Size Doesn’t Matter with These Container Gardens

Size Doesn’t Matter with These Container Gardens

The 22 show gardens are always the heart and soul of the world-class Northwest Flower & Garden Show, the second largest show in the country and (we like to think)) the most beautiful. But one show feature that has always been an attendee favorite is the Container Garden Exhibition on the sky bridge. Perhaps it’s the setting, with the magnificent arched glass ceiling and sweeping views down Pike Street to Elliott Bay. Or perhaps it is how each 8 ft. x 6 ft. container garden is always packed with creative do-it-yourself ideas; vignettes that you can emulate right on your own patio or deck. They may range in style from cool, clean contemporary to delightful quirky whimsy, with every style in between, but they all demonstrate that you don’t have to have a lot of room to have an eye-catching garden space that expresses your personality.


Ravenna Gardens took home the 'Best Design' award for this container garden. Their 2011 display will pack a purple punch.

The 2011 show will have 16 designers creating container garden exhibits. Eight designers are returning favorites, while eight will be making their debut at the show.


Ravenna Gardens, always a show-stopper with their bold use of color, returns with “A Passion for Purple.” They took home the coveted ‘Best Design’ Award for their 2010 containers. This year they will be depicting an outdoor living scene, incorporating recycled and repurposed found objects and vertical gardening accents, along with “a wallop of that gorgeous color purple” according to Gillian Mathews, owner of Ravenna Gardens.


Sunnyside Nursery's 2009 container garden showed how to add drama using just green and black for the color scheme.

Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, 2010 winner of the ‘Best Use of Re-Characterized and Recycled Materials’ Award and the People’s Choice Award, returns with “The Door to a Garden is Always Open.” Sunnyside’s Mary Stole says “the title comes from the fact that we began with some great old doors that just screamed “arbor” and it evolved from there. The idea was to show people they could take a very small space in their garden and create a sanctuary with containers, a small budget and a little creativity. Re-purposing things and gardening just seem to go hand in hand.”


Designer Virginia Hand has been busy creating paver prototypes for her container garden. She will be using concrete interpretations of Alchemilla mollis and Begonia luxurians along with the actual plants in her garden, titled “The Story is in the Name. Virginia explains the name, saying “Scientific names of plants can reveal fascinating tales. For example, legend has it that alchemists believed dewdrops gathered on the leaves of Alchemilla mollis had magical powers. The garden will look further into that plant name, as well as its common names. And there may also be the results of an alchemist’s experiment to be found in the garden (hint – look at the pavers).”


Cobalt blue containers are always popular. Two Green Thumbs created mini-garden scenes with tiny accessories their 2009 exhibit.

In keeping with the show’s theme, “Once Upon a Time…Spectacular Gardens with Stories to Tell,” miniature garden designer Janit Calvo, owner of Two Green Thumbs, and designer Christina Salwitz, of The Personal Garden Coach, have teamed up to create a container garden titled “Eat, Pray, Love, Garden.” It will be an exciting display jammed packed with garden ideas from Italy, India and Bali, the places where the main character in “Eat Pray Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert, finds her spiritual base. Janit will bring over-the-top miniature garden elements, and Christina will bring her exciting, out-of-the box container style, for a very colorful and touching display. It will be loaded with ideas on blending eclectic, personal style with different levels and methods of gardening, using tropicals, orchids, palms, herbs and one large Italian Miniature garden. And be sure to catch Janit’s seminar as she presents “How to Garden in Miniature: Tips and Tricks to Creating Your Own Mini Garden,” on Saturday at 3:30 pm on the Smith & Hawken DIY Stage.


Sylvia Matlock, owner of DIG Nursery on Vashon Island, is going vertical with her garden in 2011. Titled “Vertical Dynamic,” it will showcase “woolly pockets” made from recycled bottles into a fabric that can be used indoors and outdoors. According to Sylvia, vertical gardening, a growing gardening rage, is easy to install and great if you have a small footprint to work with, and or empty wall. “We constructed a corner of a house that represents the outdoors which would be planted with ferns, and indoors with tropical or succulents plants. We will also have both hanging and tabletop terrariums. A diorama of sorts; we will have artisan pottery and, of course, a few surprises!” says Sylvia.


Michelle Blakeslee, CPH, owner of Mudface Landscape & Container Design, will be creating “A Room with a View…Even in Winter.” Michelle explains her creative process, saying “we are fortunate here in the Pacific Northwest to be able to enjoy our gardens year round, even if it is just looking out at them from the comfort of our favorite cozy chair. Our garden will show a beautiful winter garden with a thin layer of snow. On the other side of a (reclaimed) window, is a comfy chair and it appears someone has just stepped away from enjoying a great read and warm beverage, while gazing out at their winter garden. 


In 2009 West Seattle Nursery mixed brilliant green and orange containers in this colorful container garden.

