All work and no play can be a bummer. Especially for aliens tuckered out from gobbling up hapless spacemen.
Fortunately, Tacoma deck builder Jason Russell has a cure for that. “Alien on Vacation” is the name of the display garden he’s made for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, which runs today through Sunday at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.
Every year, the show chooses a theme and this year it’s “Gardens go Hollywood.” Designers have created gardens based on films from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Saturday Night Fever.” There’s even one called “Sharing Stone.”
But Russell is the only designer basing his garden on one of the most blood curdling sci-fi horror movies ever made: “Alien.”
The classic 1979 movie stars Seattle-based actor Tom Skerritt as the doomed captain of a spaceship that answers what they think is a distress call on a nearby planet. They discover only too late that it’s actually a warning to stay away.
It seems like an unlikely inspiration for a garden but Russell, incurably creative, has embraced the movie’s themes and made them functional and aesthetic.
“I’m kind of a rebel in my industry,” Russell said.
As the owner of Dr. Decks, Russell has built a variety of high-end, custom decks in his 22-year career. But this is his first alien-themed creation. The 15-foot by 15-foot display space is dominated by a multi-level deck.
He’s not a sci-fi fan, Russell said. He’s a technology fan.
“We’re trying to show people what we can do in small spaces,” he said.
Circular stairs and curved railings display Russell’s skills. A shade arbor, dripping with Spanish moss, covers the deck.
The movie’s ruthless eponymous character shows up in an inlay in the deck, trimmed by green lights. Evil looking at first glance, the alien becomes a little cuddly with closer inspection. She holds a flower, cocktail glass and wears a hat and sunglasses. Russell created it and the rest of the deck using TimberTech products.
Hanging from a cable is a 5-foot tall black egg. Its design is taken from the movie’s poster. But instead of holding an acid-blooded parasitic alien, it houses a cushy seat, stereo speakers and an MP3 player. Russell calls it the Suspended Human Entertainment Pod or SHEP.
The SHEP faces a wall of perforated metal built in the corner of the deck. Backlit green water cascades down the metal sheets giving it the look of the flowing digital code from the 1999 sci-fi movie “The Matrix” starring Keanu Reeves. Stare at it long enough and you, too, might know kung fu.
At the touch of a button, the metal panels move aside and a barbecue rises from beneath the deck.
The deck surrounds a garden filled with dangerous, dark and otherwise creepy looking plants. The collection was curated by Jerry Cearley, owner of Tacoma nursery Jungle Fever. He’s made use of agave, air plants, bromeliads, palms, cactus and black tulips. A “ring of death” consists of Venus flytraps and pitcher plants lit by red lights. Plant names are written on biohazard stickers.
Russell’s brother Kevin has made a neon sculpture of a flower for the garden and a Seattle artist created a metal and glass sculpture of an alien. Russell estimates the entire display garden represents $100,000 worth of material and labor.
In case you think that you’ve accidentally wandered into Emerald City Comicon (that’s next week), you can rest assured. The Northwest Flower & Garden show will have 20 other display gardens, more than 100 seminars, 350 vendors, and other displays and activities.
None of them will involve being eaten by an alien.
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541 firstname.lastname@example.org
Olympia landscapers run a river through it
Don’t expect to see Brad Pitt lounging in “A River Runs Through It” — the display garden created by Jim and Lois Hays of Olympia’s Evergreen Landscaping and Ponds (seen above).
The 1992 fly fishing-themed drama set in Montana (it also stars Tom Skerritt) only serves as the inspiration for this native garden.
“I was enamored with the beautiful water scenes,” Lois Hays said.
The couple’s 15-foot by 15-foot garden is heavy with firs, pines, maples and other native plants. The centerpiece is a meandering waterfall-filled stream.
Visitors should keep an eye out for bear and deer in the garden. Both will be there — provided by Alden’s Taxidermy.