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The Northwest Flower and Garden Festival is always an inspiration if you are the owner of a Pacific Northwest Garden (or aspire to be.) While the entirety of some of the extravagant displays might seem out of reach for us who don’t consider ourselves to have a green thumb or who’d rather be getting outside our backyard rather than working in it.
However, even for those of us who are not gardening pros, small inspirations that can bring a touch of charm to our yard can be found amidst the big displays. Sometimes we forget to look for those little touches we can incorporate if we get overwhelmed by the big picture.
I had the chance today to preview this year’s Northwest Flower and Garden Festival running February 25 through March 1 at the Washington State Convention Center. As usual, the gardens were fabulous, but the real stars of the show were the Fleurs de Villes: fashionable floral fashonistas. These are mannequins but, no doubt, are what inspired this year’s colorful logo for the festival which features a woman with a head covered in flowers. Fleurs de Villes (flowers of the cities) runs in various cities but its displays are created by local artists, florists, and designers.
Here are some of my highlights from the festival, what looks promising on this year’s seminar lineup (yes, I’m planning to go back for the actual show), and some highlights of the Fleurs de Villes…but you’ll need to go by yourself to see the whole thing and vote for your favorite.
First the Gardens of 2020’s Northwest Flower and Garden Festival
I’ll just say a brief blurb here about each garden and a couple of small “take-home” ideas that inspired me.
Jump Into (the) Spring
Yes, that’s a huge waterfall in the background and what you can’t see in front of it in my photo is a pond. But it’s not just a pond, it’s a natural swimming pool that fits in with the PNW landscape. This creation by Nature Perfect in Tumwater would definitely be a good place to sip a glass of wine and slip out of your flip flops!
A Quiet Place
The Northwest Orchid Society Garden featured a large patio and pathway with a sitting area — but surrounded by gorgeous orchids. My take-home idea for those of us who like small projects were these trellises with natural hanging orchid planters.
Beneath The Blossoms
While I wouldn’t try this at home, Pacific Landscaping brought Spring indoors with these cherry trees with a pathway and seating areas underneath. Wait a few more weeks to a month and you can find plenty of PNW places to sit under blossoms outdoors from The Arboretum to UW to the Japanese gardens in Portland.
Blue Moon Rising
The photo here doesn’t do justice to the…blueness of this space! Blue Moon Rising features an outdoor shower surrounded by stone and twinking blue lights overhead. It’s creator from Pacific Stone Company reports that he was inspired by being in his outdoor shower while neighbors were “blowing up the neighborhood” and shooting off fireworks.
Orca Recovery Garden
If I got to give an award to the “Most PNW” of the gardens at this year’s show, I would pick this one, with another glamping-themed entry as a runner-up. I’d like to put this garden by NW Bloom Ecological Services in my backyard, but I think the HOA (and my spouse) would object to the trailer. You might recognize the canoes that double as raised bed if you’ve ever rented canoes at UW, and the garden features an eco-friendly rain garden and compost heap.
The Zen of Furiosa
Yes that’s Imperator Furiosa to you! There was too much in this Mad Max/Japanese inspired garden to get it all in one shot. The garden, by Redwood Builders, LLC, features bonsai, boulders, and a lot of rust. Not pictured here: a lovely metal fountain — you’ll just have to go see it for yourself!
Rock and Knoll Fantasy
This lovely landscape by Little Prince of Oregon features a stone sculpture and this succulent garden in stone. This is another-take-home idea that (if I get inspired) I might try along my garden pathway.
The Origins of Horticulture
…at least I think this was the Origins of Horticulture garden by Hartley Botanicals. I’m sorry if it’s not — there was much to take in in this exhibit which I thought of as the “adventure travel garden” due to its lush foliage combined with vintage suitcases and steamer trunks. Possibly a landscape for the travel-loving homeowner?
This garden, by Christianson’s Nursery, was my favorite of the 2020 Northwest Flower and Garden Festival for it’s English Country charm. Hilltop Farm in the Lake District, of course, was once Beatrix Potter’s home and the garden features a façade similar to Hilltop. Touches in the garden, like a little Peter-Rabbit-sized sweater pay homage to Beatrix. And, while we were there, live chickens were brought in to add some extra authenticity to the mix.
Where the Wild Things Grow
This garden by Plantswoman Design reminds me of the days when my kids used to say “let’s set up a tent in the backyard!” The garden has a glamping-worthy tent, swinging chair, bug nets and more for a kid-friendly garden.
Come Out and Play!
This large playground by FancyPlants Garden and Susan Browne Landscapte Design features a tic-tac-toe game and more to entertain kids. One feature that I found charming that would be easy and inexpensive to re-create in a home garden is the little sailboat pond, which is tiny and has perhaps a few inches of water but brought to mind children playing with toy boats at Luxembourg (by the way, a slideshow about gardens in Paris is one of the events at the show!)
An Artists Retreat
This creation by Elandan Gardens in Bremerton is focused around pieces of sculpture and has a modern-Japanese-inspired look.
Some Other Garden Festival Highlights
And, somewhere my notetaking failed. And I don’t want to misatribute these other gardens and water features, so I leave you with these photos followed by some flowers to get you looking forward to SPRING (if you’re not already!) Scroll down and you’ll find a bit about the Fleurs de Villes.
I believe that the outdoor living space with the swing was created by Contemporary Outdoor Living, and Flower Growers of Puget Sound, Folia Horticultural, GMC Landscapes, Great Plant Picks, NW Outdoor Lighting, and the Washington Park Arboretum Foundation all participated in the 2020 Northwest Flower and Garden Festival with their lively and colorful gardens.
The Fleurs de Villes
The team of Tina Barkley and Karen Marshall have been taking this fashion/flower power show around the world with shows appearing in Vancouver, Covent Garden in London, and other citites. The name — “flowers of the cities” refers to the aim to connect locally. Each city’s shows feature local designers, florists, and sculptors.
Fun fact — underneath these fashionable “ladies” are buckets of water to keep their flowers fresh. But one holds a hidden secret: Rainier Beer cans! A real Seattle gal!
Just a few of many “Fleurs” are pictured here — let’s save some surprise for when you visit the show! There’s also one outside the main display area, and three are located in Pacific Place — just a short walk from the convention center.