Take Five

Fresh design ideas and plant trends at the 2007 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

Written by Debra Prinzing
Photograph by Robin Bachtler Cushman

The 19th annual Northwest Flower & Garden Show, themed “The Living Room,” inspired Seattle homeowners to move outdoors with all aspects of their lives. No garden better demonstrated the interior-exterior design connection than Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association’s “Suburban Swank with a Twist,” recipient of Seattle Homes & Lifestyles’ “First in Residential Garden Design Award.”

We singled out designers Colleen Miko and Phyllis Warman for creating a contemporary landscape that blends the best of midcentury modern architecture with an updated palette of plants and materials. The designers, who will wage friendly competition against each other on an upcoming episode of HGTV’s Landscaper’s Challenge, collaborated on a vibrant reinterpretation of a retro patio and garden.

Miko and Warman were drawn to the casual dining patio that dominates so many backyards of 1940s, ’50s and ’60s architecture. “We wanted to combine retro and modern and make it doable for the 21st century,” Warman says.

Circular forms—in round pots, a curved stone sculpture, circles of colored glass, were a highlight, along with citrus plants in shades of lime, orange and yellow. Cool metal finishes served as a counterpoint to the designers’ hot plant scheme, a unifying device in the landscape. “The inclusion of modern materials in the garden follows the logic of midcentury architecture, which took risks and came up with a really innovative style for the time,” Miko explains.

Innovative in design and impeccable in execution, “Suburban Swank with a Twist” takes an ordinary backyard and infuses it with zest. In scale, material and plantings, it has a fresh attitude we love.

Other great ideas to spring from the show:

1. Contemporary design elements enliven outdoor spaces
Make your garden refreshingly modern with circular and rectilinear shapes, industrial materials and an upbeat plant palette that relies on year-round foliage-interest.

2. Global meets local
Experiment with plants from both hemispheres—and infuse your landscape with a global language of plants. The spectrum is dazzling, from cool-needled conifers to cycads and pindo palms.

  1. Garden shelters set the stage
    Structures and shelters lure social endeavors outdoors. Designers are using everything from metal to wood to fashion gazebos, pavilions and arbors. We loved the “Mojito” garden’s five-post pavilion and NW Bloom’s “Holistic Retreat,” with its sanctuary-shelter, outdoor fireplace and oversized furnishings.
  2. Groundcovers carpet the garden “floor”
    Plant the anti-lawn, adding color, texture and bloom to your garden. Color blocks create a carpet of drama and jazz up space where ordinary turf once grew.
  3. Water remains the essential element
    Hydrate your garden with H20. We spotted water in every one of this year’s 23 displays, from the Washington Park Arboretum’s “Front-Porch Friendly” rain chains and WSNLA’s “Suburban Swank” bubbling stone orb to Aw Pottery’s “Caravanserai” table-high reflecting pool.

Founder’s Cup Winner

The pure fantasy of Fancy Fronds Nursery’s “Beast in the Garden: Marginal Madness,” a jungle-inspired tribute to the al fresco habitat, captured the imaginations of four judges who gave it the best-in-show Founder’s Cup award at the 2007 Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

Designed by Judith I. Jones and Vanca Lumsden, the lavish garden tempted judges and showgoers alike with its Oaxaca-themed use of lusty birds-of-paradise, intense-orange flowering clivias and exotic tree ferns.

For the full text of this article, see the April 2007 issue of Seattle Homes & Lifestyles, on newsstands now.