Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2012

As sure as February rolls around so does the Northwest Flower & Garden Show at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. It’s a time to oogle the display gardens, shop for cool new plants, and visit with friends. This year’s show ends ended on Sunday, February 12.


"Twistin' the Night Away" display garden
Twistin’ the Night Away display garden

The cavernous fourth floor exhibit hall comes to life with more than twenty exquitely designed and constructed display gardens. The one above was called “Twistin’ the Night Away” and featured a corkscrew willow graphic as a backdrop to an arbor-framed patio. Each of the garden designers worked within the Floral Symphony show theme, coming up with some musical connection.

I photographed all of the display gardens on my Thursday visit to the show. You can take a quick visit by viewing the video slideshow I put together. It moves quickly, but that’s the nature of the show — a fleeting moment in garden time. Here today, and gone by Monday. Enjoy.

Photographing the garden show is a challenge every year. The lighting is dim and contrasty. The crowds of enthusiastic visitors are often thick. There’s so much to see it can be hard to narrow down the field of view and create strong images. You can browse all the photos in the video at your leisure on the NWFGS page of my Inland Northwest Gardening website.

Great Blue HeronThis (stuffed) Great Blue Heron was in the Washington Park Arboretum’s garden, “Birdsong.” There was a rustic bird blind at the edge of the garden. In addition to the heron there were several birds were perched in the trees and shrubs. The low camera angle here provides a viewpoint that most garden visitors probably missed unless they were under the age of eight.

Garden Show Photo Tips

I photographed the gardens with my Canon G12 pocket camera. With the low light levels I set the ISO to 800, trading a bit more noise for a shutter speed I might be able to hand hold. I set the camera’s white balance to tungsten to match the spotlights and used the widest aperture. For many of my images I held my camera with two hands at waist level, using the articulated display to frame my shots.

Whenever it was possible, I braced my camera against something solid. Sometimes it was a rock or wall at the edge of a display garden. Sometimes it was a designer’s chair (that they weren’t sitting in at the moment). And sometimes it was a nearby wall or signpost. It wasn’t uncommon for my shutter speed to be 1/20 second or slower. Even with image stabilization it’s hard to hold a camera steady at that speed.

Even though many of the gardens used colored gels over the lights I left my camera on the tungsten white balance setting. That way I captured the designer’s intent regarding the lighting.

All of my images were processed in Adobe Lightroom when I got back home. I needed to apply some noise reduction, do a little cropping to some frames, and use the recovery tool for highlights. I shot RAW files so I had more latitude for these post-production adjustments. The video slideshow was put together in Animoto.

Kinetic SculptureIn the garden called “Rock & Roll Meets Heavy Metal: The Convergence Zone” this large kinetic sculpture created optical illusions as the ray-like blades moved gently in the breeze. Water cascading from the spouts above the deck splashed into the pool below while the blazing red stems of Japanese Maple and Red-twig Dogwoods suggested summer heat and sunsets.

The vantage point for this photo was at the side of the garden. Most visitors stick to the main aisles but in many cases the most interesting sight lines were along the sides. Moving over here also got me away from the crowds trying to figure out the illusion of the sculpture and what made it move (a fan).

Lighted flower pot fountains
Lighted flower pot fountains

Easily one of the most eye-catching pieces of hardscape in the gardens this year were these gigantic lighted flower pot fountains. They’re made of recycled plastic milk jugs, according to the sign placed helpfully at the base of one. The largest of these pots was easily four feet across at the top. I’m not sure where you’d put them in a real garden, unless you’ve got a very large space, but they sure made a splash at the show.

Thanks to a bit of extra help from, the same garden had an insect hotel for beneficial insects, musical notes on the wooden decking, and made excellent use of many northwest native plants.

For details about all of the show gardens, visit the official Northwest Flower & Garden Show website. If you’ve never been to the show and you’re reading this after February 12, 2012, make plans to attend the 2013 show.

You can go back and look at the 2010 NWFGS in my blog post from a year ago.


Related Posts:

6 thoughts on “Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2012

  1. Thank you, Saxon. You need to go to the show to experience it in person. Six minutes of video can’t convey the fragrances and sounds of the gardens.

  2. Mark
    great slide show of the northwest flower & garden show. I need to take the time to run north from Central Oregon Cascades snow to the warmth of Western Washington in the spring. May be next year

  3. Pingback: Northwest Flower and Garden Show – Symphony of Flowers Bulbs « Personal Garden Coach

  4. Hi Mark,
    Great pictures from the Garden Show! I am the designer for the “Winter’s Come and Gone- A Lullaby” garden. We met briefly during the show. Your pictures came out great. Thank you for sharing!
    Thank you,
    Gregory Smaus