Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Northwest Flower and Garden Show

So this is it folks. The last Flower and Garden Show as we know it.

I started going to the Flower and Garden Show in San Francisco when I started my career as a professional gardener in 2000. It was amazing to see over 20 finished large-scale gardens in the Cow Palace. Not to mention the koi ponds, Ikebana, orchids, new hybrids, mini vignettes, and the educational displays. And a whole separate wing to purchase plants, watering wands, and all the chotchkies imaginable.

I went several years in a row, but drew the line when one of the "gardens" showcased a man balancing rocks on the ground, with lit candles all around, and a movie screen behind him showing the exact scene happening in front of us. It was more performance art and less gardening. "Now, how would I use that in my garden?"

I moved to Seattle five years later and attended the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, organized by the same group that hosts the San Francisco event. After a long winter, I realized why this show is held in February, a whole month earlier. We are desperate for a taste of spring as the days start to go noticeably longer.

I continued to attend the show off and on over the last few years. Overall, the gardens lack an element of practicality I can apply at home. My garden is TINY so I am a bit limited on what I can do, yet I try to make it functional and aesthetically pleasing. Last year, it looked like there was a trend towards growing your own veggies--there were three whole displays that I can remember. But, the seminars were lacking on how to make it happen in your own backyard. There was one seminar last year on espalier which was great. I just wonder how many seminars one can attend on color or perennials?

This year's theme is "Sustainable Spaces. Beautiful Places." The seminar schedule is once again packed with how-to's on color and perennials. A few talks about propagation are offered, one on container fruit trees, a couple on water-wise gardening, and maybe two on growing veggies. In these times, there needs to be a greater focus on the urban farmer. Or, if that is not your style, emphasize planting for beauty while keeping in mind water-use and scale; a right-plant, right-place mentality.

The one aspect of the show I'm sorry to see go is the educational booths. The show is, for some, a once-a-year outreach event for our specialized societies and other organizations. It is the big debut for Great Plant Picks to announce their botanical endorsements. What other means do they have to gain membership?

Maybe letting go of the Flower and Garden show in its current form will allow for a new event to emerge that it truly sustainable in its content. Meanwhile, I'll check it out one last time.

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