Designers Don’t Let Small Spaces Contain Their Creativity

Designers Don’t Let Small Spaces Contain Their Creativity

If you have an 8-ft. by 6-ft. space to create a little slice of outdoor living heaven, what would you do with it? How would you make it livable, inviting and give it some panache to reflect your personality? Stumped? For ideas, you need look no further than the creative genious behind the Northwest Flower & Garden Show’s Container Exhibition designers.


Perhaps it’s the sweeping views of the downtown Seattle skyline and Elliott Bay that makes this airy, light-infused glass skybridge so wonderful. But the views are not the stars of the show in this space – these mini-gardens are. These delightful vignettes are always packed with creative do-it-yourself ideas; ideas that you can emulate right on your own patio, balcony or deck. They may range in style from cool, clean contemporary, to delightful whimsy, with every style in between, but they all show how you don’t have to have a lot of room to have an eye-catching garden space that expresses your personality and offers some welcome outdoor living space.


Here’s a sneak preview of what some of these talented designers are working on preparing for the garden show, along with some photos of some gardens from past show years. As you can see, every one of them is packed with pizzazz. 


Ravenna Gardens has won awards for the past 2 years, including this 2010 garden.

Ravenna Gardens returns to the garden show with another garden that is sure to be an eye-catcher. This year they are all about glass. Gillian Mathews and her team will have a garden called “The Terrarium Maker’s Studio.” It will be filled with elements used to make an actual terrarium, including glass, moss, ferns, succulents, gravel and sand. It will also showcase terrariums small and large – on the walls and on the ground and even hanging from the ceiling. It’s sure to inspire you to get into the terrarium craze yourself.


Michelle M. Myer has quite the appropriate name for her design business – Gardening GaGa!. As an artist she is always trying to inspire her clients to incorporate art in their gardens. She’s teaming up with metal artist Sarah Lavin to make a sculpture that is really a container. The entire piece will be a textural collage, with art and plants blending seamlessly together. Michelle has chosen cool plants that look good all year, punctuated by seasonal surprises, and the name of her exhibit is, appropriately, “A Four Season Symphony with Seasonal Crescendos.”


Clean lines and understated elegance mark Wendy Welch's 2011 design.

Designer Wendy Welch, of Wendy Welch Garden Design, gets in touch with her inner child designing our fabulous PlayGarden. She is shifting gears for her Container Exhibition garden on the skybridge. Wendy is drawing her inspiration from the gorgeous containers and furniture from Terris Draheim Showroom, one of Seattle’s premier interior and exterior design showrooms. Look for her signature cool minimalism, with a white and gray color scheme, with the splash of unusual elements, such as a brilliant orange standing umbrella.


So many of our Container Exhibition garden designers got into the groove of our garden show theme, “A Symphony of Flowers.” Chris Jacobs, from aw pottery,said “we couldn’t do a symphony, but perhaps a little concerto.” Thus was “Tutti Frutti” born, weaving several antagonistic parts into a composition. Prima containers from aw pottery, plants from T&L Nursery and Fancy Fronds, and iron windows reclaimed from an old French villa make up the display. It’s boldly punctuated with colors that enliven any season, shapes that seduce the eye, plants that sooth the mind and deep bass notes of the past as background.


Vee Gardens has created containers that emphasize recycled content, water conservation and internal composting - beautifully.

Del Webber, owner of Vee-Garden (and a new exhibitor this year) is all about recycled content, water conservation and internal composting. To Del, art meets science, or, as he calls it, “naked humility.” He had lots of trial and error before he achieved success. Mother Nature’s whims can be cruel, but Del is hoping to outsmart her. He’s designed a system, dubbed “Vee Garden” (V is for vertical) that helps to manage the key components of a successful garden – soil temp, water conservation, bio-diversity, dense plantings and a composting system as well. And even in our tepid climate and short season he’s now growing peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and cabbages – outside. Beautifully.


