Northwest Flower and Garden Festival
by Beth Barrett
Last month, my garden friend Marie and I attended the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival in downtown Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center. The annual visit, situated during mid-February dreary and doldrum days, inspires, educates, and motivates all things about the garden.
The feature attraction of the festival, the display gardens, invited us into “possibilities” as we entered the main show floor. Conceived and created by regional designers and landscapers, the gardens showcase thousands of forced plants and spring blooms nestled amongst landscapes of rocks, water features, and outdoor shedding pots. Displays featured backyard retreats to host friends and relax. We wandered the display gardens, soaking up the spring scents and absorbing the colors and lush plantings. The Great Plant Picks area had vetted and curated plants for the Pacific Northwest, identified by plant tags, with glossy handouts for reference.
Walking across the sky bridge connecting the show, we paused to take in the City Living vignettes, small-scale outdoor gardens for urbanities. Designers featured cleverly displayed garden decor, wreaths, unique terracotta pots, baskets, and patinaed furniture to inspire outdoor entertaining in limited space.
If “shop till you drop” is your mantra, the Marketplace is a massive floor of garden retail therapy. Marie and I wandered the booths of hand-crafted arts, jewelry, and vintage garden furniture and accessories as we sampled foods. Tropical houseplants and air plants were popular vendors this year. Marie bought some air plants and engaged at length with a local mushroom grower who sold kits at the show.
The Plant Market, representing over 50 nurseries, garden centers, and specialty plant shops from the Pacific Northwest, was where we ended up spending most of our time. We chatted with local growers to ask questions and get advice. The owner of the Dahlia House shared her beautiful photographs of ranunculus and peonies while describing her favorite varieties with us. We purchased bulbs, tubers, and corms. Deep Harvest Farm offers a wide range of organic, open-pollinated vegetables and flower-seed packets grown to thrive in our maritime climate. We stocked up on our seeds as we gained helpful sowing expertise.
Container Wars was lively entertainment coming from the convention hall’s far end. We briefly stopped to view gardening experts competing to arrange containers with potted plants artistically. We picked up tips on how to assemble beautiful container combinations.
Pulling ourselves away from numerous ways to spend our money, we attended several of the free seminars offered daily. Classrooms of ideas, inspiration, and knowledge from experts in the gardening world kept us enthralled most of the afternoon. Seminar topics covered everything from building healthy soils, creative design tips, extending the vegetable season, pruning, propagating plants, flower garden inspirations, and beneficial pollinators to demystifying Botanical Latin.
A book signing followed most seminars, an opportunity to briefly engage with the author. We browsed through the University Bookstore’s curated collection of garden books, many authored by current seminar speakers and previous festival presenters.
Consider attending the show next year. Mark your calendar now for February 14-18, 2024. Let’s make Burien the “gardening gem of the Sound”!