Sometimes I just need to see living plants. Colorado is wonderful; I love the mountains and grasslands, pines and wildflowers. I love the huge blue sky and even the menacing thunderstorms. But I do not care so much for the unending winters. While it doesn’t happen every year, we’ve had snow as early as September and as late as the end of May. That’s a really long cold season!
When all that dormancy gets overwhelming, it helps to spend a week or two where winter isn’t quite so persistent. Last week I wrote about coming over the Sierras into California, green and blooming and full of warm breezes and golden sunshine. But California wasn’t my only destination. From there I drove north to Seattle to attend the Northwest Flower and Garden Show (and spoil my grandkids).
This is one of the premier American garden shows, and well worth a visit. For an entire day, I luxuriated in demo gardens, plants for sale, educational booths, and a wide assortment of spectacular garden-themed art. In addition, a schedule of seminars offered instruction on the finer points of cultivation, garden design, and attracting birds.
The gardens, constructed indoors on the fourth floor of the convention center, were masterpieces of imagination, complete with large boulders, flower-bedecked trees, gazebos and garden sheds, and in one case, glass salmon swimming “upstream.”
Here was a piece of the southwest, featuring cacti, blooming succulents, and red sandstone. There, another garden recreated the mosses, ferns, and vine maples of the Hoh rainforest. They had even included misters that filled the air and coated the leaves with moisture.
My favorite garden featured large firs surrounding a carpet of succulents and other ground covers that led to a backdrop of huge, vertical stones representing the Tetons. Careful arrangement created perspective, so I felt as if I was a giant looking down on a forest landscape.
Just as enjoyable were the booths. You could learn about composting, noxious weeds, water conservation (yes, even in Washington), and a number of local botanic gardens. My hands-down favorite was the Plant Amnesty booth, which explained how not to kill your trees. (More on that in an upcoming post.)
I was particularly impressed by the quality of the art displayed for sale. Talk about creativity! Some stand-outs included large wire insect sculptures, steam-punk themed fountains made from old brass instruments, and gorgeous lithographs that would have been perfect for my home. I just wish I’d had the budget!
Some of the local nurseries had set up shop, offering “show specials” such as potted and bare root plants, bulbs, seeds, and garden tools. The fact that my yard at home is still frozen probably saved me a lot of money. I know that most of those plants wouldn’t have survived cold and dry Colorado, being so well adapted to mild and wet Washington, but I would have been severely tempted to try anyway. At this time of year, just the idea of planting anything can get my blood racing. As it was, I got my flowers-and-green-leaves fix and left with plenty of brochures and business cards, but nothing that would have suffered a slow and tortured death in my yard.
There’s a value to attending a garden show, even if it’s in a different part of the country where gardeners deal with different growing conditions. You can see the latest design trends, ideas that apply anywhere (although perhaps with a different palette of plants). A trowel or wheelbarrow works the same in every state. It was fun just to be surrounded by so much gardening. Best of all, all that growing reminded me that spring really is coming, even in Colorado.