Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2009

It’s February, which means that it’s time for the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. This is the 21st year for the show, and unless a new producer comes forward in the next 6 weeks or so it will be the last. Rumors say potential buyers are kicking the tires and checking under the hood, but no one’s opened their wallet just yet.  Let’s hope it continues.

I go to the show on Thursdays because northwest members of the Garden Writers Association get together that night. I carried a camera this year and worked around the crowds enjoying the display gardens to try to capture the feel of the show. Here’s what caught my eye …

The big trends in the gardens, which reflected the theme “Sustainable Spaces,” were a lot of use of regional natives (including cultivars) and outdoor living spaces. There were at least two gardens with green walls. The new plant introduction that drew my eye was a cultivar of our native vine maple (Acer circinatum) with very red bark called ‘Pacific Fire’. I asked whether it is resistant to the verticillium that is killing my ‘Sango Kaku’ Japanese Maple and was told that it is. I’ll have to see if I can find one at the nursery this spring. It’s being introduced by Monrovia Nurseries.

I always wander through the plant sales area, sometimes with a list in hand. This year I was just going to look and didn’t plan to buy anything. Sure, put a gardener and plant nut in an environment with hundreds of cool plants to take home and expect them to keep their VISA card in their pocket. Not going to happen. I was pretty good and only bought six little bags of roots and had a place for most of them in mind. From Far Reaches Farm I bought our native Trillium parviflorum, the low-growing Geranium orientalitibeticum, and the delightful early-blooming Primula dendiculata that I’ve been admiring at VanDusen for years.

Down the aisle at Sundquist Nursery I picked up the east coast native Trillium erectum and two west coast natives, Iris setosa and Lilium columbianum. When it warms up this afternoon I’ll get out in the garden and plant them all.

A note about the video slide show, which was created with Animoto. I photographed the gardens with my Canon 5D and a 24-105mm IS lens, hand held. A tripod just doesn’t work among the crowded display gardens. I set the camera to ISO 1600, which is surprisingly clean with regard to noise. Because the light is tungsten I set the camera for it, but still had to tweak the color a bit in Lightroom afterwards. The show lighting is theatrical, so contrast is rather high. Only if you spend a lot of money on landscape lighting will you ever see your own garden with light like the show gardens. A couple of the gardens had the lights on a day cycle so you got a feel of day and night in the garden. Not all visitors caught on to that idea, based on conversations I overheard.

The show runs through Sunday afternoon. For details visit the NWFGS website.

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3 thoughts on “Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2009

  1. Hi Mark, thanks for sending this link. Very cool slide show! And nice to read your tip about shooting among crowds and under unwelcoming lighting. I wish my shots turned out half as well.
    It was fun to see you twice in one week – at ASMP and then Icon grill.
    I miss my Seattle friends!
    cheers, Debra

  2. Following up on the ‘Pacific Fire’ Vine Maple … I spoke with Tom & Cheryl Thornton at Cloud Mountain Farm a couple of days ago. They’re experts in northwest plants and said that Vine Maples are just as susceptible to the same diseases as Japanese Maples. They added that I probably don’t have verticilum, but another airborne disease whose name I can’t remember this morning. So maybe a Witchhazel is a better choice for the spot where my maples have died.
    — Mark