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Spring Fashion - In The Garden
by Donna Balzer
by Donna Balzer


If you somehow missed her on the award winning garden show Bugs & Blooms (now in re-runs on HGTV and around the world), you can catch her in the summer answering listener questions on CBC. Failing that, open the Calgary Herald and you’ll find her on-going gardening column. There’s also a good chance you’ll see her work in either “Garden Life Magazine” or “Canadian Gardening”

Donna’s work has also been recognized through several awards. Her first book “Gardening for Goofs is a Canadian best seller and her second book “The Prairie Rock Garden” received the Carlton R. Worth award for writing. In 2003 Donna received “The Distinguished Agrologist Award” from her peers in Agrology. HGTV’s hit internationally broadcast gardening show “Bugs & Blooms” won Donna and her Co-Host Todd Reichardt the Garden Globe Award for best talent in electronic media in 2002.

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February 27, 2000

Street guys in grunge and men in suits shared the same fashion accessory in the mild spring-like weather of Seattle last weekend. This fashion accessory - toques on the homeless and toques on men dressed for the office- surprised the three of us who were in town for a different kind of fashion statement ­ a sneak preview of what the best dressed gardens will be wearing this spring.

On a mission to Seattle to find out what all the fuss was about at the annual Northwest Flower and Garden Show the three of us ­ gardeners all - went looking for trends. The garden emphasis this spring as shown at the largest show of its kind in the west can be summarized in a word: fun. Natural plantings, colorful leaves and an emphasis on children¹s spaces were all put together with a twist on the silly side in Seattle.

The theme of this year¹s premiere garden event was Spring Fashion and the show producers were definitely focussed on fashion in the garden, not fashion on the street. It was a chance to view new products, new flowers and new ideas of all kinds for spring.

Gardening for children was a theme used in more than one exhibit with plenty of humor and common sense thrown in. A display by the King County Commission for Marketing Recycled Materials showed how to use of these materials within a children¹s "Birthday Party" garden. Recycled glass blocks made a colorful fence while recycled rubber tire sidewalk blocks and recycled rubber furniture implied comfortable landings for kids having fun. The Kitsap County Master gardeners put together a "Kids at Play in Y2K" demonstration area.

"Where the Wild Things Are" was a "viewing" garden based on Maurice Sendak¹s children¹s book of the same name. It was a delightful space with a "bed" of turf in a mound complete with bedstead and floral blanket. The bedside table was alive with growing flowers and the bedside carpet was composed of turf gone wild with flowers popping whimsically out of it. It wasn¹t a garden to recreate here in Calgary ­ or anywhere else really - but it did trigger giggles ­ a response not seen often enough in our serious back yards and parks.

Salmon Friendly Gardening was the theme of another garden feature and as the name implies there was an emphasis on native plants, minimized turf areas near the water¹s edge, and plant management using a non-chemical approach. These concepts will work in Calgary as well as in Seattle where the beauty of native plants is equally appreciated although we may be more intrigued by trout rather than salmon due to our relation to the Bow river and city lakes.

On the "new" color front, lively apricot blossoms mixed with leafy lime greens or very dark leaved plants combined with bright pinks or variegated leaves ­ a look seen last year as well on the West coast but coming on strong again for the new year.

The overriding grunge theme in Seattle has not lost it¹s effect on gardens and gardeners in the area. Perhaps in response to too many years of clipping and controlling the plants in their care, gardeners are now leaning more towards free flowing and sprawling landscape plants. There were a few vestiges of control displayed in the still popular garden topiary but this design element is on its way out as surely as toques have replaced fedoras. Long lank grass, water in every crack and cranny and the almost overriding theme of wild abandon and carefree mischief in the spring garden are all good news for this gardener who- like many Calgary Herald readers ­ wants a nice garden but is happy the definition of nice is shifting gently to the casual Friday look after years of formal wear.

Planning your space this spring involves a lot of personal input, some consideration of new perennial cultivars, new introductions of annuals and new ways to put it all together. These ideas will be explored further in later columns this spring and also during Landscape Design classes for do-it-yourselfers. Anyone keen to try a class should call Diane at 272-4014 for further details. If you would like to attend the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in 2001 call the flower show hotline at 1-800-229-6311 or look for it on the web at

Balzer, whose column appears every two weeks in the Homestyle section, is a garden consultant and author of "Gardening for Goofs". She is heard seasonally on CBC radio in Southern Alberta. Ideas may be forwarded to

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