Amazing Floral Fanatasy at Garden Show – in February!

Amazing Floral Fanatasy at Garden Show – in February!


A stockpile of wonderful plants awaiting installation in a show garden. All photos by Colleen Miko.

The first day of set up for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show is always a highlight of my year.  The energy of 20+ plus teams of garden creators starting on the displays they have been planning since last summer is overwhelmingly positive.  “It’s finally here”, they are thinking, or would be anyway, if they had time to ponder the occasion as the forklifts whirl around, boom trucks place tons of rock (literally) and rack after rack of tempting plants are rolled in.


Yesterday my husband and I participated as volunteers for the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association (WSNLA), following the lead of garden creators Megan Pulkkinen, Kirsten Lints and Kate Easton in the installation of their garden “Cook’s Endeavor Returns with Treasure”.   Their selection of plants knocked me out.  I ogled the Melianthus major ‘Antonow’s Blue’ (honey bush), an immense Cordyline ‘Festival Burgundy’ that has to be 5’ across and a number of plants exotic to our clime—Banksia, Grevillea and Tasmanian tree ferns.  All of them: lush, full, so out of season!


Masses of lush Pieris japonica 'Scarlet O'Hara' (Scarlet O'Hara andromeda)

That’s one of the standout things about the show in my mind: the quality of the plants and the skill in “forcing” them in greenhouses.  The four Rosa banksiae ‘Lutea’ that Megan and Kirsten rounded up and tended for months were flush with leaves, covered in buds and one was already sporting fluffy, yellow blossoms.  Those of us who regularly participate in the show sometimes take these minor miracles for granted—slap us!  It’s still February folks, with day temps in the 30s, last night in the teens.  AMAZING.


Roses for Christianson's Nursery - in February during a freezing spell!

The master of forcing, in my mind, is Christianson’s Nursery.  When they put on a show, they don’t mess around.  John and Toni Christianson have an amazing collection of huge, old plants that they maintain in greenhouses explicitly for forcing for their Northwest Flower & Garden Show displays.  Just cruising by their stockpile of plants yesterday for their display “A Day Well Spent” was mind blowing.  Among their treasures: a gorgeous seven foot Wisteria floribunda “Longissima Alba’ (White Japanese wisteria), fresh with tender leaves and dripping in blooms and an even taller Wisteria sinensis ‘Alba’ (Chinese Wisteria).  There have blossoming roses of all kinds, Viburnums–and not just the “easy” to force Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’, but doublefile Viburnums that flower much later in the season.  As you can imagine, the air was heavy with floral fragrance.


In 2003 when I designed the display garden for WSNLA, Christianson’s had taken a one year hiatus from doing the show, and so Christianson’s (being a long time WSNLA member) forced much of their treasured plant material for our garden.  When John showed up with large, floriferous plants, including roses, Deutzia and Hydrangea, of all things; I just about fell out with gratitude.  He can force plants that people say just can’t be done.  I can’t wait to see Christianson’s display when the show opens.


Luscious camellia ready for its show debut.

The size of the plants that are brought in for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show is another thing that never ceases to floor me.  Walking the show floor of the Convention Center yesterday, I was dwarfed by many a tree whose crown reached the ceiling of the building, which is quite high, considering full 18 wheelers and boom trucks operate within to deliver materials for the gardens.  This imposing tree, for instance, will make its way into one of the gardens, creating an illusion of scale that will no doubt make it feel quite real.  Our first task yesterday was rolling in a dozen 18-20’ tall Phyllostachys nigra (Black bamboo) for WSNLA’s garden backdrop.  We all remarked at just how impressive they are.


The creative energy in the Washington State Convention Center this weekend is absolutely contagious.  So, take some time to see the show that these garden creators are preparing for you February 23 – 27.  You’ll return home with incredible ideas to jump start your gardening season and will be moved by the quality and variety of luscious plants both in the elaborate display gardens, but also for sale in the plant market.  See you there!

Colleen Miko, CPH
Colleen’s, A Landscape Design Company

Landscape design, horticultural consultation, garden seminars and freelance garden writing
(253) 906-6151

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