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Northwest Flower & Garden show ready to bloom to life

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show will once again perfume the air with spring on Wednesday (Feb. 11). The gardening extravaganza will take over the Washington State Convention Center and draw thousands of flower-starved visitors through its five-day run.

The over-the-top display gardens are back, of course, along with some new features including displays for the growing ranks of condo dwellers and a reality TV show-styled garden competition.

Some highlights:

SHOW GARDENS

Arguably the big draw of the show, some 23 gardens created by local garden designers and landscapers, will illustrate this year’s theme of “Romance Blossoms.”

SEMINARS

More than 100 seminars will occur practically nonstop during the five-day run and cover just about every horticultural subject imaginable. There’s something for everyone, including beginners and veterans. Free with admission, the seminars are led by some of the country’s top experts and garden authors.

CITY LIVING

Staged on the convention center’s skybridge spanning Pike Street, eight 8- by-14-foot patio gardens offer ideas for apartment and condo dwellers or anyone with a limited outdoor living space.

MARKETPLACE

More than 300 exhibitors will be selling their merchandise and offering information to showgoers. Nonprofit horticultural groups will staff booths while vendors will sell everything from plants to art.

GARDEN WARS

Local media personalities will team up with gardening experts in a garden version of “Iron Chef” to benefit local charities. Working with identical plant and hardscape materials, teams will create 10by-10-foot gardens from scratch. The event runs 1-3 p.m. each day in the North Hall.

OLYMPIA GARDEN DESIGNERS RETURN

Landen Moore of Olympia’s Nature Perfect Landscaping was a newbie at 2014’s show. He and his team created a small Japanese garden with a torii gate and natural materials. The design reflected the asymmetric compositions for which Japanese gardens are known.

For the much bigger garden he’s made for this year’s show, Moore went in a different direction.

“It’s a much grander feel. But at the same time it’s going to have an intimate feel,” Moore said.

The garden, “A Moment to Remember,” sets the stage for an outdoor wedding. The 30-by-40 foott garden features a stone platform that appears to float in a reflecting pond. Leading to it is a series of steppingstones, and it’s backed by a wall from which flows a 7-foot tall alpine waterfall.

The rectangular pond takes up half the display. The platform and pathway leading to it are made out black steppingstones. The 6-by-6-foot platform can hold three people and creates a space where a wedding can take place.

The floating effect of the stones comes from custom steel pedestals that will elevate the stones slightly out of the water.

“It’s about creating a space that someone could envision getting married at. It’s going to be breathtaking,” Moore said.

A rock garden with up to 50 dwarf conifers will create a backdrop for the pond. It will feature different varieties of firs, cedars, false cypresses and pines.

Centered behind the platform, the waterfall will cascade from a wall made from Rosetta stone, manufactured by Castohn of Tacoma. Moss on the wall will give it an aged, Northwest feel. Moss will also soften the ruggedness of granite boulders.

Defining the garden is a perimeter of fragrant shrubs including Daphne odora “Zuiko Nishiki” and Clematis armandii “Snowdrift” along with colorful ground covers and tulips. An iron gate will provide a visual entry to the garden.

Finally, 1,000 cut roses will be used throughout the display.

Another returning garden show veteran from Olympia, Evergreen Landscaping & Ponds, will create a garden that features a recreational but romantic theme.

Jim and Lois Hays have created what they call “A ‘Bi-O-Cycle’ Built for Two” — a flower-filled, woodsy and biologically maintained water garden.

“I thought, what’s more romantic than a bicycle built for two,” Lois Hayes said.

A waterfall-filled stream will flow into two ponds, each 6 feet in diameter and shaped liked bicycle wheels. The “frame” of the bicycle will be delineated by tree roots and branches.

The couple specialize in a naturalist look and will use tree stumps, logs, conifers, ferns, ground covers, flowers and moss to surround the water features in the 17-by-27-foot garden. But it won’t be too natural.

Their garden at their last show appearance was criticized for not being thematic enough. Hayes is determined not to make that mistake again.

“This is going to be a pond that has tulips surrounding it. You don’t see that in the forest,” she said.

Camouflaged from view are mechanical and biological filters that help maintain clear water. The mechanical system cleans the surface while a container houses the beneficial bacteria that clean the water, Hayes said. They eat the same nutrients that would normally feed algae, the bane of backyard pond owners.

“They’re outeating the algae,” Hayes said.

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