Purple hues, living furniture inspire at ‘Gardening Olympics’

November 28, 2012 

Once a decade, some of the top gardeners of the world get together to put on a really green show.

This year, “Floriade 2012,” the horticultural world expo, exhibition was held in Holland as a celebration of flowers, trees, food, design, and all things green and growing. Exhibits from all over the world featured unique garden and design ideas from places such as India and Italy, and displays included crops in pots and strolls with trolls.

This fall, after hosting a garden tour in Italy and Belgium, our group of Northwest garden-lovers made a pilgrimage to Floriade, to see what international garden ideas would do well back home in Western Washington. Here’s a sneak peek of garden trends from around the world, all displayed at what should be considered the world’s “Gardening Olympics”


Flowering alliums, purple grasses and lavender roses were the stars of the most popular display gardens at Floriade as European designers showed a preference for purple when it came to color trends. Purple pots, cushions and outdoor furniture also were featured with accents of black and shots of pure white. Not as much orange and tangerine color tones that are such strong design colors in the USA. Did I mention the purple grasses? Not yet available stateside, but you’ll soon be seeing them in local nurseries.

Ornamental grasses continue to drift into cityscapes and public spaces, especially in countries with cold winters and dry summers.


We saw chaise lounge chairs sprouting real grass cushions, outdoor tables set with moss, chandeliers hung with blooming flowers and rock-solid sofas created from caged stones and boulders. Although the “lawn” chairs just wouldn’t be practical in our wet climate (how would you keep that grass mowed?) and the rocky sofas did not sit well with me, you have to admire the creativity and very contemporary designs submitted from the international design teams.


Planted walls have grown past being just a trend in Europe, and have arrived as a successful and popular way to create more green space in crowded cities and tiny yards. From fabric bags that attach to walls and are filled with flowers to commercial buildings built with irrigation and drainage systems for living walls and roofs, we saw vertical gardens go tall and grow small. New technology has solved the problems of earlier experiments: Living walls and green roofs now are well-rooted in modern construction all over the world.


The best part about gathering the world’s top landscape designers is the wonderful and whimsical ideas they create for us to enjoy. The biggest crowd pleasers included an enchanted forest that had tiny speakers hidden in the trees. We strolled the pathway to hear whispered messages and musical notes following our foot steps. We also enjoyed giant, mossy troll heads sprouting from a rock garden and a huge fire-breathing dragon made from metal scraps that stood guard at a perennial display. Floral displays made sculpture out of fruit and living artwork from potted orchids.

Garden-themed music, dance and theater also were presented as a multifaceted celebration of things green and growing.

The next Floriade won’t be until 2022. Mark your calendars. It will be worth the wait.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. For gardening questions, write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, WA 98022. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope for a personal reply. She also can be reached at her website, binettigarden.com.

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