickens to our backyard farm this year, and you probably know that we keep honey bees, too. These two topics occupy much of my brainpower during my waking hours, so I was on high alert for chicken & bee-related items at the 2011 Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

I had the good fortunate to catch a seminar called “What the Cluck?” with Jessi Bloom. It was about adding chickens to your garden. There was a lot of great information about life cycles, breed selection, roosters, coop requirements, permaculture design, other pets, different methods of keeping chickens and even chicken training. The resource section on the handout is excellent too. You can get a copy of the handout here if you are curious. Ms. Bloom brought some friends to help with her presentation — about 10 different varieties of baby chicks. I almost died from their peeping cuteness. ((I can’t wait for our chicks to arrive.)) These chicks were from Portage Bay Grange, in Seattle. They had a booth in the marketplace, and I really want to make it to their storefront in Seattle.

Seattle Urban Farm Co. & the Re-Store partnered up to build this adorable little city farm complete with chicken tractor, a little cold frame and a beehive. You know, typical backyard stuff. They must have some relationship with the Ballard Bee Company, too, because I spotted a jar of their honey.

The chickens at the Seattle Urban Farm Co. booth were completely nonplussed by the thousands of visitors that passed by their space. Not even hoards of devoted children could distract these hens from their scratching.

While this is unrelated to either chickens or bees, I love the creativity that Re-Store brings to their garden show displays. Last year they had a recycled cold frame that I fell in love with. This year? They re-purposed bathroom fixtures for the garden.

In addition to the Ballard Bee Company, I saw some business cards from Crown Bees around the vendor area. I just discovered the Crown Bee website. It’s really informative if you’re keeping solitary bees (which we do — an update on our mason bees is in the pipeline).

And finally, over in the display garden from Christianson’s Nursery, there was an old-fashioned skep in the garden shed. It’s a little piece of history; people kept honey bees in skeps before we developed beehives with movable parts. I get nostalgic for history like this, but I would have hated keeping bees in skeps. Beekeepers had to destroy the skep to get the honey, and that sounds like a giant pain. I like going back to the “old ways” in many regards, but I will keep my movable frame beehive thankyouverymuch.

My other 2011 Northwest Flower & Garden Show posts: Container Gardening and Themed Display Gardens

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Container Garden Inspiration @NWFGS

Container gardening is awesome for so many reasons. If you live in an apartment or condo, you might not have access to soil. Even if you live in a rental house, you might want to take your plants with you some day. If you have land at your disposal, it might not have optimal soil, temperatures or light for specific things you want to grow. The solution to all these problems? Plants in pots. The Northwest Flower & Garden Show is good at tapping into this growing method, and the display gardens always offer lots of great container inspiration. There is even a container garden competition on the bridge in the middle of the convention center. I got some snapshots of some of my favorite containers.

If you have ever been to our house, you know I have a little obsession with terrariums. Mine grow various mosses, mostly, but it’s very popular to grow little creeping plants or succulents in glass like little living sculptures. I love these fish bowls!

This is The Lusher Life Project. It was one of the competitors in the container garden competition. This was a great garden – like a patchwork quilt of so many types of succulents, old nautical stuff & rusty bits. It was like everything my wife loves in one small garden. The longer I stared at it, the more details I noticed. It was like a whole universe unfolding with endless succulent varieties.


Here’s another photo from one of the container garden displays. Those crazy plants are a marshy/aquatic pitcher plant – a carnivorous plant more commonly found in the southeastern bogs of our fine nation, but you can occasionally find them in adventurous garden ponds in the PNW. They are too fussy for me to bother with, but I love carnivorous plants.

This was from the “Funky Junk” section of the NWFGS. Local high school students create the Funky Junk gardens. This is a step up from the classic cowboy boot planters of my childhood. People plant things in cowboy boots in places other than Oklahoma, right?

I spotted several potted kumquats at the show. I’m considering getting one myself, even though we don’t really need any more small citrus plants in our house. You can make marmalade out of kumquats, so that seems like reason enough to me. Do kumquat blossoms smell as good as lemon blossoms? I need to research this.

I feel like I’m pushing the boundaries of container gardening by including this, but I am a sucker for a gabion-style planter, and these creepy, goth hellebores make my black, wizened heart smile. If I were a goth gardener, I would grow a lot of poisonous hellebores. I love how they hang their heads in shame. Since they are deer-resistant, I should probably grow some anyway.

This container garden is kind of ridiculous but it was popular with the crowd. It’s a garden in a bed! Get it? Garden bed! Yeah. The Barbie dolls are having a picnic! I thought it was pretty weird, but I couldn’t resist taking a photo. And what do I know anyway? Maybe you love it, and I’m happy to share it with you in that case.

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2011 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

The snow in Olympia last week was hard on me, so over the weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to the largest garden show west of the Mississippi: the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

This is a crucial part of my wintertime mental health. Here in the PNW, we don’t specialize in the “glowing orb in the sky,” but when you walk into the NWFGS and the wall of smells hits you – thousands of flowers in bloom, dirt, enthusiasm, money running like water – winter melts away. It’s good for your heart to see so many beautiful plants in one place, even if it’s not great for your budget to impulsively buy too many and bring them home. The display gardens were amazing. I saw some great people talk about growing things.

