18 Feb Guest Post: The Lure of the Unusual
Gardeners come to the NWFGS for many reasons – to be inspired by the visions of the area’s top designers, exhibited in the show gardens, hear from horticultural experts at the multitude of seminars, attend hands-on classes and of course, to buy stuff.
For me, the best thing about the show is the chance to get up close and personal with plants that I’ve never encountered before. I still remember the first time I saw an ‘Escargot’ begonia in a previous year’s show garden. Now it’s a fairly common bedding plant, but at the time it was a mind-blower. Of course I had to run right over to the plant sale section and bring one home.
This year, in the busy show garden space, my attention was often drawn to a particularly unique species by another visitor’s excited question, pointed finger or even un-resisted urge to touch. Such was the case with this Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’, whose delicate but sizable orchid-like yellow flowers seemed to dance above its elongated, heart-shaped leaves on invisible stems.
The most unique member of the cedar family on view was in the UW Arboretum Foundation’s garden, designed by Phil Wood and Bob Lilly. Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’ was immediately recognizable as a conifer by its texture, but is low-growing, spider-like form was strange enough to excite giggles.
In the same garden, the designers had prominently placed a single small plant that drew many questions, Kalmiopsis leachiana. Lilly said that this relative of heaths is very rare and difficult to propagate, and that he found possibly the only specimen in all of Seattle to include in his display. If you ever manage to get your hands on one, he recommends growing it in a container with soil including serpentine, which mimics its native conditions.
A trip to the NWFGS always gets the creative juices flowing – I came home full of ideas, plans and dreams for my garden’s future. And maybe someday I’ll get a chance to grow some of those alluring oddities.