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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gardening: Trends emerge at Seattle’s garden festival

Last week, many Spokane gardeners made the journey over the pass to the annual Northwest Flower and Garden Festival in Seattle. I know because I kept running into Spokane gardening friends at every turn. The display gardens were beautiful, the seminars inspiring, and the shopping, well, let’s just say it will take a while to pay it off.

There were four major trends at this year’s show. First, the featured plant was the new breeds of upward facing hellebores or Lenten roses. Hellebores are semi-evergreen plants that bloom in late winter and very early spring. With our lack of snow and warmer winter, mine were blooming in early February.

While the traditional plants are early bloomers, their flowers face downward on short stems so that you couldn’t see them without getting down on your knees. To alleviate this, breeders have now developed new hybrids whose flowers grow on 6- to 10-inch stems and the flowers face upward. The flowers come in muted shades of purple, pink, cream and rose with greenish yellow stamens in the center of the flower. The brightly colored stamens stand out among the muted petals and add a little color to the winter garden. They prefer partial shade, regular water, well-drained soil and don’t like to be moved once planted.

The second big trend was the use of rusted or cor-ten steel as planters, structures and garden art. This trend is not for gardeners on a budget but still offers some interesting ideas on how to anchor a design in the garden. The steel used in these applications has a special metallurgical composition that allows it to rust to a very distinctive orange patina in the weather. The rust coating then forms a protective layer that prevents deterioration of the underlying steel. One of the display gardens had several tall, broad planters that provided a strong design grounding for the softer textures of the plants in the display.

The third trend at the show was the use of blue in a wide variety of applications. The most prominent was a garden inspired by fireworks on the Fourth of July. The garden was an outdoor room covered by a rustic pergola painted blue. Blue hyacinths were sprinkled through the landscape. The designer then hung blue and white light strings above the garden and bathed the whole design in blue light. The idea was to give the effect of gazing up at blue fireworks and stars in the evening light.

Lastly, several gardens contained brightly colored glass art as an accent. Some of the pieces were made of brightly colored thrift store finds of glass plates, cups and bowls that were then glued together on stakes to make colorful, old-fashioned looking flowers. Many of them added a whimsical flair to the gardens as well as color to spice up the greenery. There were also brightly colored blown glass spirals and flags on stakes set in the gardens that caught the light and brightened the gardens.

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