Display Gardens Under Construction

A truck for setting rocks alongside the nascent WSNLA display garden

You wouldn’t think that February would be the busiest time of the year for landscapers, nurserymen and garden designers here in chilly Washington, but then you’re probably not thinking about the effort it takes to produce the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, held every winter in Seattle.  It’s the second largest garden show in the States.

Yesterday was the opening day of set up for the 20+ display gardens that need to be ready by Tuesday afternoon for judging.  This is the 23rd year of the venerated show, which opens to the public on Wednesday the 23rd and runs through Sunday the 27th.   For those landscapers building show gardens, this is the culmination of 6 months or more of planning, selecting and caring for plants and wading through careful logistics of how to create a life sized garden indoors in 3 and a half days. 

A Tasmanian tree fern awaits "planting"

The energy swirling around the Washington State Convention Center during set up is amazing.  The vibe of hundreds of creative and passionate horticulturists working away side by side to produce “garden theatre” is invigorating and contagious.  The Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association (WSNLA), of which I am a member, has a display garden every year.  A new team of volunteers designs and coordinates the installation each year, entirely built and manned by volunteers and “planted” almost exclusively with plants that have been donated and or borrowed from member nurseries from throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Megan Pulkkinen and helpers strategizing the installation

WSNLA’s garden, “Cook’s Endeavor Returns with Treasure” is designed by Megan Pulkkinen, Kirsten Lints, Kate Easton and Lloyd Glasscock.  The garden will tell the story of a stowaway on the HMS Endeavor and includes botanical treasures from around the world.  As my husband and I helped move plants in and build the garden yesterday, we marveled over the size and quality of their plants—18-20’ Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo), ‘Black Tulip’ Magnolia ready to break bud, exotic Leucadendron.  The list of tempting plants is several pages long.  The garden backdrop was starting to take shape last night when we all headed out.  The hard work will continue until Tuesday as the last plants are labeled, every leaf and flower perfectly groomed and every speck of mulch is in place.

The NW Flower and Garden Show website has a really cool video of the set up, the show itself and the tear down of the gardens all condensed into 7 minutes.  This process actually takes 10 long days.  It’s worth watching to understand just how much work it takes to produce this fantastic garden feat.  http://www.gardenshow.com/the-gardens/creating-the-gardens/

I can’t wait to see the completed gardens, ogle the judged exhibit of custom gates, wander the plant market, and soak in all the great new design ideas the show is known for.  Thank you Megan and team for all your hard work—no doubt “Cook’s Endeavor” will be a knockout.

I am honored to be one of this year’s guest bloggers for the NW Flower and Garden Show blog, so starting tomorrow and through the 27th, check it out to read my posts highlighting garden ideas and standout designers from the show. http://www.mygardenblogs.com/NWblog/

© Colleen Miko, 2011

About Colleen Miko

Colleen Miko is a certified professional horticulturist with 20 years experience in landscape design who has designed award winning gardens for the NW Flower & Garden Show as well as HGTV’s “Landscaper’s Challenge”. Colleen is freelance garden writer and speaker.
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