Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fling Fun and Inspiration

Do you know about the Garden Bloggers Fling next year in Washington, D.C?

If you do, are you on the fence about whether you want to go?  If you're a garden blogger, you really have to consider going, it is the party of a lifetime. You'll meet other bloggers from around the country, in fact, some from other countries (I know a few are coming from Canada and Britain). You'll have 3 fun-filled days visiting some of the best public and private gardens that the area has to offer. You'll come home exhausted, but with enough photos to fill several weeks' worth of posts, and you'll get so many ideas to use in your own garden your head will swim for weeks as well.

I've been blogging for the last 7 years, but so far I've only attended two Flings -- one in Seattle in 2011 and one in San Francisco in 2013. One of my greatest regrets is that I had to miss the Portland Fling because it coincided with my son's hip surgery. I would have gone to more Flings if I enjoyed traveling more. They've been going on for almost 10 years now, since the very first one in Austin, Texas in 2008. I've gotten many great ideas to use in my own garden, and encountered lots of great, new-to-me plants by attending Flings.

I'll never forget the first time I saw a gabion used in a personal garden. It was at the Seattle Fling in Lorene Edwards Forkner's garden, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to copy it.

By spring of the next year, I had five of them used as pillars in my gravel garden.

Gabions in my new Gravel garden

In Shelagh Tucker's garden during the Seattle Fling, I saw ornamental Oregano for the first time, and fell in love. Now I have it everywhere in my own garden.

Ornamental Oregano

The Tucker Garden also introduced me to Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima). It was one of the first grasses that I added to my gravel garden. 

Stipa tenuissima in the Tucker Garden at the Seattle Fling 2011

I first saw Pelargonium sidoides growing in a pot in Lorene's garden during the Seattle Fling. When I saw it for sale at Dig a year later, I bought two pots, and I've kept them going ever since, through overwintering and taking yearly cuttings.
Pelargonium sidoides in the Forkner Garden, Seattle Fling 2011

Another great plant that I first saw in the flesh at the Seattle Fling was the wingthorn rose, which I just recently wrote about planting (finally!) in my own garden. Mine has been languishing in a pot for a couple of years, but next year I hope to see those fabulous stained glass-like thorns.

Wingthorn rose, Forkner garden, Seattle Fling 2011

Another plant that I first encountered at the Seattle Fling was golden Catalpa, planted in the display garden at Dragonfly Farms. I came back and planted one in my own garden. Mine is still small, but the leaves are just as cool! I love it. I'd show you a picture of it, but right now it's just bare limbs.
Catalpa bignonioides aurea

This carpet of thyme in gravel was in the Tucker Garden. I put in my own little tapestry of gravel-growing ground covers a few years later.
Carpet of thyme

My own gravel tapestry

I remember seeing a group of bloggers gathered around the Lobelia tupa in the Tucker Garden, marveling and wondering what on earth it was. I had no clue.

Lobelia tupa in the Tucker Garden

Of course, now I'm growing it in my garden.

San Francisco Fling 2013

Two years after Seattle, I attended the Fling in San Francisco, and saw more jaw-dropping, inspiring gardens, and said hello again to blogging friends I'd met in Seattle.

In the Dudan Garden in Walnut Creek, I saw this cool stone wall, with plants tucked into the niches and growing at the base, as well as stones casually strewn around the base looking like they had just fallen out. I knew that was a look I wanted to copy.
Dudan Garden, San Francisco Fling

When I decided later that winter to redo my front garden, I asked the contractor to leave holes for planting in the recycled concrete wall. The result isn't as refined as the Dudan Garden, but I've never claimed to be a bastion of refinement.
My recycled concrete wall

The path in the Organic Mechanics Garden in San Francisco was built with miscellaneous bits and pieces, a look I love. I don't have any paths like it, but when my contractor installed the floor of my greenhouse I asked him to make it a combination of used brick and broken concrete, inspired by the Organic Mechanics path.

Organic Mechanics Garden, San Francisco Fling

Greenhouse floor

One of the signature plants of the San Francisco Fling was Agave 'Blue Glow.' This was my first glimpse of one. What a heart-stoppingly beautiful plant! When the Fling's final stop was at Flora Grubb, of course I had to buy one of my own!
Agave 'Blue Glow' at the San Francisco Fling

My own Agave 'Blue Glow' overwintering inside the greenhouse, still thriving!

One of the most inspirational gardens at the San Francisco Fling was the Nichols Garden, where I marveled over this incredible specimen of Aloe polyphylla (spiral Aloe) planted in the ground in the front garden. You can read my post about this garden here.
Aloe polyphylla

Last year I finally found a tiny Aloe polyphylla, which I managed to nurture over the winter. It's still alive, still small, but I hope that some day I'll have an example of that wonderful spiral to call my own.
Aloe polyphylla

Is there a spiral starting, or is it just wishful thinking?

You can't beat the Fling for inspiration. And, money-wise, it's a great deal! To find out how to register for the Washington D.C. Fling in 2017, click here. Or, look for the D.C. Fling badge on the left side of my blog. If you click on it, a link will take you to the Fling website.

I hope I see you in D.C. in 2017!


  1. Alison, I love seeing all the things you've brought home as ideas and implemented in your garden. The sunglasses on your agave are fun!

  2. what a great post Alison ! I love seeing how you made the ideas you saw your very own. I keep hoping that someday the Garden Conservancy will have the Nichols garden on an open day so I can see it again !

  3. Yes, that was fun seeing how you incorporated gathered ideas into your own garden.
    I do not consider myself a garden blogger, just a blogger who has a garden. I have seem many beautiful gardens in my travels, and especially in this area through the NPA Open Gardens Program and the Hardy Plant Study Weekends.

  4. Great photos. Now you've got me wanting a golden Catalpa! I look forward to seeing you again at the 2017 Fling. I'm already registered.

  5. So glad you're going! Judy and I will see you there! And great post about the inspirations you've gotten from different Flings over the years. I can think of two offhand in our own garden: the 'Betty Corning' Clematis and Blue Vervain.

  6. Great post on the benefits of attending the fling and really cool that you incorporated so many ideas you saw in your own space.

  7. Hi Bonnie, enjoyed reading about your fling-inspired garden improvements. This will be my first fling. Looking forward to meeting you. Susie


Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.