Marcia Bruno, manager at West Seattle Nursery, will be enticing show goers with “The Treasure Within.” Marcia explains their thinking about outdoor container gardens. “They serve to beautify and add a sense of green lushness to a patio or deck space. This year we want to focus on using fun, colorful indoor plants to create a bright, modern “lanai” effect in the living room. Our plant ideas include bromeliads, ferns, cacti, succulents, possibly palms and/or bird of paradise. The pots we’ve selected are brightly colored and we may play with the idea of illuminating them from within.” This is a garden that going to be fun and uplifting.


If you are an orchid aficionado you will love the container garden being created by Joe Grienaur of Emerald City Orchids. Working with two of his talented staff, Ross Schooley and Michael T. Moore, they will be enacting a scene from the Rudyard Kipling classic, The Jungle Book. Their entry, titled “Orchids in The Jungle Book” will demonstrate an indoor style orchid garden “with cartoonish flair.” It will be a scene about Mowgli, the man-cub raised by wolves in the jungles of India. Joseph says “our ‘jungle’ will be constructed entirely with orchid plants in various sizes and shapes, some in flower, and others sporting only their unique foliage. Parents will see some unique manners of cultivating orchids, while kids will enjoy seeing their favorite characters from a timeless classic.” Although their garden is not “R” rated, it seems the orchid world is: Joe will also be giving a seminar titled “The Seedy History of orchids: Greed, Murder, Revenge & Redemption in the Orchid World,” on Wednesday, at 6:45 pm.


Small Worlds Within Reach specializes in miniature gardens and adds dolls for whimsical touches, as in their 2010 Container Garden.

Geralyn Rudolph, owner of Small Worlds Within Reach, is creating a “Patchwork Parterre” for her miniature container display. Winner of the Best Plant Material Award for her 2010 container exhibit, Gery will be using a dozen 16-inch trays, buttoning them together with tile walkways so that the end result is a ‘quilt’ of garden sections that make up a larger garden, all at 1:6 scale. And because a quilt so often goes on a bed, so it will all be laid out on a vintage metal full-size bed frame, with ‘sheets and pillows’ done up in moss or sod, edged in flowers with pebble monograms. Of course, look for Gery’s signature Barbie dolls somehow becoming a part of the tableau. As Gery says, “I can’t leave the dolls at home, can I? If it weren’t for them, I would never have thought of creating little back yards.” Gery will be showing how to make this kind of miniature garden at home (what a great family project!) in her seminar on Thursday, at 12:45 pm on the DIY Stage, where’s she’ll talk about “Creating Small Worlds within Reach: Dioramic Tabletop gardens for your Deck or Home.”


Judson Sullivan, of design firm Cultivar, LLC, says they will be “exploring the intersection of recycled materials, contemporary design, Buddhist poetry and a flower and garden show, just to see what would happen. The container garden, titled “In This Floating World,” is inspired by the poetry of the Buddhist nun Rengetsu and highlights containers constructed from repurposed materials.


Mari Malcolm's Lusher Life Project gives us a sneek peek at her 2011 Container Garden design, titled "Seaside Succulents."

Mari Malcolm launches her Lusher Life Project with a garden titled “Seaside Succulents,” mixing flotsam and treasures from the Puget Sound and beyond with a profusion of hardy and tender succulents, tucked in vintage crates and tins. Many of the gardens will highlight the creativity that comes from recycling, reuse and re-characterization.


“Urban Garden Style on the Terrace” is the title of Cambium Landscape owner Tim Moshier’s container display. It will be a simple urban high rise terrace composed of two large-scale, modernist containers and a container water garden. A contemporary lounge chair supplied by Terris Dreheim Showroom invites relaxing enjoyment of the skyline nestled amongst the container gardens.



Molbak’s container display is “From Cultivating to Captivating,” and Ragan & Associates, LLC, will be doing a display titled “Lush Tranquility.” And container designer Wendy Welch, who is designing the wonderful new children’s PlayGarden, inspired by the beloved book Charlotte’s Web, will also be doing a container display. Don’t miss her seminar on Saturday, February 26 at 1:45 pm as she talks about “Container Culture: Truth vs. Myth” on the Smith & Hawken DIY Stage.


The Container Garden Exhibition is judged in four categories – Best Design, Best Plant Material, Best ‘Re-Characterization’ of Recycled Material and The People’s Choice Award. The judges for this year’s Container Garden Exhibit will be designers and authors (and show speakers) Lucy Hardiman and Cole Burrell. – Janet

  • Bren
    Posted at 14:38h, 04 February Reply

    Containers to die for! Thank you for sharing these wonderful creations.

  • Authentic Haven Brand
    Posted at 11:39h, 06 February Reply

    Wonderful article and your show is going to be a growing success Annie

  • Laura
    Posted at 11:41h, 06 February Reply

    On the sky bridge! How fitting! I’m looking forward to poking through these pots! It sound wonderful!

  • Janit
    Posted at 09:43h, 07 February Reply

    Great article, Janet, thank you! I’m really looking forward to this year’s display – see you there!

    Janit Calvo
    Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center

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