(I’m feeling a little guilty that my previous post was so grumpy. I’m going to focus on positives from the NW Flower & Garden show from henceforth!)
One of the most exciting things to see at any garden show is the designers’ use of unique plant combinations. At the NWFGS this week, the display gardens are full of glorious, strange, and inspiring ways to pair and group plants for maximum impact.
(Wow, that almost sounded like a real garden writer’s lead, didn’t it? Weird. I think guest blogging did something bad to my brain…)
One of the most talked-about gardens at the show is “Sky’s the Limit,” which features walkways, tables, walls and a roof carpeted in living plants. Alas, the brochure I picked up did not include a plant list, but many of the mixed groundcovers in the photo below are probably common nursery plants. The brochure listed Seattle’s T & L Nursery as the source, a wholesale-only outfit. Their site provides this plant list for green roofs, which seems to be mostly sedums.
Another garden (sorry, I forget which one) featured several “Mrs. Roosevelt” rhodies, which could look a little dowdy on their own but really popped with a background of red twig dogwood. Might be a little loud for some gardens, but right about now, with too much brown and dull green out in my garden, I could use a little noise.
A highly stylized, Asian-influenced garden called “Click” (did anyone get the title? I didn’t – camera shutter? parts fitting together? the brochure copy did not reveal anything) contained this nifty pairing, Agave geminifolia (which has curly filament/tendrils spiraling between the pointed silvery green leaves – I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this growing in a parking strip here in Seattle so it’s going on my wish list) and Helichrysum ‘Silver Spike’ (a silvery low-growing perennial suitable for water-wise gardens).
By a long shot, though, my favorite garden of all for inspired pairings was “Entry to Cascadia,” designed by Phil Wood and Bob Lilly for the UW Arboretum Foundation. If I thought they wouldn’t mind, I’d just retype their entire plant list. Maybe I’ll see if I can ask, and post it later. I just loved how they used plants specific to our climate and conditions, steered clear of anything too show-offy, and kept the colors muted and natural so the plants could really be the stars. If I could directly import any one garden into my own yard in its entirety, this would be it. Alas, it was very dark and hard to photograph, just like most of the other gardens, so my pics don’t do it justice. Here is just one planting combination that I found really enticing:
Don’t quote me on this, but I think from left these are Juncus patens ‘Elk Blue’ (spike rush – evergreen and best in full sun), Thuja plicata ‘Whipcord’ (hilarious cedar relative that looks like Mr. It from the Addams Family), Gaultheria shallon (good old salal), and I dunno on the far-right one, maybe kinnickinnick ‘Vancouver Jade’? Also notable in this display were a number of flowering native currant bushes (Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’) whose flowers have a rather odd, intense smell remniscent of, well, cat pee. It’s not noticeable unless you really give it a good whiff, though.
I am really bad at figuring out which plants to put together, favoring the time-honored “plunk it down wherever it’s easiest to dig the hole” method of garden design. It really helps me to see what the pros come up with, and I think I might have to try some of the pairings I saw at the show.
Do you come up with your own plant combinations, or do you admit to having cribbed a few?