My first stop in Seattle was the Downtown Convention Center, which was hosting the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Despite my uneasiness of mass transit, and lack of sense of direction in big cities, I threw caution to the wind and took the Link Light Rail from the airport to downtown ($2.75 fare compared to $50 for a taxi). Amazingly, it delivered me only a couple of blocks from the Convention Center, which my cell phone was able to locate.
The Flower show was like other flower shows in many ways, yet very different in others. The central garden displays were over the top, as is often the case at these shows, but the show felt much less pretentious than my last trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show. Overall, I think it’s the best flower show I’ve ever attended.
I normally avoid the vendor areas of the show, filled with hot tubs and aluminum siding, but that was not the case here. There was an array of fascinating plant vendors, botanical gardens, garden related art, and so much more. If I’d had more time, I would have left much more money with the show vendors. As it was, I returned home only with a pack of Bob’s Freakin Nuts, of which I’m munching on as I write.
I stopped by to visit the booth of PDN customer, and amazing photographic artist, David Fishman, whose botanical photographic art is simply indescribable. We actually have one of David’s pieces hanging in the PDN office. After presenting a couple of talks at the show (along with 70 other amazing speakers), it was off to catch the ferry over to Mahonia Summit.
After a half day of talks, our first tour was to the original Heronswood Nursery gardens, which are being fully restored. It was truly a deja-vous moment to have the tour led by garden founder, Dan Hinkley. The weather in the oft winter-dreary Seattle area was fabulous.
It was also great to see so many of the former Heronistas (Heronswood staff) back at the garden as volunteers, including former nursery manager, Duane West.
After five years of maintenance neglect, the gardens look amazingly good.
There were lots of amazing plants to see in the gardens. I was particularly thrilled to catch Scoliopus bigelovii (California Adder’s Tongue) in full flower.
The next stop was Dan Hinkley’s amazing new home garden, Windcliff, where he and Robert hosted the group to a wonderful dinner, garden tour, and evening of mahonia presentations.
I was particularly impressed by the giant-leaved, tropical-looking Chinese Aucuba omeiensis. I’ve killed this twice, so I’m pondering a third attempt.
Our third and final tour was to Far Reaches Farm. The best way I could describe Far Reaches, is to call it a young Heronswood. I’m pretty jaded as far a nurseries go, and they exceeded all my expectations. Three hours was barely time to make a dent in looking through their plant greenhouses. Far Reaches has become one of my favorite mail order nurseries to find new plants to try, although their climate is far different from ours back in NC. Owners, Kelly Dodson and his wife, Sue Millikan welcomed the group.
Even the horticulturally-jaded Dan Hinkley was amazed at their selection of plants.
Although the production area was still mostly dormant, we were amazed at the array of names on the tags and look forward to a return trip.
As always when I visit the Pacific Northwest, I’m envious of plants I’ve managed to kill several times, including the lovely spring ephemeral, Erythronium japonicum. That’s ok….we can ripen tomatoes.
Returning home proved a challenge as a winter storm was racing ahead of us toward NC. My Monday return flight was cancelled before I arrived at the Seattle airport and I was re-booked as far as Atlanta for the night. This would have been fine, but the storm was pummeling Atlanta as we tried to land, and after circling the airport for over an hour, we were nearly out of fuel, so we flew east to Columbia, SC to refuel.
We finally returned to Atlanta, where we landed around 130am…a bit later than our scheduled 915pm arrival. As you can imagine, there was no food on the flight, and we were a bit hungry when we arrived back in Atlanta. I don’t know when I’ve been as excited as when I learned that the Burger King at the Atlanta airport remains open until 230am…hooray.
After a quick bite of food, I phone the hotel I’d booked that morning for a shuttle pickup, only to find their shuttle service stopped at 1am. Okay taxis aren’t that bad…are they? Well, a 2am taxi ride in Atlanta doesn’t produce the best drivers. After a ride of less than one mile that costs $15, I finally arrived at the hotel to find they’d given away my reserved room. After some certainly incoherrent due to the time of day, I did manage to find my way to an out-of-service room at the hotel, that suited me just fine for a couple of hours of sleep before a flight back to Raleigh in the early morning hours. All in all a fabulous trip, and I hope you’ve enjoyed some of the trip highlights.
The Governors Garden Club took a garden tour to Seattle some years ago that I still think of and cherish. The only disappointment was the sudden locked gates at Heronswood Nursery by the new owners, which scratched that treat off our itinerary. Seattle is home to a wealth of generous gardeners who share their bit of heaven with visitors. Your trip home a nightmare, but the rest of your adventure a forever memory. This is a great post, which I will share with others by forwarding the link. The blog always contains great info and photo support. Thanks for all the work that takes.
Love your remark about ripening tomatoes!
Can you share anything new re: mahonias?
So much about mahonias, it’s hard to know where to start. We saw an amazing white-flowered species from Mexico, and some amazing new species from China, including Mahonia bealei with bright silver-backed leaves.
Lots of great new hybrids and the cross of Mahonia x Nandina was crazy cool. I must find this.
Lots of taxonomy talk. The work of lumping mahonia with barberry isn’t getting much love. Mahonia species divide into 3 distinct groups. The SW US (nitida) group seems closer to berberis and will possibly move to Berberis. Mahonia aquifolium is the type specimen, so this group would remain the genus mahonia. This would the require the third group, which includes the Asian mahonias and the US West Coast, Mahonia nervosa to become a new genus. We considered some possible names like Sinomahonia and Pseudomahonia, but would welcome suggestions.
Thank you so much for the amazing pics and synopsis of the Seattle trip. You brought a smile to my face when you indicated you had “done in” a plant variety twice! It brought my little heart some hope for my future “try it again” endeavors!
disappointed that you found the Phila Flower Show pretentious last year. This year the theme is “the movies,” and there will be a lot of Disney themes It is changing and not necessarily to my liking either. But I have enjoyed it for 45 years now. .
Sorry…didn’t meant to imply that I saw the Philly show last year. I’ve been twice, but it’s been a while. It’s an incredibly well done show, that simply doesn’t appeal to my gardening tastes. I appreciate the detail and workmanship, but I tend to like a bit more subtlety.
Ugh. I moved from ATL to Raleigh, and getting stuck there at the airport in the middle of the day is a mess, much less in the middle of the night. I’m exhausted for you. I’m so glad the trip was amazing enough to off-set the bad return. Welcome home!
So glad you got to Far Reaches Farm. I love that place, and my thought when I first visited was ‘This is the new Herronswood’.
you should keep my contact info, I live s of the airport in atlanta, and you and you better half are always welcome. My garden has quite a few of your plants.
How sweet. I can only imagine a gardener showing up at your doorstep at 2am.
bummed that I couldn’t take part in the Mahonia summit and we didn’t get to cross paths! I was quite busy with the show and also getting through Valentine’s Day doing flowers.
I’m glad you enjoyed your visit and we look forward to your return!
Missed seeing you there, but will return as soon as my schedule allows!
Loved the erythronium – guess it wouldn’t grow here (Raleigh), huh? Love mahonias – how could not mention their wonderful scent? Sorry about the awful return travel/weather. At least it didn’t sleet and carry on as it did here. Stay warm.
I haven’t had any luck with Erythronium japonicum so far, but I don’t give up easy.
I was there probably the same time as you as I was a speaker on Wed and Thursday. I agree with you the the show is probably the best show around and I consider it a gardeners garden show unlike Philly which can be “over the top” and a bit pretentious. I do love Philly, but I feel that many of the gardeners there who exhibit never get their hands dirty. They pay others to do that. I felt more welcomed and part of the crowd in Seattle and would go back in a heartbeat. Thanks for the tip on Far Reaches but I wasn’t disappointed with my choice of Bloedel which was understated and elegant. Quite beautiful!
What a terrible trip back home. How can so many things go wrong on the same trip. I am so glad Heronswood is being brought back to life. So glad I got to see it on a GWA trip not too long before the closing. Thanks for sharing.