Living Amongst the Stars

Angels Trumpet 'Charles Grimaldi'
Angels Trumpet ‘Charles Grimaldi’

This display garden, titled Living Amongst the Stars, at the 2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show was created by WSNLA and Sublime Garden Design.  I volunteered for a couple of hours on Friday to answer plant questions.  Almost all of them were about the plant with the big yellow flowers.  The one that looked like a trumpet.  Yes, it was a gorgeous specimen of Brugmansia or Angels Trumpet that captured all the attention.  It was blooming profusely and was stunning during our cold winter days.  It was paired with lovely light yellow abutilon ‘Canary Bird’ and the two seemed to mingle and dance together perfectly.  Both blossoms suspended like golden bells ready to ring if a gentle breeze drifted by.  A sharp contrast was the Monkey Puzzle Tree directly behind these flowers, showing off it’s dark spiky leaves against the billowy yellow flowers.  Also beneath the Monkey Puzzle was a Golden Smokebush which seemed to light up the garden.  I wasn’t as interested in looking at the chairs and decks and tables in all the gardens as I was in the plants, but most of the gardens seemed focused on the hardscape.  There were interesting plants and intriguing combinations, but these seemed secondary in many of the gardens.  Not all, but many.

Sino Grande Rhododendron
Sino Grande Rhododendron

Several gardens featured raised platform like the one here and I wondered, with most of our yards, won’t this just look right into the neighbors yard?  What is the purpose of being ten feet off  the ground?  A grown-up tree house!  Maybe if there were a lake beneath,  it might be fun.  People had a hard time figuring out that the container of water was a hot tub and not just a water feature.  It didn’t seem to have anywhere to climb in or sit on.  Another issue I had was plant hardiness.  There were several indoor plants scattered in the display, as well as some borderline plants, like the shining Angels Trumpet.  Everyone kept asking ‘Can I grow that here?’  Maybe.  If you have a warm microclimate. If you bring it inside every winter. If you baby it.  If you take cuttings and start them over every year. If you really,really care a lot and if you want to go through all this work!  With so many amazing plants that grow in the Pacific Northwest, why practice zone denial at the garden show?  The garden designers admitted it was all for color and effect and not about growing a garden. Hmmm, I guess if we know what to expect, why not?   The extra effects of lighting and music really created a beautiful atmosphere in this garden and even though I wanted more plants and less stuff, I enjoyed Living Amongst the Stars!

Living Amongst the Stars
Living Amongst the Stars
Kismet by Terra Sculpture
Kismet by Terra Sculpture

10 thoughts on “Living Amongst the Stars

  1. The hardiness issue annoys me too… so many plants are hardy in our region but hard to find in garden centres – the colourful annuals and exotics that need tender care look and sell better I suppose! It’s interesting to hear you have the same problem. I do like that sculpture – with a clematis climbing up it, it would be perfect! Lovely post Elaine. 😀

  2. While I get your point about hardiness, there are also issues about things forced to bloom together or even have foliage in a way that would never happen in our gardens and plants being placed together that would never survive in the same conditions (like agaves and lush green lawn.) However, this is fantasy gardening and I enjoy it for what it is. I also love brugmansias and bring several of them inside each year for the winter. It’s worth it for me because I have the space and nothing is as wonderful as the sight and evening fragrance of those flowers on a huge plant. It’s sort of like the question, “Can I grow tomatoes in Western Washington?”

    1. Yes, what would we do without a good challenge? Now I’m growing Sungold cherry tomatoes and have found happiness in small things (small things that ripen quickly!)

  3. Yes, you’re right, just like a movie set….with lots of makeup and hair spray! Yes, I finally realized I could tinker around with custom design on my blog, I’m using the Yoko theme. I’m sure I’ll be adjusting it over the next few months until I get what I want. Something natural, with the color green, but not too distracting to take away from my photos!

  4. I haven’t been to the F&GS for a couple years, the overly-contrived and impossible to replicate display gardens were not inspiring–or even really interesting (though I am sure my daugher would have loved the Hobbit House). I agree, the zonal denial is a disservice to those less expert in plants who hire someone to make their garden, only to have an expensive mess of mush after a couple days of freezing weather. Even a relatively mild winter such as this years’ would play havoc with those tender plants, thanks to the 2 or 3 weeks we had of overnight sub-freezing temperatures. Other than unattainable display gardens, anything really good this year?

  5. Besides gobs of plants for sale (I bought a fuchsia begonia for an indoor plant) I really like attending the seminars. I enjoyed Thomas Hobbs talk and pictures about design, and a very informative lecture by Charles Needle about close-up photography. Unfortunately that lecture came at the end of the show and now I look back at all my show pictures and realize my mistakes! I’m excited to start working on my photography and learn how to get some amazing close-up plant photos. I took a video of moss this week….you might be one of the few who like that one! I’ll be posting it soon!

  6. Hi Elaine, I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments about the display gardens. I definitely felt hardscapes and glam were the stars of the show, but maybe that was because this year’s show was themed around Hollywood and the movies. One thing that struck me in particular was that compared to last year, there was hardly any evidence of edible gardening. Edibles are still SO popular that I was really surprised. I did enjoy a couple of seminars but several I wanted to see were not on the days I was there. I would have enjoyed the one on close-up photography as well so I look forward to seeing (and maybe reading about) what you learned. :). Sorry, I did not make it to your booth when you were there. I was with a friend and we were shopping and enjoying downtown Seattle as well!

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