“Songs of Sanctuary” draws its theme from Studio AB, owner and designer Andrea Becker’s own endeavor of crafting a small, secret sanctuary at her Ballard home. Joining forces with landscape architect Chris White, they sought to create a space with a sense of solace that is uniquely realized via an ‘East meets West” combination of elements that set the tone for serenity. Soft, upright evergreens, including magnolia, bamboo and salvaged Manzanita create a sense of enclosure, while a small Asian artifact is turned into a soothing water feature. Rare hand-formed, azure clay containers from Ragan & Associates finish the total harmony of the exhibit, bringing a positive energy rejuvenation.


Sunnyside Nursery takes 'planting yourself in a cozy chair' to a whole new level with their whimsical 2010 garden.

Steve Smith and the gang from Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville returns to the Container Exhibition with another whimsical garden. “Jazz Up Your Space” begins with a piano that serves as both a bar and a planter. A discarded drum is repurposed into becoming a table/plant stand. It’s all in cool black and white, with the pop of color from foliage. Traditional containers are intermingled with the piano bar, and look for both tropical plants and traditional plants. Mary Stole explains their philosophy, saying, “In the garden, everyone can be an artist without apology or explanation.” That about sums up their garden, sure to be an attendee favorite.


“Heavy Metal” by Jana Hill of Terabithia Designs, entering the container competition for the first time, pays homage to power tools, power ballads and power plants. Using things gathering dust in the back of the garage or basement (old barbeques were the most prevalent), getting rusty by the side of the road, or marked on sale at Value Village, this “rock” garden will be a great place to knock back a cold one after going to town with a chainsaw. The plant palette is inspired by all of the amazing 80’s hairdo’s that perms and Aqua Net provided. Think strong and spiky, a la Mick Mars, or cascades of glossy curls, flash backs to Jon Bon Jovi. Perfect for getting in touch with your inner rocker.   


Emerald City Orchids uses orchids in every conceivable size and color for their beautful gardens.

Joe Grienauer, of Emerald City Orchids, also returns to the Container Exhibition (look for their show garden too) with an exhibit titled “Orchids Swinging on a Blue Note.” It is inspired by the great jazz combo musicians. Viewers will see musical instruments ready, as if the band were merely taking a quick break to grab a smoke and a cocktail between sets. Orchids of all sizes, shapes and colors will be punctuating the display, nestled in, on and around the instruments. (For our attendees really into jazz, be sure to catch some of the terrific jazz acts we will have in the South Lobby.)



Janit Calvo, of Two Green Thumbs, will be bringing us “The Fairy Song,” an exploration of garden, craft, popular culture and fantasy, all merged together into one surreal exhibit. Using the fairy garden motif for the first time since her 2004 garden show display, she will be combining recycled material with the possible beauty of our predicament, to illustrate what the future may hold for gardeners as we continue to heal this Mother Earth.



New Wood Manufacturing shares detail of the bench that will be going in their Container Exhibition garden.

“New Wood Nirvana” is a subtle reference to the fact that New Wood Manufacturing, owned by Lincoln Harris, is located in Grays Harbor County, home of Kurt Cobain. Working with designer and artist Suzanne Ferris (who happens to be his sister), the garden will be made from strong yet bendable 7/16th-inch composite panels in many different shapes. Look for large curved shapes for a raised garden, pyramid-shaped hanging baskets, and a garden bench evoking the famous Tavanasa Bridge in Switzerland. (The hidden beauty of all these containers is that New Wood can handle direct ground contact without swelling or breaking down.) An industrial-grade woven steel trellis rises above the garden for climbing vines to give it all a strong vertical backdrop.


Tiffany Wiffert of Artisans Cottage, Judson Sullivan of Cultivar LLC, winner of the “Best Design” award in 2011, along with teams from Molbak’s and West Seattle Nursery round out the entries of the Container Exhibition. Their creations will be judged on Tuesday, February 7 by container designer Tina Dixon, owner of Plants a la Cart, along with Marsha Davis-Thomsen. ~ Janet

  • Janit Calvo
    Posted at 02:28h, 07 February Reply

    Thanks, Janet! Here’s a working link to my website:

    And find the world’s only Miniature Garden Center’s booth in the plant market, #2326. We have everything Miniature Garden! See you at the show!

    • Janet
      Posted at 05:33h, 07 February Reply

      I updated the link Janit.

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