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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gardening: Festival takes the edge of winter with displays, seminars and marketplace

The Northwest Flower and Garden Festival is a great place to go to get away from the dreary Spokane winter and fire up your gardening imagination. This year’s show is Feb. 14-18 at the Seattle Convention Center.  (Courtesy of Marketplace Events)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

We made it through January, and the leftover snow from our winter blast is looking more and more pathetic as it melts. Even the diehard gardeners are stuck inside for the duration.

So, we need to look for our entertainment elsewhere. Fortunately, that help is a short drive to Seattle and this year’s Northwest Flower and Garden Festival. This year’s show will be Feb. 14-18 at the Seattle Convention Center .

Just walking into the show and smelling the fresh flowers and hearing birds chirp – albeit recorded bird chirps – lifts my spirit. This year’s theme is “I Love Spring” and the show will feature over 20 display gardens, more than 115 educational seminars and thousands of plants, tools, seeds and garden art treasures in the garden marketplace. The display gardens are full of ideas you can take home and build into your garden. I always look for unusual hardy plants to try in my garden, even if they need to live next to the family room window until it’s time to plant.

This year’s show gardens are designed by some of Pacific Northwest’s most innovative garden designers who put their heart and soul into crafting showstopping garden displays. These temporary and stunning works of art, constructed in less than 72 hours on the show floor with over 30,000 forced plants and blooming flowers, will show off lots of ideas you can take home to your own outdoor space, whatever size it is. This year’s gardens include peaceful retreats, game night areas, romantic spaces, burnt wood art displays, edible botanicals ideas and lots of Pacific Northwest nature and lifestyle.

I have fond memories of building a garden at the show in those 72 hours. In 2004, members of the then Garden Writers Association created a vegetable garden at the show just as vegetable gardening was coming back into vogue. We started with a pile of pallets onto which the show’s tractors dumped sawdust. We added a layer of soil and then planted vegetable starts grown by some of our members who were greenhouse owners. A small greenhouse was added, complete with plants and lights. The front wall of the garden was built with straw bale gardens grown by Nichols Nursery in Albany, Oregon, and transported on trucks run by Ed Hume Seeds backhauling to Seattle from early spring seed deliveries. We worked 12-hour days and got dirty. All that effort was worth it, though, because we took the People’s Award prize.

Beyond the display gardens and the shopping, the show also hosts five days of seminars given by some of the leading garden designers, plant experts and garden storytellers. Seminars this year include Jessi Bloom, award-winning author and ecological landscape designer who specializes in regenerative landscaping and permaculture; Amy Campion, a wildlife-conscious gardener and co-author of “Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: The Complete Homeowner’s Guide;” and Dan Hinkley, world-renowned plant explorer, author of the “Explorer’s Garden” and other books and the director of the revitalized Heronswood Garden.

For information on the show and tickets, the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival’s website is at: