Home & Garden

Trade show group steps in to keep garden show alive

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show, a perennial favorite for green thumbs and gardener wannabes throughout the region, returns Feb. 3-7 to the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.

The event’s future was in jeopardy after the show’s previous owners said they would stop producing the show after last year’s show. That’s when O’Loughlin Trade Shows stepped in. Last June, they became the new owners of the show. The group also owns the Tacoma Home & Garden Show and the Portland Home & Garden Show, among others.

“We are proud and excited to be stewards of an event that has been a bright spot for thousands of flower and garden devotees for the past two decades,” show producer Terry O’Loughlin said in a statement.

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show is a great place to get ideas, find inspiration and check out all of the latest tools and techniques. If you go, don’t forget to:

1. Bring the kids

What better way to cultivate the next generation than cater to them?

This year’s show will feature “Sproutopia,” a children’s area chock-full of educational seminars, hands-on activities, art projects and other fun for budding garden enthusiasts.

Families also won’t want to miss “Butterflies,” a new interactive exhibit that explains the life cycle of the beautiful winged creatures. After touring the display, attendees can buy a butterfly hatching kit, which includes two cocoons with instructions and materials for a butterfly house, for $10. Proceeds benefit the Seattle’s Children’s Playgarden.

And, in an effort to make it easier for parents to attend the show, free professional licensed child care will be offered for ages 2 and up, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily in Room 303, just outside the south entrance of the show. Children must be potty-trained. Parents will need to be accessible by cell phone, and the maximum stay is two hours.

2. Check out the competition

A world-class panel of gardening experts has been assembled to judge and review the 23 themed gardens that are competing for major bragging rights at the show.

The result? Some of the best mid-winter horticultural eye candy that can be found in the Northwest.

Each year, the show uses 1,200 cubic yards (about 150 dump truck loads) of sawdust and mulch, 280,000 pounds of rock and thousands of flowers and plants that believe it’s really springtime, thanks to the magic of greenhouses and long-haul truck drivers.

This year’s designers were challenged with the theme “Beauty and Functionality,” by integrating environmentally sustainable features into their displays.

Entries include a Zen garden, an orchid extravaganza, a natural swimming pond and a lush Old World-style oasis that demonstrates how to reduce the use of chemicals and aid in water conservation with plant selection and water features.

3. Learn from the experts

Whether you’re a novice gardener or a seasoned pro, there’s plenty to learn at the show, which will feature more than 120 hours of how-to seminars and demonstrations. Topics range from creating container gardens for year-round impact and food, to adding art and accessories to personalize your garden.

All of the seminars are free with the price of admission.

Presenters include show judges Fergus Garrett, head of Britain’s Great Dixter House and Gardens; Roger Swain, who hosted “The Victory Garden” on PBS for 15 years; and Andrea Cochran, who has practiced landscape architecture in the San Francisco Bay area for more than 25 years.

And several of the show’s presenters will be introducing new books at the show, including Suzy Bales, Debra Lee Baldwin, Kathy Brenzel, Rick Darke, Valerie Easton, John Greenlee, Roger Gossler, Saxon Holt, and Keeyla Meadows and Charlie Nardozzi.

The News Tribune’s garden columnist Marianne Binetti also will speak at the show. She’ll talk about “How to Eat Your Front Yard,” a session about incredible edibles at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 6, and she’ll also have a story on the subject in next Wednesday’s features section.

She’ll also speak at the show about adding chocolate plants to the garden. That talk is at 2:15 p.m. Feb. 7.

4. Get big ideas for small spaces

If you’re an apartment dweller or live with other space challenges, inspiration can be found in the show’s 13 themed “small space” garden vignettes.

Local nurseries and pottery sellers will demonstrate how to transform a terrace, deck or patio with creative uses of plantings, décor and planters, organizers say.

5. Things to buy

Need a new pair of gardening gloves? Looking for some seeds to start a kitchen garden?

The ever-popular Marketplace will showcase more than 200 nurseries and other vendors that will carry an assortment of plants, seeds, tools and other must-have items for the upcoming gardening season.