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

Monday, February 25, 2019

NWFGF City Living Displays

I went into Seattle last Thursday to the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival. Usually in the past on the Thursday morning of the festival, I have attended the tweetup, but this year I didn't feel like going. It always starts so early in the morning (usually at 7:00, this year I think it started later, at 7:30), which requires Nigel and me to stay overnight the night before at a hotel in town. I didn't want the hassle of driving into town and checking into a hotel, and then having to check out the very next day, in the middle of the day, when I want to be enjoying the show uninterrupted. But I did very much want to go to the show on Thursday to meet with Peter (The Outlaw Gardener) and Loree (Danger Garden) and our friend Camille for lunch, a garden show tradition that started (for me at least) several years ago when I met Peter for the first time. Peter has already written several timely posts about the show and I'm sure Loree will be posting many times in coming weeks about it too.

So instead of driving in the day before, I went in with Nigel on the commuter train, the Sounder, from Sumner to King Street Station, and then took a bus to Nigel's work building at Fourth and Madison (where I stopped for breakfast), and then walked from there to the convention center where the show was going on. By the time I got there it had been open to the general public for about half an hour. I bought a ticket (I could have gotten in for free with a media pass if I had been organized enough to apply for one online), but I figured what the heck, it was only one day. I had actually been debating with myself until a few days before whether I really wanted to go at all.

But I wanted very much to see my friends. I did enjoy the show, but lunch was the best part of the day. It mortifies me as an introvert to admit it, but it was energizing talking and laughing with friends. Maybe it was just a one-off. I did come home exhausted.

After I entered the show I bypassed the big display gardens and went straight to my favorite element of the show, the small City Living gardens. There were a few people on Instagram that I follow who were putting these unique gardens together and I was really interested in seeing what they had done.


"Beneath the Jungle Sky" by Rocky Bay Garden Creations in Gig Harbor, WA. 
Designed by Patricia Ruff


I liked certain elements of this garden quite a lot, but personally I would have preferred a different accent color than pink -- maybe burgundy red or bright purple. But the use of an accent color to pull everything together was brilliant, I thought.

This garden won an award from the show judges for Best Design.


A closer look at the right hand side

Even closer -- isn't that hanging on the wall cool? It's a map of the world with a recess at the bottom for planting.

My daughter-in-law-elect has some of those moss balls in water, I guess they're trendy. I like the table with its cutout for the tall vase. Because of lighting I couldn't get a very good photo of the hanging Kokedama at the back, on a pulley, but I loved that too. There were several Kokedama in this garden with those epiphytic antler-like staghorn ferns in them.

Mmmm -- Macarons.....

Here's another nice grouping in this bowl on the floor

I also loved this reuse of a fish tank with a wooden top with a cutout for the tall plant to grow through


More staghorn fersn -- I love that one high on the wall support with a Bromeliad stuffed in beside it

A closer look at the left hand side

I loved all the use of natural wood and rope in this garden.

Contact Rocky Bay Garden Creations through their website here. I follow Rocky Bay Gardens on Instagram, her feed is here.


"Botanist Balcony" by Urban Soule of Seattle, WA. 
Designed by Kim McCarthy

I loved that this garden was so busy and cluttered -- just like my own garden, and my mind come to think of it. It was intended to look like the garden of a plant collector, and to me that's exactly what it conveyed. I wouldn't consider myself a botanist, but it has a lot of the same things you'll find in my garden -- all kinds of plants being propagated in various ways (although not quite so photogenically), and treasures like bird's nests set aside to admire, not to mention the massive plant hoard. I even have a Buddha head, but a much smaller one, that I plan to put into the fern table I'm going to finally put together this spring.

Urban Soule's garden won the People's Choice award, which is voted on online by show attendees. It was my favorite too.


Kim is an artist who works in concrete, and made the hanging pots



The large pot on the lower left also contains some of the concrete seedpods that Kim makes




You can contact Kim through the website for her company Urban Soule here. I also follow Kim on Instagram, so if you're on Instagram you can too. Here's a link to her feed. FYI: You can buy those neon leaf lights on Amazon for $138 here.


"Croissants and the City" by digs inside and out 
Designed by J.J. DeSousa

Anyone who knows J.J. or has visited her own garden in Portland would instantly recognize this as being her signature style -- funky and opulent with lots of orange.


