Get Growing: Steal some garden ideas from Seattle’s flower show

An upcycled shed from Devonshire Landscapes.

An upcycled shed from Devonshire Landscapes.
Erica Browne Grivas

The Northwest Flower and Garden Festival (, always a highlight of the year for the horticulturally obsessed, was hitting the high notes this year at the Seattle Convention Center. Compared to 2023, there were more main display gardens — 20 in all — more seminars included with your ticket, fun bonus events for purchase, and a new free event available to anyone, no ticket required.

If you’ve never been, mark these dates on your calendar for next year: February 19-23, 2025.

Even if you’re not a gardener, there’s so much to see that family and friends can appreciate, from houseplants to gardens and floral design and a marketplace full of art, fashion, vintage furniture and jewelry finds. If you are a gardener, you’ll find theatrical inspiration for the gardening year ahead.

First, the gardens. Constructed in three days of craziness, they always come together in time for Wednesday morning’s opening. This year’s gardens were of an extremely high caliber in creativity and plantistry. Upcycling, reuse, wild exuberance, and natives were trending. What wasn’t? Traditional lawn – while one display had a ‘Fleur de Lawn’ of flowers like English Daisy (Bellis perennis), only one of the 20 displays featured turfgrass.

The Founder’s Cup (Best in Show) award went to Nature Perfect Landscape & Design for “The Secret Garden,” a hobbitscape with a 15’ wide, 8’ stump with a waterfall tumbling through it by tiny houses and fairies. Waterfalls aren’t usually found in stumps IRL, but the NWFGF is about drama! Likewise, it’s rare to see carnations popping through a bed of moss, but the effect was utterly charming. This garden was one of several showcasing the beauty of fungi, here in “fairy circles” of oyster mushrooms. Happily, if you missed the show, this garden is being rehomed - you’ll be able to see it on permanent display at the Point Defiance Zoo!

A greenhouse with a seaside theme by the Grounds Professionals complete with a tank of jellyfish and jellyfish lamps set among native plants took home Fine Gardening magazine’s award. Devonshire Landscapes’ upcycled materials shed surrounded by art, a reflecting pool, and ringed by pollinator plantings won Garden Communicators International Outdoor Living award.

Little Prince of Oregon’s display was a wonder of plantsmanship. A path highlighted by a massive driftwood piece takes you by a Godzilla-scale Gunnera and a wall of living mushrooms, and you circle around to an elegant and modern dark wood screen covered in hanging plants, some mounted on bark, leading you to a mushroom-toned velvet couch.

Meanwhile,10 City Living displays on the Sky Bridge depict fanciful and practical visions of patio living. The one that made my jaw drop was by Obsidian Windchimes, with curtains, screens and a carpet made of seed pods. I also loved Zenith Holland Nursery’s coastal moss-covered cabin punctuated by seaside details wreathed in plants.

With so much to do and see, I wish I could replicate myself so I could attend every lecture, but the ones I saw were great, from authors and experts like Indianola’s plant explorer Dan Hinkley, British designer Jo Thompson, and local designer Sue Goetz, who heads the Washington chapter of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.  

Pro tip: if you can’t make it downtown, the Northwest Horticultural Society and the Bellevue Botanic Garden often sponsor evening lectures with traveling headliners the same week.

Many talks echoed themes of finding ways while retaining beauty in our garden bur planting for purpose and resilience to grow a healthier environment in the face of climate change, such as:

• planting with native and extreme weather-adapted plants,

• using groundcovers to moderate soil temperature and retain moisture,

• planting for pollinators, and

• using a matrix-style planting to knit a sustainable carpet of plants.

There were too many plants to mention, from dahlias and peonies to lilies and orchids. Some favorites spotted in the plant marketplace – only some of which came home with me:

Hoyas! A stuffed felt potted hoya by Blushiez for your office worker who’ll never water a real plant and real ones offering various fragrances and blooms from The Plant Farm.

Mushroom grow kits from Skagit Gourmet Mushrooms (I got three flushes of blue oysters from last years).

Bare-root rarities from Sundquist Nursery, like golden-leafed Geum ‘Eos’, a pink-flowered kniphofia, and shrubby clematis.

Rare conifers like sought-after Pinus ‘Chief Joseph,’ which I found at Christianson’s Nursery.

Now I just have to plant all those plants — and harvest my mushrooms!