This year was a personal triumph for three main reasons:

1. I took the light rail for 1/3 of my trip. I avoided all the stress, cost and drama of parking in downtown Seattle and I read an entire book. It was so awesome, I may never drive to Seattle again. A+
2. I had a shopping list for the plant market at NWFGS so I didn’t make any crazy purchases. I knew what I was buying, I was able to pack the right number of sturdy cloth bags. And Raintree didn’t have any filberts, so I spent the extra money on a new garden tool. A+
3. I packed food for the day. The Seattle convention center has veggie burgers, but the price & nutritional value are never where I’d like them. An organic Minneola tangelo is more exciting. It makes me so happy to have good food when I’m braving Weather and Crowds. A+
Verdict: I win at NWFGS 2011.

The show’s theme this year was “Once Upon a Time…”, so many of the gardens leaned toward fairy tale / fantasy themes: Rapunzel, Alice in Wonderland, Three Little Pigs, The old woman who lived in a shoe, etc. Some of the gardens were not so literal about the theme, and that’s alright by me too.

The first fairy tale I spotted was the Rapunzel vertical garden. Rapunzel, her hair and her prince are all made from plants. This is one of the coolest vertical gardens I’ve seen in person.

Suburu called their garden, “Paul Bunyan Gets a Conscience.” I guess Mr. Bunyan is reconsidering the sustainability of his ways.

This is from the Wrinkle in Time display garden. I don’t understand it at all, but I do love a Wrinkle in Time. This garden won the Founders Cup (which is the plant show version of Best in Show).

One of my favorite themed gardens was the Alice in Wonderland garden by Zsofia Pasztor from Innovative Landscape Technologies. I mention the creator because the same company created my favorite planted vertical garden at the NW Flower & Garden Show in 2010 (photo here). The Alice garden had sculptural elements, a ginormous staghorn fern suspended overhead, pink plastic flamingos & a live white rabbit. I heard some woman call the bunny “a little dog” but I can verify it was actually a rabbit. With the scale, the colors, textures and sculptures, I really felt like I was in wonderland in this garden. And now I want a completely impractical large “drink me” vessel for my yard.

Hopefully I will find some time this week to talk about what else? The on-trend topics of vertical gardening, container gardening, city farming, edible gardening, succulents and other plant-related stuff I collected at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

Here’s our 2010 NWFGS coverage: general info here, vertical gardening here and cold frames here.

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such great heights

One of the big garden trends now is vertical gardening. It’s generally touted as ideal for maximizing the vertical growing capacity of a city – apartment dwellers with living walls, office buildings blanketed in lettuce greens, and so on. So, predictably, there was a lot of vertical gardening at the Northwest Flower & Garden show last weekend. To our delight, many of them were growing strawberry plants. The demonstration gardens were inspirational, jump starting conversations about how we can integrate vertical gardening into our own home. Of course, you can’t just use the same techniques from a demonstration garden that lasts for 5 days for your wall or fence – which will, hopefully, last much longer, but it’s a good starting place. We have a quarter acre of land – an almost luxurious amount of space – but we have big dreams for the stuff we’re going to grow. We’re trying to think vertical as we’re creating the garden to avoid problems later when it’s harder to change and fit things in. So, here is a rundown of some of the things we’re thinking about.

This classy vertical garden made from thick gray felt was in “The City Comes Alive,” the demo garden by Solterra Systems. This was the first vertical growing we saw when we walked in, but it stuck with me all day. It reminds me of Woolly Pockets. I am strangely fascinated with Woolly Pockets, and that fascinated transferred easily to this beautiful felt pocket wall.

This living fence in the WSNLA demo garden is growing strawberries! Krista liked this so ladder design so much. I think she was ready to take this home with us. I would not have stopped her, but I think the gardens have their own security.

The Seattle Urban Farm Co. built this “Crops for Clunkers” garden, and in lieu of bumpers and side panels, the truck was sprouting strawberries. This was one of the highlights of the show for me. I have too many feelings about it; I need to write about it separately.


This was in the container garden display section of the show. It makes me want to remodel our bathroom. In addition to that great wall, I was in love with the mossy bath mat, which reminded me of another moss bathmat I wish I owned. The powers that be need to hurry up and produce moss bath mats for mass consumption!

Most of these walls were simply potted plants stacked into a frame, which worked well enough for the garden show. It is not what I would want for my backyard as a long-term vertical garden solution, but it’s food for thought. I would love a strawberry fence or wall, but I would love it more if it lasted for years and had some irrigation built in.

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Northwest Flower & Garden Show

This weekend, we walked about 100 miles around the NW Flower & Garden Show in Seattle. It’s the third largest garden show in the country, and my feet are sore. I wore good shoes for walking – real sneakers not silly ballet flats or kitten heels as I am wont to do – but there’s no kind of shoe that can stand up to so much pavement pounding. The demo gardens were beautiful and inspirational. The vendors were friendly and had some incredible products. We saw extraordinary things, from very steampunk-meets-band nerd water features to worlds in miniature in the container garden display, lots of rhubarb and chickens, dinosaurs, dragons, and a huge number of dahlias and bulbs. Krista took a lot of photos (you can see them through that handy flickr widget-thing over to the right), and we’ll be rolling/trickling out blog posts about the most interesting, impressive and inspirational things we saw over the next…. well, I could say week, but it will probably take a few weeks to get through it. Actually, Krista just told me I cannot post about this garden show for three weeks, so I guess I’ll have to type quickly & do it in two weeks. There was a lot of stuff, though! I’m also happy to report that the PNW gnome population is doing quite well this year. We spotted a few.

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