Even the croissants look orange in this photo

My one quibble with this garden is the curtains -- even close up like this, you still can't see what's on the first third of the shelves

Every garden had bright pink signs on them (difficult to crop out of photos) admonishing people not to step into the display, so I had to lean in with my iPhone to see what was behind the curtain on the shelf


Here's the left hand side, with the same problem

Unfortunate that this cool baby head planter and claw foot candleholder were obscured from casual observers



Digs inside and out is a boutique shop owned by J.J. DeSousa in Portland, OR that offers select home, garden and lifestyle items and design services. You can order some items online and contact them here

"Land of the Long White Cloud -- A New Zealand Garden" by Ma Petite Gardens in Snohomish, WA 
Designed by Dee Montpetit

After those three, overwhelming, burgeoning, exploding gardens, this display felt unfinished, although it did have elements that I liked. I've never been to New Zealand, and this garden was meant as a tribute to that island country. I wish this garden had more plants in it. No tree ferns, even a small one? I have one that's been growing in my greenhouse all winter. The containers in this display all came from Aw Pottery, a local company that makes winter-resistant containers.


Pseudopanax ferox in the tall rustic cream-colored container is endemic to New Zealand, and the small bronze pot on the far left contains an Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt,' also from the Antipodes

I did like the big trunk dressed up as Treebeard the Ent from Lord of the Rings, which was filmed in New Zealand

More 'Cousin Itt,' a Phormium and a Norfolk pine

I like this heavy, rustic square-edged container, reminiscent of a chimney pot -- in fact, I loved all the containers in this display

Ma Petite Gardens is Dee Montpetit's garden design company based in Snohomish, WA. You can contact here through her website here. She has recently branched out into offering garden tours. Two upcoming this year are going to visit wine country gardens in the Sonoma Valley in California and the Italian Lakes and Tuscany in Italy.


"Earthling Oasis" by Urban Earth Nursery in Seattle, WA. 
Designed by The Witchy Women of Urban Earth


There are lots of elements here that I love too, not least those galvanized metal containers. Lots of rusty Corten containers too, so trendy.


Oh macrame! Everything old is new again. I loved it when I was a twenty-something too (back in the Stone Age). I bet Generation Z thinks they invented it.

This is a lovely container, and the plants are cold hardy too

I applaud the reuse of the pallet, but I wish now I'd taken a closer look at that gnarly wooden plant stand

A closer look at the galvanized metal containers

The tallest plant in the containers here was Feijoa sellowiana (Pineapple guava), a great plant


Urban Earth is a small urban nursery located in Fremont that specializes in plants suited for small urban gardens, including shrubs and perennials as well as an indoor shop with tools and houseplants. They offer design services too. You can check out their website here. I also follow them on Instagram, here's a link to their feed.


"Herbes/Fleurs de Provence" By Rain Dog Designs LLC 
Designed by Rain Dog Designs

There's more here that I liked, although again my complaint is not enough plants. I liked the trompe l'oeil backdrop, but would have preferred to see a big plant in place of the sunflower picture. Rain Dog Designs specializes in designing and installing rain gardens, and this small display was essentially an advertisement for their services, and an attempt to educate. While it's probably true that most if not all these gardens are essentially advertisements, some are more blatant than others.

I like the faux brick treatment, but not the half-height bit that hides the city -- since City Living is the point of these gardens


This faux window is fun, but the window edge needs some kind of treatment to make it look more like a window

Damn that tank is ugly. If I had this in my garden I think I'd disguise it to look like a Dalek.

As I mentioned above Rain Dog Designs LLC is a Gig Harbor, WA-based design firm that creates and installs primarily rain gardens and systems that filter runoff. Here's a link to their website.


"Krukker Have" by Fashion Plants LLC in Seattle and Bainbridge Island, WA. 
Designed by Grace Hensley


Despite being crammed with plants and pots, this garden is also elegant. Its sense of balance without being completely matchy-matchy appeals to me. I often strive for balance in my garden and seldom achieve it. Somehow I always sabotage myself. I followed the creation of this garden on Grace's blog and Instagram, and I remember she created some concrete orbs, but I don't see them. I wonder if they were a success. Grace's garden won an award from the show judges for Best Plant Material.


