Garden Show Had Great Advice – From Vendors to Seminars to Non-profits to… the Men’s Room

Garden Show Had Great Advice – From Vendors to Seminars to Non-profits to… the Men’s Room


Carol & Charley Yaw of Charley's Greenhouses have been at the show 21 of it's 23 years.

“Twenty-one years,” said Charley Yaw with his trademark welcoming smile. That was his answer when I asked how long he’s been exhibiting Charley’s Greenhouses at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. I stopped to say hi to Charley, whom I’ve often tapped at the show for advice. I knew he and his wife Carol had been there for a lot of years, and they told me they’re only one year shy of having exhibited at every one of the 23-year-old show.


So, what’s new, Charley? “We’ve sold a lot of building materials,” he told me. The do-it-yourself (DIY) craze has hit the greenhouse end of the gardening world too.


Since I had done a seminar on ‘season extension’ techniques for vegetable gardening, I asked him if there was an alternative to PVC pipe for building a cloche. (The traditional Northwest gardener’s “hoop house” cloche consists of a series of white PVC pipes bent into a tunnel shape and covered with clear plastic. Some people don’t like to see the white PVC in their yards.) He said they’re now offering fiberglass poles, 60 inches long, that you can use instead of PVC. They also have ripstop poly sheeting that is much stronger than the traditional clear plastic. I’ll have to check that out.


If I needed a new raised bed, I could definitely use the services of some local garden builders who are making unique and attractive beds out of recycled or natural materials. The Orcaboard Company from Redmond offers sturdy beds of nearly indestructible recycled plastic made of HDPE milk jugs. They’re now making benches, chairs and planters too.


If I wanted wood, I’d go for the rolling cart raised bed made by North Cascades Raised Beds of Sedro Woolley. They combine clear cedar frames with attractively colored aluminum side panels and nice big rolling casters.


I was already redesigning my yard with these cool structures, and I hadn’t even sat down for a seminar yet!


On a break from the booths, I learned some new terms and ideas in a fascinating seminar. I plopped down at the “Lucy Letterman Show,” where garden writer and designer Lucy Hardiman hosted a panel discussion a la the late-night talk shows with some wise gardeners. Valerie Easton, garden columnist for the Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine,  shared the idea of “ecological reverence,” coined by a British writer, as “a better term than sustainability, which just makes me want to rebel.”


Curt Bingham, persident of Bellevue-based GardenWorks, shows off his Soil Scoop. Behind him are the popular bendable flower stakes.

Cole Burrell tossed in another fascinating concept, the “biomass pyramid,” which of course has humans at the top (because we named it, natch) but, he said, urges us to think holistically about our ecological system. “It is all linked together, from the garden to Mount Rainier National Park.”


The fourth panelist, Richard Turner, editor of Pacific Horticulture magazine, spoke of the “urban hedgerow” project in San Francisco, which encourages people to link their landscapes together for the overall ecological health of the urban environment. Easton equated it to the “pollinator pathway” project in our area that she wrote about recently in the Seattle Times.


Back at the booths, I decided I might need some more bendable flower stakes from  Garden Works of Bellevue, which also makes the Soil Scoop and other great stainless steel hand tools with bright, recycled-rubber handles.


Tim Coleman of Good Nature Publishing is ending a 15-year garden publishing career. Come back and visit us Tim!

And I definitely wanted to celebrate the beauty of the garden with a great poster or two from Good Nature Publishing, which is ending a 15-year run of producing colorful, educational posters, and offered a 2-for-1 deal at the show.


And I needed one of the “Down Under Pots” being sold by C. James Nursery out of Newburg, Oregon. Turn the glazed-ceramic pot upside down to fill with soil and start a plant, like a geranium or a tomato, and once the roots are established, flip the pot over and hang it from its integrated wire. The soil will stay in place and the plant will flourish out of the bottom of the handsome pot.


For all these raised beds and pots, wouldn’t it be great to get some supercharged soil? Some “Moo-Doo” from the Hy-Grass Farms dairy in Auburn would be just the ticket.


But you can’t make a garden and practice ecological reverence with just materials—you also need some expert guidance. So I spent show time in the show’s Garden Resource Center, where volunteers like Mike Ewanciw staff the booths of useful non-profits.


Serial volunteer Mike Ewanciw staffs the booth of the Northwest Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, among others!

Mike is a bit of a serial volunteer at the show, and you might see him helping out one of six groups over the show’s five days. Attendees found his smiling face at Plant Amnesty, King County Iris Society, Seattle Tree Fruit Society, Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation, Hardy Plant Society of Washington, or North American Rock Garden Society.


“I like it!” he claimed. “I wanted to inundate myself with everything that’s here. I always discover one new thing.” This year, he took vacation days to spend so much time at the show. Quite a commitment from a very generous guy.


But you didn’t have to sit in the seminars or stop at all the booths to get the down-low on gardening. You can find it in the most unlikely places, like the men’s restroom. That’s where I overheard a conversation that went something like this:

“I really need to get my pruning done.”

“Cut out the dead wood and crossing branches first.”

“Yeah, that’s what I need to do, but it’s really overgrown.”

“Well, stand back and have your wife hold it and shake it, before you cut it off.”


At that point, I headed back to the show floor. There is such a thing as too much information.

Bill Thorness is a Seattle-based author of Edible Heirlooms: Heritage Vegetables for the Maritime Garden and a writer for local publications like the Seattle Times, PCC’s Sound Consumer and many others. All photos by Bill Thorness. – Janet

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