The Northwest Flower & Garden Show—part two
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

February 19, 2012


Above, the first three shots here are from Elandan Gardens and show the huge root mass from both sides as well as the patio and table; the next three are from Symphony Orchidstra and include the fun bow-tied participants as well as two stunning orchids including one from Raymond Burr; there are two shots from Redefining Andante from The Pond Store showing the gorgeous Koi and pond from two different angles; and finally two shots of the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association’s Winter’s Come and Gone—A Lullaby—one showing some nicely forced flowering trees and the other an intriguing use of Black Mondo grass (Ophio-pogon planiscapus) beneath a delightful timber-framed arbor. Below, two shots of the unique Design-A-Garden both showing daffodils and Helleborus in full bloom; then no less than four shots of Rhythm and Roots—A Tribute to Bluegrass, including two of the unusual glass ornamentations and part of the iron pergola and painted tin musicians in the third and fourth shots; and last but not least an example of the Washington Park Arboretum’s Birdsong. Author photos.


This is the second installment of my report on the Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2012 in Seattle, February 8-12. Last week I covered the flower arranging and seven of the feature gardens. This week, another seven gardens including many photos.

The first garden I want to tell you about this week is one called “A Force of Nature in 5 Strings—Concerto for 5-string Banjo.” It was created by Dan and Will Robinson, of Elandan Gardens, Ltd. Here is what the Robinsons had to say about their garden:

“This Northwest family finds peace and comfort in the simplicity of natural elements—and celebrates every day with some of man’s most elegant creations.

“The stone sculpture dining table is the family focus when they put down their banjo, or take a break from grooming the bonsai spotlighted in this garden. [Dan Robinson was busy trimming the large bonsai while we were there on Tuesday morning and again on Wednesday afternoon.] Every plant and feature is a reference to our origins—creating a sense of wildness, organized chaos and drama. A finely designed 50-year-old Scots pine towers over a quiet and pristine pond. A giant weathered root system [consisting of the intertwined roots of three evergreen trees] delineates one side of this outdoor room, a complement to the lacy Contorted Filbert gracing the garden’s horizon. Huge stones are the backbone, anchored by a patio created from giant stone slabs.”

This garden won not only a Gold Medal but also the Founder’s Cup, designating the ‘Best in the Show’ title. You can just see the cup sitting on the patio table in the third photo here.

The next garden, while it ‘only’ won a Crystal Award, I though it deserved a Bronze for its originality and compliance with the overall theme. It was called “Symphony Orchidstra” and presented by perennial Seattle show exhibitors, the Northwest Orchid Society. I particularly liked the cardboard stiff-shirt tuxedos of the ‘orchestra people’ to say nothing of the wonderful orchids shown. In the photo of the Dendrobium, note the cardboard stiff-shirt tuxedo is not quite straight, another mocking of the men attending the symphony!

In the third photo one of the orchids hybridized by the late Raymond Burr of TV fame, and a good friend of mine, is featured.

“Orchids are like instruments in a symphony orchestra—and these blooming treasures represent the musicians in this garden.

“With a decorative backdrop created with the help of the Volunteer Park Conservatory, orchids were displayed on tiers complete with musician’s chairs, music stands and a conductor’s podium By breaking orchids up into groups, like instrument sections, we wished to lend some insights as to how each group generally needs to be cultivated.

“Behind the beauty are messages of education about cultivating orchids at home, and information about their endangered habitats around the globe.”

In the Bronze-Medal-winning garden, “Redefining Andante”, the key feature was a pond containing large Koi which were chosen by the designer for their colours! The designers said, “Welcome to a small garden of tranquility.

“A grand piano is one of the centerpieces of this garden—allowing the visitor to find the inspiration to compose and create in the calming setting. Falling water from a tumble of ancient concert hall ruins spills into a pond and through a shady glen, and a combination of foliage textures and colors create visual serenity.”

This garden won a Bronze Medal as did the next one, staged by the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association and designed by Native Root Designs.

This Washington State Nursery garden (entitled “Winter’s Come and Gone”—A Lullaby”) I thought deserved perhaps a Silver Medal rather than a Bronze, if only because it was the sole major display that had a reasonable number of forced flowering trees in it—note the Magnolia and cherry in the first of the two photos.

Here is what the designers said: “‘Winter’s Come and Gone’ is a contemporary American folk song that spans time and generations. Follow the verses beyond the rain and snow, sing your sorrows to the birds, and receive their reassurance: ‘Winter’s come and gone, a little bird told me so.’

“Embracing the dream of spring as viewed from the windowsill of a child’s playhouse, the innovative design behind this garden utilizes a regionally-sensitive plant palette, permeable paving, recycled glass and living walls.

“The song’s multiple verses are represented here through themed gates and plantings, a timber-framed arbor, hardscape elements and other features. Spring is right around the corner in this garden!

The next garden “Here Comes the Sun” Design-a-Garden” was a unique presentation. “Viewers saw the results of the first-ever ‘Design-A-Garden’ process, a unique collaboration between visitors to the show’s website, Seattle’s Swansons Nursery, veteran garden creator Lloyd Glasscock of Looking Glass Design, and NW Show Designer Cyle Eldred. Over a period of months leading up to the show, readers selected the garden theme (the Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun’) and helped select materials, art, furniture and plantings, and other components through online voting.

“It included a large central patio using Montana bronze flagstone and Sockeye quartzite flagstone, a backdrop of sheltering trees, celadon containers overflowing with plants and studio art glass pieces interspersed among the garden features.”

“Rhythm and Roots—A Tribute to Bluegrass” was the title chosen by Susan Browne Landscape Design for her garden. Here is what she said about the garden.

“Sounds from the mountains—where Bluegrass was born—translated to the many souls who enjoy the rhythm and roots that define this American music genre. Imagine joining a gathering of Bluegrass musicians for music that celebrates our lives and its experiences. A combination of Bluegrass instruments stand ready for the musicians to arrive. The rustic shelter reminds us of the importance of using the things from the past to simplify our lives today. An iron pergola brings beauty with strength. The area is surrounded by native plantings and accented with herb and flower gardens.”

The third photo in this group shows the base of the iron pergola, as well as the metal sculptures of bluegrass musicians which were located in various parts of the garden. These painted-on-tin figures were also for sale at the show and I’m afraid I tumbled and bought one of a fairly large shorebird which currently graces our front porch. You’ll see it here eventually I’m sure! This exhibit won a Bronze Medal.

“Birdsong” was the appropriate name for the display garden of the Washington Park Arboretum and Seattle Audubon. It won not only a Gold Medal but also two separate horticultural society awards. The garden celebrated the beautiful bird species and habitats found in the arboretum’s 230 acres. It depicted three distinct habitats—marshland, woodland edge, and deeper forest. A pathway composed of wood chips passed alongside the marsh and its wetland flora. Native flowering currants, mahonias, dogwoods and other edge-habitat plants grade up from the marsh to a woodland backdrop. A snag provides nesting cavities and food for insect-feeding birds. A bird blind is the only structure, offering shelter to view wildlife. Of particular interest were replicas of bird species used to demonstrate the nesting and feeding behavior of 20 of the Arboretum’s most beloved avian dwellers. Actual bird nests were used to enhance the realism of the display. In the one photo here, if you look closely you’ll see one of the bird replicas in the centre lower portion of the photo, amongst the budding red dogwood bushes.

Well, there is another one-third of the Northwest Flower & Garden Show’s display gardens with the final third to come next week. There is still one Gold Medal winner (one that I didn’t think deserved a Gold, rather maybe a Silver) so watch for it next week here.   

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