0 to 20 Hours

0 to 20 Hours

Maranakos Rock Center and Pacific Stone Company supply rock and boulders for the show.


The past few years, when I would go to the Washington State Convention Center during move-in of  the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, I always had one primary objective – not to get run over by a front loader or trip on a piece of lumber and face plant into a pile of compost. But when I went to the show today during the first full day of move-in, I had another objective (in addition to the above) – snap some scenes for The Garden Show Blog. Going to the show during move-in is an adrenalin rush. The cacophony of noise from the many trucks and loaders and forklifts; the controlled pandemonium of 300 people working; and, of course, the masses of flowers and foliage, with brilliant colors, huge leaves, spiky stems and fluffy flowers. Nirvana.


This brings new meaning to the term "rock garden."


Here are some photos of the garden floor from 1 – 2 pm today; the O’Loughlin Trade Shows team and production crew had been at it for just over 12 hours, most only getting a few hours of sleep. The first thing that had to be done last night is “strike the floor,” which means carefully measuring the shape and exact square footage for each garden, so the garden creators will know where to build. And I mean exactly. The floor plan has to allow for a certain width of aisles so that we meet fire codes, so exuberant garden creators just can’t decide to ad lib on their designs and expand their gardens a few feet. Big no no.


Big Trees truck, and in the background, the show's "Big Tree," a massive and ancient Acer Palmatum. It has it's own starring role.


Next comes rigging the hundreds of lights, which get laid out on the floor and then hauled up into the rafters. The garden show is renowned for its theatrical lighting over the gardens, all very carefully planned to meet both the design objective and electrical codes.  Of course this all happened about 3 am last night. Sorry there are no photos. I may be dedicated, but I’m not that dedicated.


By noon today all of the gardens were well on their way. Piles of sawdust from Sawdust Supply Company were in the gardens, spread out and shaped to form a base for the plants. Stacks of turf from Sound Turf Farms were nearby. Structures, most pre-fabricated in advance but some built on-site, were going up and being assembled like big puzzles. Water features were being built. Columns and pillars and huge sculptures were awaiting placement. And of course there were plants, thousands of plants, grouped near most gardens, awaiting artful placement. And some very awesome trees.


A tapestry of plants waiting placement in the show gardens.


The garden show’s new partnership with Windmill Gardens in Sumner has proven to be so popular with the garden creators that far more plants ended up being forced than originally anticipated. Many garden creators planned to pick up their plants – all perfectly timed to burst into leaf or bloom during the show next week – and hold them in their own trucks overnight, until bringing them to the Convention Center today or tomorrow. Mother Nature said “Not so fast.” The record-cold temperatures last night meant everyone had to change their plans quickly, and the plants needed to stay in the greenhouses until they could come directly to the WSCC.


Still more plants - many more need to be delivered since they can't be left outside overnight with freezing temperatures.


During move-in everywhere you look there are knots of people; all the teams installing each of the gardens along with the OTS production staff. Dirty and exhausted people; bundled in layers of clothes, most wearing puffy jackets, since the huge bay doors of the hall are kept wide open, and it was about 40° F inside. You will note that there aren’t any photos of the garden creators. That’s because I would like them speaking to me in the future. So I’ll save their photos until their enormous task is accomplished, and they’ve had a chance to get a good night’s rest and clean up. Except for one – 17-year-old Courtney Goetz

17-year-old Courtney Goetz gets a promotion from "Slave Labor" (on her T-shirt) to "Garden Creator."


who is designing her first garden at the show, titled “Paradise to be Regained.” When you’re 17 you never look dirty and tired. Courtney has helped her mother, Sue Goetz, with many a show garden. This year Sue’s taking a back seat and Courtney is driving the process, with Sue proudly telling me Courtney’s “negotiating skills are amazing.”


Tomorrow there’s lots more action: The Subaru gardens go in (one on the skybridge and one in the South Lobby), Alaska Airlines flies in to set up, the “My Garden Gate” artists bring their incredible gates, “Living it Up” takes shape in the South Lobby, Container Gardens arrive on the skybridge, and in the North Hall, the Outdoor Living area is built and the PlayGarden also begins to take shape. So I’ll be back down there to give you a sneak peek at some of the other special features we’ll have at this year’s show. – Janet

  • George Africa
    Posted at 05:02h, 20 February Reply

    Thanks for showing what goes into preparing for a show. The set up and take down require thousands of hands and real organization. Wish I could be there but I know many participants and visitors will share pictures.

    George Africa
    The Vermont Gardener

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