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Showtime! Well, not quite yet, but it’s the time of the year I start thinking about them, the annual garden shows. How better to break the spell of winter?

NWFG 2013a
The 2013 Ravenna Gardens display at the NWFG Show. It was perfect and I wanted to take it home, all of it.

I’m lucky to live in region that really does garden shows, not some “home improvement” show where a couple of landscape companies are stuck in the corner and they promise to install the latest in hi-tech outdoor kitchens, fire bowls and water features (but nary a plant is mentioned).

NWFG 2013b
Also from the 2013 NWFG Show this display (like the one above) is in the skywalk between the two large exhibit halls. These display gardens are small, but usually have some of the brightest ideas of the show.

Our local season kicks off this year with Seattle’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show (February 11-15), followed by the Yard Garden & Patio Show in Portland (February 27 – March 1). Both shows have faced the possibility of closure, the NWFG Show back in 2009 (it was purchased by O’Loughlin Trade Shows, who ran their first show in 2010) and just this year the YGP was shuttered by its former producers (the Oregon Association of Nurseries) and thankfully rescued by Metropolitan Productions, Inc. I was thrilled to read the new owners aren’t going to turn the YGP into one of those “other” shows but pledge to keep the emphasis on gardening. In turn I pledge to do my best to support them by going to the show, purchasing and encouraging others to do the same.

NWFG 2013plants for sale
Plants for sale at the 2013 NWFG Show, this is what the shows are all about…plants!

Both shows follow roughly the same format: big display gardens, exhibitors sharing their products and services, plant vendors and free seminars. The display gardens are always good for a few WWTT moments (“What Were They Thinking”) and of course a few great take-home ideas. The seminars are interesting and educational. This year’s seminar schedule for YGP hasn’t been posted yet but looking at the NWFG schedule I can see there are quite a few speakers I won’t want to miss (Friday looks especially wonderful). Most importantly I don’t think I’ve ever left a show without purchasing at least one must-have plant.

NWFG 2013c
Those pipes! I’ve saved this image and a couple of similar. I really want to get rid of the concrete retaining wall blocks in the front garden and replace them with planted pipes. An idea from the 2013 NWFG Show which I’ve yet to act on.

That said my favorite part of the show isn’t any of those things. No, it’s the people and the passion. Getting out of the house and celebrating the beginning of another gardening season with my friends and neighbors. What more could you ask for?

YGP 2013
‘Chief Joseph’ lodgepole pine was the “it” plant of the 2013 YGP Show.

In addition to (almost) yearly visits to both the NWFG Show and the YG&P Show, I’ve been fortunate to have attended the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show (it’s held March 18-22 this year) and would love to someday visit the Philadelphia Flower Show (February 28 – March 8) as well as the Chicago Flower & Garden Show (March 14-22). And don’t even get me started about the possibility of visiting the English shows, that would be amazing, those people really know how to do a garden show.

Is there a garden show in your city? What’s your favorite part?

YGP 2014a
For me this garden was all about the grass flopping over the edge of an orange wall. Inspiration! Although I’m sure I was supposed to be impressed with the fire in the pond.

All this talk of the shows has me wondering what plants I’m going to discover this year. Here are just a few of my treasures from past years…