Cool Green Gardens

Shop ‘Til You Sag at the NWFGS

glass flowers

“It’s genetic,” was the diagnosis from a dumbfounded gardening friend. “One of your chromosomes has fire-blight, or something.” How else could they explain me spending four days at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and leaving without dozens of hot new plants stuffed in my hat. No hickory-handled cultivators ripping through my suitcase, or whimsical works of art jamming the zipper.

Simple: I don’t have a garden. Well, I do, but after I “birth” them, they get to live with other people – it’s better for all parties. But that didn’t stop me, or thousands other NWFGS attendees, from spending hours last week, perusing more than 300 vendor booths inside the Washington Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

The weekend crowd filled the convention center, perusing products, sampling seminars, and gaping at gorgeous gardens.
The weekend crowd filled the convention center, perusing products, sampling seminars, and gaping at gorgeous gardens.

The NWFGS gave plant lovers from the Northwest and beyond a chance to view the inspiring works of top designers, learn from experts, and carry home the newest plant introductions and gardening gizmos. I apologize in advance for all the great stuff I’ll be leaving out of this post, but here are a few offerings that caught my eye. And in the next few weeks, I’ll share the best of the demonstration gardens, walk you through a sublimely understated, forested estate in the middle of the Puget Sound, and share a project that puts big smiles on little kids’ faces.

 A computer-controlled plasma torch cuts through recycled steel, producing an idyllic grove of trees.
A computer-controlled plasma torch cuts through recycled steel, producing an idyllic grove of trees.

Gina Nash calls her business Experienced Materials, named for the recycled steel that is the mainstay of her delicate, practical, charming metalwork. I first noticed her work at the Association of Professional Landscape Designers display garden (more about them in another story). APLD chose Gina’s work for its graceful, simple, organic presence, then added drama by uplighting the panels and underplanting with ornamental grasses and shrubs.porch light

Nash’s product line also includes portable fire pits, rain chains, porch lights, and sconces, all rendered with the same finesse and natural feel.

Fused glass flowers

Kristin Simpson Design’s deliciously playful, smile-inducing, colorful fused glass flowers stopped me in my tracks. She’s an artist through and through, having spent years working in a range of media, then turning her attention to mastering a gas torch, creating lampwork beads from glass rods. Her work gained complexity, evolving into the fanciful, cartoony flowers I beheld at the NWFGS.

I can’t think of anything more sustainable than flora rendered from silica – they’ll thrive in any amount of light, adapt to all soils, take a hard freeze, and radiate color and charm through it all.

If the flowers are as great as the logo, you're in for a fun time.
If the flowers are as great as the logo, you’re in for a fun time.

Speaking of beads, Seedballz are just what they sound like: orbs of clay, humus, and seeds, handrolled by people with disabilities. Alice Strong, company founder, was inspired by farmer/philosopher/soil scientist Masanobu Fukuoka, author of “The One-Straw Revolution“.

The ¾-inch diameter balls give gardeners and their kids a fun way to grow wildflowers and herbs, including cosmos, forget-me-nots, black-eye Susans, poppies, and sunflowers. The balls plant in seconds, simply by pushing them part-way into prepared soils and keeping them moist. The result is an informal cluster of flowers, often reseeding for years. Strong says, “Aside from the beauty, color, and fragrance Seedballz bring to your yard, you’ll help more than 120 disabled adults earn a living while doing meaningful work.”

Ecoforms planters

The folks at Ecoforms felt compelled to find a replacement for the environmentally unfriendly plastic pots that dominate the gardening world. With over 30 years of experience as wholesale organic growers, the figured out how to take grain fibers, an agricultural waste product, and design a very cool line of garden accessories. Maybe I’m hanging onto an old stereotype, but it seems like earth-friendly garden products tend toward the granola and Birkenstock look. Not these. I think of Ecoforms’ containers as contemporary styling on the outside, creamy eco-goodness on the inside.

Actually, there’s nothing creamy about them: They’re durable enough to withstand years of indoor or outdoor use, but when their time comes (maybe decades?), they biodegrade, leaving behind only beautiful memories. Ecoforms walks the walk, manufacturing their pots in a solar-powered facility, and using 100% bio-diesel local delivery trucks.

University Book Store booth

The University Book Store had an enormous selection of garden- and landscape-related books. (But they didn’t have mine, perhaps because I haven’t written it yet.) Their booth drew hundreds of eager gardeners, and I was told by bookseller Kathy Wright, that the selection at their half-dozen Seattle-area stores is just as diverse and deep. They had a second booth near the children’s PlayGarden, stocked with even more kid’s gardening books. I teased Kathy, pointing out that they had run out of copies of Fine Gardening Magazine. When I called to interview her today, she told me they’d restocked for the weekend.

Stay tuned for more posts about the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, including a tour of my two favorite display gardens. And if you attended and have pictures, be sure to share them at the Fine Gardening website gallery.

View Comments


  1. plantnutsSB 02/17/2012

    Billy, Thanks for showing all I missed. The highlites are fabulous so the whole show must have been great. I'm glad you do not have a garden so you have to spread your good stuff liberally in the S.B. area.

  2. crisci 03/13/2012

    At 64 years old and just now buying my first home that is on
    a hill, I know I will need to do a lot of land hardscaping - terracing. I also feel the need to make my yard as maintenance free as possible. Therefore I would love to obtain a copy of this book.

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