After the winter we've had, those terra cotta pots would not have survived



The day I visited the poor little Violas were gasping


Grace Hensley's company Fashion Plants LLC specializes in container design and front entrance styling, as well as garden photography. You can contact here through her website here. She also writes a blog and if you want some background on her display in this year's show, you can find out about it here on her blog. If you're on Instagram you can also follow her feed here.


"Windsong Garden" by Bonsai Akira and Obsidian Windchimes in Portland, OR. 
Designed by Lucy Davenport (Bonsai Akira) and Deborah & Richard Bloom (Obsidian Windchimes)

Bonsai Akira and Obsidian Windchimes were both vendors at this year's show, who teamed up to create this display.


i don't quite get the combination of bonsai with bright spring bulbs and vases full of Protea blooms

I do like the iea of giving substance to a rickety-looking arbor frame by using what looks like Arctostaphylos limbs



You can contact Lucy Davenport of Bonsai Akira through her website here. You can contact the artists who create Obsidian Windchimes through their website here.


"Sunday Afternoon" By Mad Mosaics in Federal Way, WA. 
Designed by Carmann Komm

I've seen Carmann's gorgeous mosaic art at shows for a few years now. They're expensive and heavy but I still covet one. The window and doors displayed here look like they're made with resin, a technique which my blogger friend Linda of Linda Letters recently wrote about in her post here. Some day maybe I'll give Linda's instructions a try and make a small one of my own.




Close up it looks like there are tiny beads embedded in the resin



Contact Carmann through the website for her company Mad Mosaics here.


I went back to the big gardens later in the day after lunch and got some pictures of my favorites, which I'll share in a future post, as well as a couple of vendors that I liked too. Because I came in on the train I didn't buy anything -- I didn't want to have to carry it home. There were a couple of things I might have bought if I'd had the car, but I didn't love them enough to haul them several blocks after a long day that I knew was going to be tiring.

Did you go to the show? Did you have a favorite City Living display?

10 comments:

  1. Thursday lunch is always a highlight of the show for me too. It was so nice seeing you in person again. Lots to love about the city living gardens.

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  2. You got some great detail photos of my favorite City Living Displays (I'll be posting later in the week), and thanks for mentioning Rocky Bay Gardens on Instagram, now I'm following her too. It was great to see you, although being across from you at the table meant we didn't get to chat much. I'm glad you decided to come up for the day!

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  3. The annual tradition of lunch with fellow bloggers sounds delightful and a real treat.
    I loved your accurate description of J.J. DeSous's design: funky and opulent! There are great elements in each of the displays, but if I had to pick one as my favorite it would be J.J.'s, it knocked my socks of. Orange and Black combination never fails to steal my heart.

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  4. It can't have been easy getting good photos with windows behind every display but I think you did a great job. There are a lot of details I like in many of these displays but my favorite overall is the first one as I can imagine myself puttering in that space. I love the glass mosaic panels in the Sunday Afternoon display too and couldn't help thinking what a door like that would add to my lath house. Thanks for the detailed post, Alison.

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  5. I always enjoy the PNW peeps report on these city gardens, and yours did not disappoint! And your lunch companions were first rate !

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  6. Well, Alison, thanks for showing me what I may have missed when i was there in person. I have a bit more appreciation now, but must confess I thought these displays were pretty ho-hum.
    I did talk briefly to Carmann about her glass work. She fuses the bigger pieces of glass, rather than gluing them. That must mean she removes the panes from the window frames to put them in a kiln. With the glass back in the windows, she floods it with epoxy resin, after which she places the beads, which embed themselves into the resin.

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  7. I loved this post, Alison. Almost as good as being there. So many different styles and each of them has their own merit. The staghorn fern is unique. But then so are all the other plants in your area. Everything old is new again, I laughed out loud to see the macrame. And orange is back? You mean I can or should keep my orange vinyl floors? Just when I was thinking of ripping them out. Phew, you saved me time and money. :-)

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  8. Truly enjoyed all of the detail and links, crowds are not my thing and I rushed through the exhibits as usual. This is exactly the information I wish I had gathered in person, but it is even better to be able to reflect on it quietly at home!

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  9. Great post. Good photos, and your comments are fun. Thank you! Many interesting ideas to consider. I like the ones with lots of plants, too. I would love to attend this show one day, though the thought of crowds of people makes me think it is better enjoyed via your post.

    Re: that rain barrel, I have seen many much uglier ones.

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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.