From Bare to Beautiful in 72 Hours

From Bare to Beautiful in 72 Hours


 The Organized Chaos of Show Garden Building 

As of February 8, 2013, there’s only 11 days to go until the 25th annual Northwest Flower & Garden Show arrives February 20, 2013! Here’s a few fun highlights of how the show gardens are created every year. How do we do it?

Start with a talented and dedicated team! Left to right: Linda Knudsen, Exhibits Manager; Jeff Swenson, Show Manager (who somehow keeps us all in line); Cyle Eldred, Show Designer; Matt McClane, Production Coordinator; Lois Grudt, Temp Staff Manager; Michelle Derbes, Show Coordinator; yours truly Janet Endsley, Seminar & Social Media Manager; and planking on the table (I made him do that) is Kyle Aronson, our Webmaster & Graphic Designer, with our Mascot, Adina.


Cyle and Jeff are responsible to the show gardens, along with show producer Terry O’Loughlin. They hold lots of meetings. They plan, plan, plan, plan, plan. And send countless emails. They live with their cell phones velcroed to their forehead.

Finally after 10 months of planning, move-in day arrives. An empty expanse of clean, polished floor awaits — Hall 4B of the Washington State Convention Center, with 40,000 square feet. The spaces for each garden are taped off, and the custom-designed theatrical lighting is hung. Then the trucks arrive. Marenakos Rock Center delivers 200,000 pounds of stone. Now this may look like one big pile of rocks, but it’s actually many different kinds of stone – all carefully selected by our Garden Creators from the huge inventory at Marenakos.


Sawdust Supply delivers 800 cubic yards of sawdust and mulch. The sawdust is never seen — it is used as fill material for elevation. The mulch serves as both a planting medium and a top dressing to give the gardens that finished look, always a good garden practice!


Then the Garden Creators dig in. The hall is organized chaos, as teams of designers and their crews coordinate with the show’s production crew. There’s a lot of dirt, sweat and snack food involved, as they work round-the-clock to build their gardens.

Structures such as this Wight’s Home & Garden façade are often built in advance, in sections. Then the sections are brought to the show for final assembly.


Decks and ponds are built on site. Dr. Decks and Elements of Nature built this deck and water feature for their garden, “Coloring the Blues.” The design is a replica of a portion of Eddie Van Halen’s Frakenstrat guitar.


Watercourses are also painstakingly constructed. This running stream is by Dakara Landscape Design for a garden called “Twistin’ the Night Away.” It literally twists on itself, going back uphill.


Pallets of flagstone of all colors, sizes and shapes from Pacific Stone Company await placement.


Plants, plants and more plants are stashed in every spare corner. Many are forced into bloom by Windmill Gardens to bring you springtime in February.


Big structural trees are settled into place. Phil Wood, co-designer of “Birdsong,” the award-winning garden by the Arboretum Foundation and Seattle Audubon Society, ponders placement of birch trees.


Art and accessories are readied for installation. These are the drums for “The Resonating Sounds of Nature,” the People’s Choice Award garden designed by Sublime Garden Design and Natural Concept Landscape Company.


The production crew delivers mulch where needed. Do not get in their way. They are on a mission. You could be squashed like a bug.


Marenakos carefully places every boulder exactly where the Garden Creator wants it. These guys are good.


Final planting and primping is done. This is the romantic garden by Artistic Garden Concepts, titled “If I Write You a Song in the Garden Tonight…”


Finally it’s show time, and the crowds arrive. (Hint – buy your ticket online at so there’s no waiting in line!)


And then after the show, the exhausted team celebrates with a trip to Paris! OK, it’s actually the “April in Paris” show garden created by Wight’s Home & Garden, but close enough.


And the magic is ready for you to enjoy! Here are these same gardens pictured above. Many of these same designers will be back for 2013.

“April in Paris” by Wight’s Home & Garden.


“Birdsong” by the Arboretum Foundation and the Seattle Audubon Society


“Coloring the Blues” by Dr. Decks and Elements of Nature


“The Resonating Sounds of nature” by Sublime Garden Design and Natural Concept Landscape Company.


So mark your calendar for February 20 – 24, 2013, because we build these gardens in only 3 days, and you only have 5 days to see them! For a really cool video of the entire 72-hour move-in process of our 2012 show go to Tickets are on sale now, but hurry! Don’t get the worm – Early Bird Tickets must be purchased before February 20. ~ Janet

Early Bird Tickets


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