Spring flower shows are more than a feast of blooming bulbs and other plants forced into bloom…they are a celebration of design and creativity. Walking through a flower show lifts spirits at the time of year when we usually need an extra boost of color, but beyond that fix of spring flowering, the displays at a garden show can be inspirational for home gardeners in several ways. Here are some things to think about when viewing a show garden exhibit:
Watch for plants that you’re not familiar with. Sometimes the masses of tulips, daffodils and other bright color can distract us from seeing the more subtle and wonderful varieties in the display. Look at the bark or emerging on shrubs or trees and make note of plant names you haven’t seen before. Take a photo of these labels so that you can look these plants up once you’re at home.
Examine how the designers of each display have used repeating elements and contrasting elements. These methods can be applied to home gardens even if completely different plants or objects are used. Note how a particular color was repeated throughout the display, for example, and if/how it appears in plants, pots, structures or ornaments. Look for contrasting textures of foliage: big leaves, thin blades, tiny foliage etc. How many colors of foliage did the designer make use of? Where do thicker, shinier leaves contrast with softer foliage?
Find a display that contains a structure, and study how the style of that building complements and contrasts with the planting scheme. A country style shed, for example, will most likely be surrounded by a loose, cottage style garden. Or is it? Perhaps a particular design gets its energy from the contrast between structure and gardens. Sometimes it’s the unexpected that makes a design come alive. Think about how can you use the techniques you see in a show garden in your own landscape.
Here are some of my take-home ideas from this display at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show:
I liked the repetition of squares and rectangles, which were then softened by the natural elements and asymmetrical that many of the frames contained. Note that some of these frames contain wood with holes for mason bees.
The contrast of the natural wood, the tin roof, and the painted boxes was pleasing to me. Note that the paint on the boxes was all a flat-finish, which complements the natural finish of the other wood and contrasts with the shiny tin roof.
Notice how the blue and green colors are repeated in several areas. This can be done in a home landscape in much the same way, with painted outdoor furniture, colorful doors or shutters on buildings, and containers that repeat similar hues.
There was a good use of contrasting colors and textures of foliage in this display. There was enough foliage to balance all the hard edges of the shed and boxes.