20 Jan Getting the Most from the Northwest Flower & Garden Show
“A Floral Symphony,” the Northwest Flower & Garden Show extravaganza arriving February 8 – 12, 2012, covers six acres of the Washington State Convention Center. It has 23 spectacular show gardens, 3 “Living It Up” balcony gardens, 16 Container Exhibitors, over 300 garden-related Marketplace exhibitors, 116 seminars, 45 musical performances, a “Funky Junk” exhibit by high-school students, an Ikebana exhibit, and a Floral competition with some of the region’s leading floral designers. All packed into 53 hours of pure horticultural heaven over five days.
How do you possibly see it all? Here are my top tips for attending “Camp Horta Flora” and making the most of it.
TICKET TO GARDENING NIRVANA
You can purchase your tickets on gardenshow.com or at nursery retail outlets and Central Markets. We have a searchable list on our website so you can find the ticket outlet closest to you (and save $1). Or use our convenient print-at-home feature. (Remember, ‘Early Bird’ ticket prices end on February 7!)
Consider buying at least a 2-Day Pass. It’s $29, so that’s only $14.50 each day; a great entertainment value. If you’re really an avid seminar attendee, then the 5-Day All Show Pass, at $65, pencils out to only $13 each day.
Now that you’re got your tickets in hand, think about spending a night or two downtown. The show has arranged for discount hotel rates at a number of area hotels. You can’t get rates at these hotels better than our website deals, so take advantage of them and the amenities that got with them. But hurry, as these rooms are almost sold out.
PLAN YOUR SHOW STRATEGY
Start by going over the seminar schedule. If a seminar sounds enticing, but you don’t know much about the speaker, each speaker’s photo, biography and a description of their seminar is available by clicking on the speaker name.
Do you have specific items on your shopping list? We have over 300 exhibitors in our Marketplace, so our searchable Exhibitor list allows you to browse by category. Or you can search for a specific exhibitor name and make a note of their booth number.
You’re going to want a Seattle Times Show Guide too, with its centerfold map, seminar schedule, exhibitor list, garden descriptions and more great info. The all-important NWFGS Show Guide will be wrapped around the Seattle Times and distributed to both home delivery subscribers and newsstands on Monday, February 6.
WHAT TO BRING
You’re going to want to wear comfy shoes for walking on cement floors, and dress in layers – we keep the gardens cool for the plants (we have a coat check station). A camera is a must – photograph everything! I learned a trick from some garden bloggers last summer. If you see a plant you really covet in a show garden or in the Marketplace, but want to buy it later in the spring, photograph the plant and the plant tag. That way you know the exact plant name. Of course a small notebook and pen is a must.
Parents with children would be advised to bring infants in backpacks if possible, the better to maneuver through crowds. But if you bring a stroller and decide not to use it, you can check it for free at the Will Call booth just outside the South Lobby entrance.
The Convention Center is fully handicapped accessible, and there are handicapped parking spaces in the underground garage. But it does not offer any wheelchair rental.
Bring your questions too! The garden show is the place to be inspired – and to learn. If you have a few questions written down, you won’t forget to ask when you’re speaking to a garden creator, exhibitor or speaker. And if you really want some design help, check out our APLD Consultations. They are offering free 20-minute design consults at the show. But don’t wait until the show to sign up, as the coveted slots go quickly. Sign up on our website today.
Get smart with a smart phone. Every show garden has a large sign that lists the designers who created the garden and – new this year – a QR code. They’re like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. Perhaps a YouTube song that served as the designer’s inspiration, or a link to their website.
Now what? Well, try to arrive early to squeeze out every wonderful second of our 9 am – 8 pm days (9 am – 6 pm on Sunday), and to get a parking place at the Washington State Convention Center. When you arrive in the South Hall at the gardens, I recommend you go all the way to the back of the gardens, and then work your way forward. Most people go front-to-back, so you’ll be going the opposite direction (sort of like a reverse commute).
GARDEN SHOW MARKETPLACE
For the exhibitors, if you’re a real plant aficionado, head directly to the Plant Market in the North Hall (across the sky bridge) first. Some specialty nurseries sell out of a few choice plants early. Here’s a recent blog on Plant Market exhibitors and some cool plants they will be bringing to the show. You can then stash your plants at one of our convenient FREE Package Checks and continue your shopping.
