Seattle PI

The Grounded Gardener: Flower show tips can infuse new energy into your garden


Published 10:00 pm, Wednesday, March 26, 2008 – Original article found here
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Here are some lessons for gardeners gleaned from the recent Northwest Flower & Garden Show:


Vibrant color is a trademark of gardens designed byPamela Richards. The colors can come from plants, structures or both, but they always infuse her gardens with energy and interest.

Red featured in her display garden “Enjoy a Spring Day.” The bare red stems of a willow (Salix‘Hakuro Nishiki’) gave a fine impression of fire, while trellises emphasized the color.

The metal trellises were made by Jim Honold of Home & Garden Art, and were painted “the purest red he could find,” Richards says.

“She likes things to pop, and to have fun,” Honold says of Richards’ designs. A little offbeat and always interesting, her gardens also show how to deal with the day-to-day aspects of our lives.

“I knew I was going to have the car,” Richards says of the Subaru parked beside her display, “and I knew I wanted something between the car and the garden.”

Richards chose to disguise the car, not try to hide it completely. Instead of a solid fence or arborvitae hedge, she used the red trellises and plants to distract. The colors and forms of structures and plants brought the landscape to life.



Speaking of bringing a garden to life, water also does the trick. The style of the water matters more to us than to the wildlife — except that moving water does deter mosquitoes from laying eggs, and many birds do love to take a shower in a mister.

The ways you can incorporate water into the garden are vast, so it’s a good thing there are lots of examples at the flower show each year. They let us see rather than imagine the impact.

An antique washtub (find a new one at your neighborhood hardware store) and a small pump was all it took to create a water feature in Richards’ garden. A few decorative glass floats from Glass Gardens Northwest and a layer of rocks to disguise the pump, and it was show time for this funky water feature that would fit in any size garden.

Richards’ neighbor at the show, Rick Perry of Falling Water Designs, helped install the washtub water feature, while still building his own garden, “Dreams Really Can Come True.” Perry’s garden featured a different kind of fountain, with a more naturalistic look and made from a giant rock.

The wide, smooth surface of stone, covered in a thin layer of water with just a gurgle in the middle, revealed another effective way to bring life to the garden.

Perry says the fountain began life as an igneous boulder about 6 feet by 4 feet, and 4 feet deep. It was cut in half and core-drilled; the water barely filled the shallow basin at the top before dripping over the edges into the black Mexican river rock below, where it was then recirculated.



Along with water, a varied landscape is needed to keep not just the birds’ interest, but ours, too — as evidenced by the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association display. Created as a summer cottage for the Northwest, and although it was set on a woodsy point in the country it had lessons that apply to city gardens.

Designers Janine Anderson and Terry LeLievre created a landscape that was not just for people, but for the birds, too. Evergreen plantings such as the strawberry tree (Arbutus ‘Marina’), bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) and Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ provided cover birds would like, while food would come from plants including evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) and from insects.

Such a setting proves that gardens can offer space to entertain both people and wildlife — a chalkboard in the display listed bird sightings, so the birds are part of the entertainment. A carefully chosen planting scheme proved that good design and good gardening practices work in harmony.

Good design aspects included sharp contrasts in plant forms — the spiky leaves of New Zealand flax (Phormium) and yuccas played off the softness of black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) and several sedges, including autumn sedge (Carex dipsacea) and variegated Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Aureovariegata’).

The WSNLA garden promoted color in the garden, too, from the green-and-gold Ceanothus‘Diamond Heights’ to the chartreuse Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina.’ And colorful structure — Adirondack chairs with orange cushions drawn up around the fire pit — added to the invitation to linger and enjoy.