February can be a tough month.
It’s gray and damp outside and we know winter isn’t done with us yet. But with a visit to the upcoming Northwest Flower & Garden Show, we can add a little color to our lives and dare to dream about spring.
In its 22nd year, the event, which is touted as the second largest show of its kind in the country, brings together a slew of gardening luminaries, talented designers, landscapers and artists, and gardening aficionados from all across the region. The theme for this year’s show is "Once Upon A Time … Spectacular Gardens With Stories To Tell."
On display are 24 full-scale gardens which have been created by imaginatively weaving story elements from works of literature, ranging from classics to children’s favorites.
Participating garden creators, Windmill Gardens of Sumner and the show’s producers, O’Loughlin Trade Shows, have collaborated to bring nearly 7,000 plants to their full splendor just in time for the event. It’s the result of a new, months-long greenhouse "coaxing" program aimed at including more blooming and exotic plants in the show.
Among the gardens are two created by two Woodinville designers, John Kinssies of Kinssies Landscaping and Linda Fraser-Zimmer of LBL/The Landscape Group.
This is Kinssies third appearance at the show. In 2005, he won a silver medal and in ’08, he took home a gold, as well as the Arboretum Choice Award and the Fred Palmer Award. The local man, who has been in business since 1987, is an expert in landscape renovation and his specialty is creating unique, one-of-a-kind water features.
"I strive to export people to nature through my work," comments Kinssies. "I recreate nature and bring it to people."
For the upcoming show, Kinssies takes visitors to a high mountain forest setting, combining nature’s elements into a stunning display he calls, "Stepping through a Timeless Tranquil Forest." Scaled to mountain splendor, the garden’s eye-catching centerpiece is a massive 20-foot tall, 137-year-old Japanese maple. It stands like a giant sentinel against time and the elements, inviting viewers to experience the natural beauty and tranquility of the wilderness. Another major focal point is the garden’s massive waterfall feature and use of large, hand-selected boulders. Selections of ornamental and native plantings are in keeping with the alpine scene and their placement helps to maximize conservation while minimizing overgrowth and maintenance. Bigfoot also plays a prominent role in the garden, according to Kinssies.
"I have a Bigfoot print, taken from a cast of an original footprint found in Lewis County," he says. "And there’s also a surprise associated with Bigfoot, which I won’t reveal. You’ll just have to come to the show to see it."
The local man knew what type of garden he wanted to create the day after the ’08 show finished, but he also knew he needed a break between events. In the interim, he began collecting his materials and planning his design.
He’s aiming for the "wow" factor once again and believes he will top what he did last time.
"I know I will," he says. "It’s going to truly amaze and I hope inspire people."
Fraser-Zimmer, who has been in business for 25 years, has exhibited at the show several times on her own, as well as in conjunction with others. She is a longtime member of the King County Chapter of Washington Association of Landscape Professionals and is participating in this year’s event to raise awareness of the organization.
"It’s important to have a landscape association that is visible to the public. We want homeowners to know about this valuable organization and the talented professionals that they have access to. Our goal is for people to come to us first when they need to find contractors, designers, landscapers and others in the industry."
This year, Fraser-Zimmer has created a garden she dubs, "The Frog Prince with GreenStyle." It’s a charming oasis with a magical blend of found treasures, lush landscape and water-saving ideas, with reference to the timeless tale of "The Frog Prince" and its well-known adage, "all that glitters is not gold."
In today’s world, "liquid gold" is water and this "greenstyle" retreat captures the liquid treasure falling from the sky to nourish a serene pool and garden. This valuable resource is harnessed via a naturally insulating green roof, living walls and a rain chain within a small and elegant natural home.
Lush native vegetation, accented with some exotic plants for dramatic flair, create low maintenance habitat.
Plantings of bamboo, ferns and moss set the scene in the intimate courtyard. And a green wall of ferns and moss creates a strong visual and sound barrier, separating the garden’s public and private spaces.
The pond with its natural hot tub area features a metal sculpture lily pad fountain to aerate the water while also creating soothing trickling sounds. On the far bank of the pond sits a large frog sculpture, covered with a cape of sedums.
There’s also a double-sided outdoor fireplace and a separate entryway created with natural stone and recycled glass products.
"I want to show people how they can integrate home and garden and blend them together to inspire outdoor living," explains Fraser-Zimmer. She adds, "The idea is to promote a green style of living that homeowners can identify with. It’s about sustainability and keeping everything on your site through the use of water catchment systems so it doesn’t go into storm drains. I hope people who see the garden will also be encouraged to use natural and recycled products in an effort to lessen the impact on the environment."
New to the show this year is "The PlayGarden," sponsored by U.S. Bank. Designed for children, this hands-on educational exhibit spotlights "Charlotte’s Web" and its colorful cast of characters. It includes a life-size barn, "Charlotte’s spider web exhibit, live bunnies and chickens, a worm composting bin and kid-friendly weekend seminars.
Showgoers can even purchase a pink piggy bank in the likeness of "Wilbur," which is stocked with seeds for children’s home gardening usage.
Proceeds from the sales benefit the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden and its year-round youth programs.
The "Seminar Series" is bigger than ever and boasts a line-up of renowned gardening experts who will share the latest trends and how-to tips in over 120 presentations. Subaru presents "The Garden Show – Incredible Edibles," headlined by Joe Lamp’l (host of PBS’s "Growing a Greener World") and author and television personality Graham Kerr, the former "Galloping Gourmet."
This show is new for 2011 and will feature panels of experts sharing information with audiences, and each other, in a lively talk show format.
The Do It Yourself Seminar Stage will be the scene of scores of information-packed presentations on topics ranging from flavorful herbs, water-saving tools, container gardening, tips for backyard greenhouses and more.
Over at the "Marketplace," opportunities to shop ’til you drop abound, with the hottest new tools, gifts for the gardener, hand-crafted art and furniture and new and exotic plant introductions on display. It’s a one-stop shopping experience of 350 quality exhibitors from throughout the region.
Returnees to the show will be happy to see a past crowd favorite, the "My Garden Gate" display and competition.
Twenty Northwest artists will unveil unique, full-scale gates crafted and fabricated from a variety of materials. In addition to professional judging of the entries, ballots will be available for the public to vote for the "People’s Choice."
For those interested in small space gardening ideas, there will be a series of themed container gardens on display. Created by leading retail nurseries and landscape designers in the region, the mini gardens will serve to inspire city dwellers to transform their terrace, deck or patio into miniature green environments.
Other attractions include the handiwork of high school horticulture students in the always popular "Funky Junk" display, as well as floral display competitions and more.
The Northwest Flower & Garden Show is a feast for the senses and guaranteed to boost those winter doldrums.