Garden Show, and Winter’s Parting Shot?

Time for another long one. Finally, I’m more or less recovered from the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and my first ever participation in it as a vendor, so it’s time for a few responses to the whole experience.

I’ll start by saying I liked the WSNLA Treasure Island greenhouse. It was appealing and caught the attention of showgoers from a distance. The potting benches looked great and somehow added a little more class to the vendors’ plants.

Here’s our wee little booth. We packed 212 plants into it and made more money than the show cost us, and it was great as far as promotional value, so in that regard it was a success. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and bought something from us even when I couldn’t be there!

Treasure Island could have been better promoted and publicized: a web search a few days before the show turned up only a Facebook photo album of it under construction (on the WNSLA Facebook site) with little additional information about it. Also, names of nurseries participating in Treasure Island should be provided somehow to folks at the information booth—I had a few complaints about how hard it was to find my table. Oh well, I’ll send this feedback to WSNLA and better luck next year.

A number of plants from us were also featured in the WSNLA display garden called Cook’s Endeavor Returns with Treasure. Although I’m no expert designer I thought the designers did a great job showcasing our plants, and with the garden in general. I like the treasure chest, and I got to take the Leucospermum boquet home after the show – I might be able to root them from cuttings although they’re not so fresh looking now!

Here’s our Banksia repens right in the front of the display. We might have this for sale towards the end of the year but no guarantees yet.

The garden even got a gold medal – apparently I’m not the only one who thought it looked great. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a full shot of the garden with so many people in front of it.

Now, what did I think about the show in general? Well again, I couldn’t get around to see everything, or take very many pictures. But I will provide a couple quick thoughts. And I should mention that I hadn’t been to the show in three years prior to this year, so my comparisons are not based on last year so much as years going much farther back.

The element of fantasy in the display gardens remains as strong as ever. I say this because many of them used plants that just won’t grow here – particularly treeferns which were seen in abundance, but many other things as well. The question is whether this element of fantasy truly reflects current trends – i.e. what gardeners are excited about – or if this is old news and people have become much more practical over the last few years. Do people look at these gardens and think “Awesome, I wish my garden looked like that” or “Fine for them, but not practical enough for me?” I don’t have the answer, but it’s a big question.

I also get the impression that, ever so gradually, plant vendors and other horticultural causes represented at the show seem to be getting fewer, while vendors of garden products and in some cases only distantly related products continue to take over the show. Personally I’d like to see a reversal of this trend, but I can appreciate that must be a major challenge for show managers especially at a time that the nursery industry is struggling. Renting the Convention Center can’t be cheap. Should they consider raising the prices for booths for non-horticultural vendors and giving nurseries a price break? Or would that cause an uproar? Tough call.

I also attended a lecture on ‘Fun in the Sun’ – Outstanding Plants for Sun and Drought Tolerance (or something like that, LOL) with Richie Steffen. The talk was great, for what it was. Only two problems: One, it was poorly attended – I mean, everyone should have been interested in this topic. Where were they all? What’s wrong with everybody? Two, “for what it was” set some major limitations on what could be discussed. The Great Plant Picks Program, which sponsored this talk, only includes plants that are readily available from nurseries so that people can actually find the plants that are promoted. Not a bad idea, except that nurseries are selling all the wrong plants when it comes to sun and drought tolerance for the Northwest. If I were to give a talk on this subject unaffiliated with the Great Plant Picks Program, it would out of necessity be about a completely different set of plants, most of which are unavailable or only available from specialty nurseries. Mr. Steffen probably recognizes this so I won’t be too hard on him. I just think, why not motivate gardeners to go a little farther out of the way to find the best plants, in general?

I was bummed that I missed Panayoti Kelaidis’ Wednesday talk ‘Rocky Mountain High’. If anyone went, please please please send me your notes!

It wouldn’t have been possible for me to attend the show Wednesday though, because while all that was going on in Seattle, I had to deal with this:

It snowed a little Wednesday morning… then started snowing HARD Wednesday afternoon, and snowed almost all day (though lightly, most of the time) Thursday.

Not that I was technically snowed in, but it would have been a mistake to leave while it was snowing, in case it started snowing really hard and no one would be there to knock the snow off the greenhouses – without some interior support (which mine lack), they can collapse under the weight of 6+ inches of snow.

Here is my specialized greenhouse snow knocker offer. I built it on the morning of November 22 just when the big November snow was starting up.

All the plants are cozily tucked inside the greenhouse, waiting for spring. Doesn’t that sound nice?

Finally on Friday, Feb 25, the sun comes out – a beautiful, but cold day! It dropped to 16°F, which is about as cold as it ever gets this late in the winter.

As I type today (March 2) the snow has almost finished melting. Now that we’re done with this cold weather I hope to start planting in a major way over the coming weeks!

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mark W
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 19:20:06

    Awesome…..I couldn’t find your table but I found One Green World’s!? Oh well. That snow is wild!


  2. Ian
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 22:32:55

    Mark, we were right next to OGW, in fact you can just see one of their signs on the right hand side of the picture of our booth! Oh well indeed. Next year I guess we’ll try to get a corner table.


  3. David C.
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 08:12:16

    At least that is a wet snow and will soon melt, to reveal flowering crocuses, tulips, camellias, and rhodies!


  4. Ian
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 16:03:02

    David, well as long as they’re drought tolerant camellias etc. then of course!


  5. Jody
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 22:56:31

    So incrediblly cool that you got to go the Garden Show! I only got to go one year – but it was pretty amazing! -Jody


  6. Ian
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 13:43:16

    Jody, perhaps you’ll have the chance to go again someday – I hope so! I should go every year, and not take it for granted.


  7. Megan Pulkkinen CPH
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 11:35:54

    Ian, I am so glad we met, (Thank You Heidi from Dragonfly Farms), that you loaned us your terrific plants to share with the show attendees, and that you were pleased with the results. Your plants were the inspiration for the Treasure Chest being front and center. They helped tell our story in a way both plant novices and experienced enthusiasts could relate to. Thank You.
    The Treasure Island Marketplace will be reviewed by the WSNLA committee that came up with the idea, (this would include me), and will work on all the ideas for improvement next year.
    Thanks again, Megan Pulkkinen CPH Garden Creator


  8. Kirsten Lints
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 14:31:21

    Ian, Thank you for the wonderful loaned plant material for the WSNLA display garden! I’m very happy that you enjoyed the display. I was completely at awe with your Banksia repens and showed many people this incredible specimen. I also know that I sent many show-goers to the WSNLA Treasure Island and hope that you found the experience worthwhile.
    Thank you again for your involvement, which enhanced our experience and the garden’s presentation! ~ Kirsten Lints, CPH – Garden Creator


  9. Ian
    Mar 12, 2011 @ 11:33:08

    Thanks, Megan and Kristen. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of this – the garden was obviously very popular; congrats on the gold medal!


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