How are the display gardens at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show created?

February 1, 2014

Spring is knocking on our doorstep…today is the first day of setup at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show!!!!

With spring right around the corner, there are many home and garden related shows coming up. We might be biased but the Northwest Flower and Garden Show is by far our favorite and a must see!

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show will be open to the public February 5th through the 9th this year. This year’s theme is Art in Bloom”. Get ready to be excited for spring and full of ideas and inspiration for your own garden!

Sublime Garden Design

Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2012
Sublime Garden Design

There are countless seminars and exhibitor booths to experience, but the real show stopper and the favorite of the attendees is viewing the display gardens. There are 25 display gardens every year that miraculously take shape in 3 days.

Trust us… it’s just as much work as it sounds! But the garden really starts to take shape long before this through countless hours of planning and design.

Finding Peace and Solace in the Garden

The Resonating Sounds of Nature~ Finding Peace and Solace in the Garden
Sublime Garden Design

We created award winning display gardens in both 2012 and 2013. We are not creating our own Display Garden this year (instead we created our new design studio). However, we will be volunteering to help set up for the APLD garden, “ART-itecture for Urban Wildlife”, designed by Susie Thompson and Lisa Bauer. We are excited to experience the Northwest Flower and Garden Show this year in a better rested and much more relaxed state of mind!

What goes into creating a display garden at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show? Well, if you’ve never been part of the actual set-up process, it is difficult to fully appreciate the hard work that goes into each and every garden, and to understand what goes into creating a display in only 3 (long) days.

2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show Display Garden 3D model Sublime Garden Design

2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show Display Garden 3D model
Sublime Garden Design

Most designers start to plan the display gardens 6-12 months before the show. Once the design has some definition the hunt for materials begins. Hardscape materials have to be selected and stockpiled and structural elements are often pre-built. Plants are brought into greenhouses at precise times to force blooms and foliage that wouldn’t otherwise be possible in February.

As the first day of set- up approaches it is time to pray that all the pieces fall into place and on time!

On Saturday morning trucks, trailers, huge front-loaders and forklifts begin to fill up the Convention Center floor. The sight of a bare concrete floor, with nothing but some masking tape to tell you where your display garden boundaries are, is both a terrifying and exhilarating experience.

Display Garden Floor Saturday Morning Sublime Garden Design

Display Garden Floor Saturday Morning
Sublime Garden Design

Elements soon start to take shape as the floor within the garden boundaries is either built up with a structural wood framework, or filled with stacks of pallets (btw, based on past experience, we recommend the first option) to create the desired elevations within the garden for hard surfaces such as patios. The key to using pallets as the base of your garden is making sure the pallets all match. Who would have known pallets came in different sizes? Haha….we can laugh about it now. The remainder of the display garden gets filled in with sawdust.

2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show Display Garden Sublime Garden Design

2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show Display Garden
Sublime Garden Design

Before the sawdust can be brought in the exterior walls (also known as kickboards) have to be constructed. The kickboards are the only thing holding in the explosion of sawdust that is about to happen.

All of the beautiful plants you see are not truly planted, they are tightly squeezed into a bed of sawdust and then mulched around to make it look like an established “real” garden.

While all of this is happening, the remaining elements of the display garden are being feverishly constructed. Everything from water features, to lighting, patios, furniture, false fire elements and the placement of garden art has a precise timing for installation and completion that needs to happen for it all to be ready by Tuesday ay noon for judging.

2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show Display Garden Sublime Garden Design

2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show Display Garden
Sublime Garden Design

To fully get a feel for how this happens (in a much condensed time-lapsed version) you can watch the video of the display gardens being built here.

Once all the elements have come together and any water features have been filled and tested it is time to clean everything and start staging. The finishing touch on a good display garden is making it look livable or better yet, lived in.

2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show Display Garden Staging Sublime Garden Design

2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show Display Garden Staging
Sublime Garden Design

After 3 days of chaos the display gardens are finally complete; somehow everyone and everything comes together to create a masterpiece- 25 gardens in bloom…in February.

We are so excited to see the display gardens this year and hope you are too!  Stay tuned to hear about our favorites of the 2014 Northwest Flower and Garden Show.

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