“Once Upon a Time” to be 2011 Show Theme

“Once Upon a Time” to be 2011 Show Theme

Fancy Fronds' 2009 show garden evoked an ancient India setting

People are always asking, “What’s the theme?”  They’re talking about the theme for the garden show. Believe it or not, for the past few years there really hasn’t been an annual “theme.”  But that’s changing for 2011, as the Northwest Flower & Garden Show brings you “Once Upon a Time…Spectacular Gardens with Stories to Tell.”

Cyle Eldred, the Show Garden Designer, has been busy recruiting garden creators for a coveted spot in the 2011 show. The theme has energized the garden design and landscape community, so much so, that Cyle has the difficult task of trying to fit everyone into the maximum allotted floor space at the Washington State Convention Center. Garden designers are clamoring to do large, spectacular gardens based on a novel that they love and that inspires them.

Adam Gorski's 2010 show garden had a prehistoric theme. This dinosaur also appeared in one of the first shows.

Cyle reports that the garden creators are thrilled with the new theme: “I am hearing some really innovative ideas from designers. They are eager about the prospect of ‘telling a story’ with their garden design. Some of the books they are inspired by include Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, The Frog Prince by Jane Porter, The Three Little Pigs by Patricia Seibert, and H. G. Wells’ classic, The Time Machine. These are the classic fairytales we all read and loved as children, and now read to grandchildren. Or they are timeless classics that high school students everywhere are reading in their English literature classes. The 2011 show will be very engaging for both young children and teens, as they see magical garden scenes inspired on books they have read.”

The Flower Growers of Puget Sound's popular 2010 garden was a spring fantasy.

Show Manager Jeff Swenson explains part of the decision behind the 2011 theme. “This was a way for us to move away from the more “realistic” winter gardens the show has had in the past decade, and return to the show’s original roots that blended realism with floral fantasy. We wanted to bring back the theatricality and story-telling nature of the show’s earliest years. The show already has the finest seminar program in the world, and hundreds of professionals are on hand in our Marketplace to answer gardening questions, so we have a solid foundation of education in the show. But the show gardens are the place where we can really turn the garden creators loose to express their creativity in an exciting and entertaining way.”

According to Jeff, one important piece of this transition was finding a reliable and convenient location for the garden creators to force into bloom the flowering trees, shrubs and bulbs that add so much to a garden’s atmosphere. “We have a new partnership with Windmill Gardens, in Sumner, which gives our garden creators’ use of their greenhouses to force plants.  Now they have more opportunities to use forced flowers in their show garden designs, and they can go with ideas that ‘suspend reality’ and have a more dream-like or fantasy appeal. We think show attendees will really love the ‘Wow’ factor because of this. Let’s face it – in the middle of a typical wet and gray February, we all can use something to stir our dreams and imaginations and get us excited about the coming gardening season,” explains Jeff.

You never know when your favorite characters will turn up! This is Small World's 2009 container garden.

Seminar speakers were likewise enthusiastic about the show’s 2011 theme, and pitched a number of unique proposals encompassing the theme of literature and gardening. There will be seminars on the most influential gardening books of our time, a poetry reading based on gardening themes, and even seminars discussing the plants mentioned in the Bible, and the gardening techniques found in Willa Cather’s novels of pioneering homesteaders. – Janet

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