Everything Gardening

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show at 30 Years

By: Courtney Goetz Sue Goetz

Courtney Goetz is a past display garden creator and the current social media manager for the Northwest Flower & Garden…

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Sue-In-Lavender
http://www.thecreativegardener.com

Sue Goetz is a garden designer, writer, and speaker. Through her business, Creative Gardener, she works with clients to personalize…

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This 2015 display garden created by West Seattle Nursery titled, “Birds do it, Bees do it…” received many awards, including 
the Pacific Horticulture magazine award. Photo: courtesy of NWF&G show

This 2015 display garden created by West Seattle Nursery titled, “Birds do it, Bees do it…” received many awards, including 
the Pacific Horticulture magazine award. Photo: courtesy of NWF&G Show

Fair, expo, frolic—call it what you will, but the word “show” simply doesn’t do justice to the largest West Coast gathering that encompasses everything gardening and horticulture. Every February, just as the gray skies of the Pacific Northwest are getting arduous, the Northwest Flower & Garden Show takes over the fourth floor of the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle and buzzes with color. This year is the show’s 30th anniversary, and to celebrate the event is embracing a name change from “Show” to “Festival.”

A design's attention to detail in producing an abundant spring in February is on display in this archive photo from the 1990 Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Photo: courtesy of NWF&G Show

A design’s attention to detail in producing an abundant spring in February is on display in this archive photo from the 1990 Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Photo: courtesy of NWF&G Show

Since 2010, family-owned O’Loughlin Trade Shows has carried on the passion started by the show’s founder, Duane Kelly. When asked what the show’s 30th anniversary means to him, show producer Terry O’Loughlin replied, “It means tradition. [The show] is a yearly event that brings families and friends together. We are busy people, but the show allows us to give ourselves pause and, to quote a phrase, ‘stop and smell the roses’.”

An edible, sustainable garden display created by Farmer Frog in 2017. Show manager Jeff Swenson says, “The show will continue embracing new trends in sustainability, local food sourcing and procurement, as well as urban development.” Photo: courtesy of NWF&G Show

An edible, sustainable garden display created by Farmer Frog in 2017. Show manager Jeff Swenson says, “The show will continue embracing new trends in sustainability, local food sourcing and procurement, as well as urban development.” Photo: courtesy of NWF&G Show

The Northwest Flower & Garden Festival aims to influence an emerging generation of gardeners by staying on the pulse of new garden trends, ideas, and styles, as well as making sure seasoned gardeners enjoy five festivity-filled days packed with expert speakers, new plants, and unusual garden finds.

A highly coordinated team works year ‘round to execute an event of this magnitude. They know that to survive, they must seek ways to progress and change—much as a real garden does.

Sharing, learning, and discovery.

Show themes encourage continuity in the display gardens and throughout the event. Garden Wars, a lively competition filled with exciting challenges—one-handed gardening, disrupting the other team, and other hilarities—began in 2015; since that time, the event has raised more than $23,000 for charitable causes including pancreatic cancer research and support for domestic violence coalitions. Last year’s spin-off, Container Wars, was equally well received. Following the popularity of Garden Wars and Container Wars, Floral Wars will take center stage in 2018 in response to the growing Slow Flowers movement emphasizing the production and use of local and sustainably grown flowers.

 Speakers like Martha Stewart and actress Sally Field, and horticulture royalty like Rosemary Verey, Piet Oudolf, Fergus Garrett, Beth Chatto, Dan Hinkley, and James Van Sweden have graced the stage as a part of the show’s seminar series. Pictured here: Debra Prinzing, Slow Flowers advocate, on the DIY stage. Photo: courtesy of NWF&G Show

Speakers like Martha Stewart and actress Sally Field, and horticulture royalty like Rosemary Verey, Piet Oudolf, Fergus Garrett, Beth Chatto, Dan Hinkley, and James Van Sweden have graced the stage as a part of the show’s seminar series. Pictured here: Debra Prinzing, Slow Flowers advocate, on the DIY stage. Photo: courtesy of NWF&G Show

Other features have evolved to fit the current demands of gardening in small, urban spaces.  City Living displays, staged on the Convention Center Sky Bridge spanning Pike Street, offer practical ideas and inspiration for condo and balcony gardening. The Vintage Garden Market inspires repurposing and creativity in blending old and new décor for indoor and outdoor use. Foodies can savor the flavors of the garden in the Tasting Corner, with crafted herbal cocktails, wine, and live music surrounded by garden displays.

From nouveau to traditional, the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival celebrates 30 years of garden inspiration and connecting people to the outdoors.

With approximately 28,000 blooming flower bulbs on display each year, gardens like this one created by Fancy Plants in 2014, bring an early spring to the Pacific Northwest. Photo: courtesy of NWF&G Show

With approximately 28,000 blooming flower bulbs on display each year, gardens like this one created by Fancy Plants in 2014, bring an early spring to the Pacific Northwest. Photo: courtesy of NWF&G Show