The second-largest garden show in North America, Seattle’s Northwest Flower and Garden Festival runs February 7 to 11 this year. Three Sunset alums—retired editors Kathy Brenzel, Steve Lorton, and Jim McCausland—previewed it to select a garden for the Sunset Western Living Award
“Contained Excitement,” pictured above. This edgy, urban garden is filled with good ideas you can put to work in your own backyard: a fire pit, prefab shelter, outdoor kitchen, pool, and a recurrent color theme that ties everything together.
Though this garden is small, the change of levels makes it look bigger, so when you’re enjoying the fire pit, the rest of the patio unfolds above and behind you. The fire pit itself might be more practical in a masonry fire ring that would protect guests from the hot steel.
The arbor that shelters the poolside table and chairs has another function as well: it frames and softens your view of the room behind it. Look closely: that room is a cut-down steel shipping container fitted with doors and windows—a great retreat from showery weather.
Steel and stone walls hold everything in place. They pick up the industrial feel of the prefab room in a way that’s subtle, but not sterile.
The three of us swooned over a zen garden called “Pot Party” (above), which features a “floating” deck backed by a dripping rain wall. Mature bonsai trees rest atop polished concrete and wood pedestals of different heights. If you haven’t the patience for bonsai, you could get a similar effect with sculptures or big pots full of flowers. Design: Redwood Builders Landscaping, Maple Valley, WA.
Few gardens specifically target men, but “Father’s Day” does. We loved its splendid outdoor kitchen; its big boulders and redwood slabs; half-ton cut stone benches; and knee-high chessmen. Design: Nature Perfect Landscape & Design, Olympia.
“Soiree of Reflections” (above) is a fantasy stained-glass greenhouse that sits in a bamboo grove beyond a pool crossed by a curving wooden walk. Large ornamental rocks and a gorgeous laceleaf maple mark the entry, and colored lights set its mood. By Treeline Designz: Portland, Seattle, San Francisco.