You might think you need to be an avid gardener to shop in our Marketplace – the largest in the country, with over 300 exhibitors. Not so! All of our exhibitors are garden related, but we have a wealth of artists, craftspeople, and designers who create beautiful works of art, jewelry and clothing that is nature inspired. Case in point – last February I shopped for pieces to decorate my newly remodeled master bath. I found everything I wanted in our Marketplace – Asian styled ceramic pots to hold my stuff, a watercolor of lotus leaves, a Raku ginko leaf, a metal sculpture of bamboo, and a funky basket to hold towels – and none of it was for outside in the garden.
SEE IT, LEARN IT, DO IT!
Of course, you’ll want to see some of our acclaimed seminar speakers and you should plan your time in advance so you don’t miss them. There are so many to choose from! Each of our seminars has a symbol telling you if it’s suitable for new gardeners (most are), if it’s a lecture about edible gardening, if it’s a good seminar for those with limited space, or if there is a book signing after the seminar (we’ll have 61). These symbols are on our website, in the Seattle Times Show Guide and on the seminar schedule signs.
If you are planning on adding edibles to your garden, or you need to solve edible gardening problems, you have come to the right place! We have 30 seminars devoted to edibles, from starting seeds all the way through properly harvesting your fruits and veggies. And we have landscape designer and author Rosalind Creasy, considered to be the leading authority on edible landscaping, serving as a Show Judge and Speaker this year, and lecturing the first two days of the show. Don’t miss this rare chance to see Ros.
Our other Show Judges, Stephen Orr, gardening editor for Martha Stewart Living, and Steve Aitken, editor of Fine Gardening magazine, will also be speaking on Wednesday and Thursday. These will be design-centric talks filled with inspiring gardens and how you can have a beautiful garden – and still garden responsibly and protect the environment and wildlife.
STARS OF THE GARDENING WORLD
All the ‘usual suspects’ (as I like to call them) will be returning to the show to regale you with top tips, techniques, and trends. Look for Dan Hinkley, Joe Lamp’l, Graham Kerr, Ciscoe Morris, Val Easton, Lucy Hardiman, Marianne Binetti, Debra Prinzing, Lorene Edwards Forkner, Robin Haglund and Marty Wingate, to name just a few.
New speakers traveling from all over the U.S. are thrilled to be a part of the most prestigious seminar program in the country. Robin Stockwell, Helen Yoest, Barbara Wise, Billy Goodnick, Jennifer Bartley, Richard Bitner, Bruce Bailey, Stacy Walters, and Dianne Ott Whealey are sure to wow the crowds and become new attendee favorites. You can read their bios on our website.
And don’t miss our returning stars coming from outside Washington. They include Melinda Myers, Charlie Nardozzi, David Mizejewski, Teresa O’Connor, Jayme Jenkins, Willi Galloway, Jeff Lowenfels, Mary Ann Newcomer and Mary-Kate Mackey, to name a few.
DIG IN THE DIRT
If you think the garden show is for adults only, think again! The show has a wonderful PlayGarden to engage children of all ages in learning about nature, the outdoors, and local birds. Here the kids can look and touch! The theme is “Rockin’ Robin,” so we’ll have musical performances every show day. Join Caspar Babypants, Nancy Stewart and Your Imaginary Friend as they get the kids hopping and laughing with their silly songs about nature.
If you’re with friends and your group breaks up for awhile, a good place to rendezvous is the Wine Garden, located on the garden floor. Or stop to take in one of the 20 musical performances that will be appearing in the South Lobby. There are also plenty of cafes throughout the show, in the South Hall, the skybridge, and the North Hall. If you want to venture outside the show (be sure to get your hand stamped on the way out!) we even have restaurant discounts at some local restaurants.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The garden show has two Information Booths to help you with whatever you might need. The North Entrance booth is located just before you get to the skybridge. The South Lobby book is at the entrance to the show gardens – and this booth also sells the garden show merchandise, if you want to pick up a souvenir T-shirt.
Special thanks to our garden show sponsors: