Saturday, February 21, 2009

Garden shows and show gardens

Some short notes... I just came back from the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, which is on for the moment in Seattle. With tired feet and a bit of a headache, I have a lingering feeling of a slight disappointment. Despite all the nice displays, I did not think there was anything really "new". The theme this year was (is) "Sustainable spaces - beautiful places", which suits well the current situation of economic and climate related crisis. Of course, a degree of abundance is expected of show gardens, but the general feeling was an overflow of everything, both plants and materials, and combined with a bit too generous use of water and electricity (not to mention the resources needed to build and transport the materials), the gardens did not quite convey the theme of the show. It is an art to know when to stop, and some of the gardens would have profited from this knowledge.
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While wandering around, I could not quite understand why the exhibition room was kept so dark (this also made photographing difficult). Maybe just like old ladies look better in dimmed dining rooms, the arrangers thought that the dark lighting masked possible shortcomings of the exhibitors... Stylewise, many of the gardens had strong Asiatic influences, something that has long traditions here in the Northwest; but though quite pleasing to the eye, generally the gardens were not groundbreaking in any ways. I like the way designers here use evergreen plants, but often there was too many plant varieties and leaf colours, which made the effect too heavy and/or overloaded to my (minimalist) Scandinavian eyes. A large variety of garden societies, nurseries and plant and bulb sellers were on place and all kinds of gardening needs were catered for. But if you ask me, all the knick-knacks frequently present at gardens shows, with nothing else common with gardens or gardening than the eye catching flower decorations on them, could better been left out from the show...
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The best part of the show was the huge number of seminars provided, over 200 of them during the five show days, quite many of them keeping to the theme of the show. It was amazing to see the huge interest for them, long lines of show visitors queued nicely to get tickets to attend. I saw Ulf Nordfjell talk about his beautiful work and about gardens in Gothenburg, and got a glimpse of his coming "Black and White" themed garden in Chelsea in May; I listened to Dan Hinkley talk about "showstopping" and gardenworthy plants, and Nori Pope about his gorgeous colour schemes. And there would have been so much more to listen to, if I only had had the time and possibility. These kind of opportunities come far too seldom. To hear from so many knowledgeable and interesting gardening people, both designers, plant people and other garden personalities, gives so many new impressions and ideas to work with in one's own garden..
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There was a huge buzz about this being or not being the last Northwest Flower & Garden Show, as the present owner has decided to concentrate on other things in his life. I hope that there will be some kind of a continuation, but this might be a good time to revise the concept and come with a new version. With so much interest in gardening as there is within this area, I am convinced that a major garden event or show still has an important place to fill in Washington.

2 comments:

Gardeness said...

Ha, you and I have many of the same photos! I'm stretching out my posts on the show since I have soooo many pics. I wondered about the lighting, too, on my first visit. But today I noticed they would brighten the area and then dim (you had to stand there awhile). I guess they were giving you the day/night versions.

camellia said...

Hi, I see what you mean – I think we share similar eyes, enjoying the minimalistic. I had a similar feel at Kew Gardens winter show in London lately, and just made a blog post about the way too pretentious and bombastic orchid displays, when simplicity (which they used in some places) worked so well! Perhaps there is a show designer stress to draw attention to their corner, and they think 'the louder the better'?