Thursday, February 14, 2019

"The Fruits of Our Labor"

Date published: 2019, February 14
Source material: 2017, February

          One of the most rewarding parts of my "apprenticeship" at Elandan has been the annual Northwest Flower and Garden Show (NWFGS) - America's second largest gardening convention. Every year, some 60,000+ enthusiastic visitors fill the Washington State Convention Center. They come to see a variety of professionally landscaped display gardens, hear informative gardening seminars, and visit a wide variety of local vendors. Dan and his team from Elandan Gardens have participated in the show building display gardens every year since its creation in 1989. This year's Northwest Flower and Garden Show falls on February 20th-24th. As I prepare to help Dan and his son Will (also a landscaper and stone sculptor) set up this year's garden, I wanted to share my excitement with you all by highlighting the past years where I was able to participate.

Elandan Garden's 2017 entry into the NW Flower and Garden Show - entitled "The Fruits of Our Labor."

         Every year at the start of the weekend before the convention, a giant room in the convention center is set aside for the display gardens. To one side of the bare room: massive piles of saw-dust, multi-ton decorative rocks from Marenokos, massive piles of sewage-based mulch (I've been told it's cheap), and young plants the exhibitors will use for their creations. Among these raw materials, loud trucks, cranes, and front end loaders bustle about delivering pieces of the gardens. Dan especially prides himself on consistently being the only display garden without structures. He instead relies entirely on natural elements as he prefers to do in his landscaping style anyways. Dan even refuses to use the young trees the Flower and Garden Show supplies exhibitors to chose from - old and gnarly were always his thing instead. Instead of young trees and man-made structures, Bonsai Man Dan can always be counted on to bring spectacular trees (large and small!) that have been artistically pruned for decades and other eye-catching natural treasures from Elandan Gardens. Every year he must exhume his treasures from his garden in Bremerton, haul this load over a ferry and through downtown Seattle (imagine the early-morning sight of a huge tree taking up a lane and a half as it is moved by his truck!). Oddities aside, the experience of creating this garden from the barren room also serves as a fun reunion of all of Dan's other apprentices and landscaping friends.
         Unfortunately, the year that I took these photos of the set-up, my phone lost many photos from the first day of set-up. Luckily, I still have some photos from that year worth highlighting.
The type of young tree's Dan would never be caught dead
 using in his display garden - other gardens emphasize other
elements though.

Here you can see the sawdust layer and mulch layers. We left the sawdust uncovered with intent to cover it with sod.
Also highlighted here: the large apple tree Dan had been pruning on for several years. All of this year's main trees were fruit-bearing!
Another wide-view shot of the garden as it neared completion. The other large tree to is believed to be the largest contorted filbert in washington state. It is an early bloomer and naturally grows in that twisted way. Unfortunately filberts around the PNW have been suffering from a fungal disease the past few years. This one has survived so far, but not without some decline. It is already believed to be over 100 years old.
Young contorted filberts for comparison -
they grow extremely slowly.
A second apple tree Dan had artistically pruned for years. This one produces Gravenstein apples - a rare kind you'd never find fresh in a grocery these days, as it does not keep on shelves as long as other types.
Bonsai Man Dan always has a sitting area within his garden. Every day of the show he sits working on a bonsai tree and talking with attendees.
Dan also likes to bring other oddities from his garden. This old Douglas Fir
stump he found has rocks embedded in its roots!
Oddities again: Another beach-borne stump (Cedar probably) from the Olympic Peninsula, and a dwarved mountain hemlock from a boggy area of coastal Canada.
A bonsai pear Dan brought for the show.
Before shot - the tree Dan styled over the course of the show was a Mountian
 Hemlock, collected near Mt. Hood in the Cascades. It was also
the first tree I everpracticed carving on with Dan's help.
After foliage was trimmed, wired, and placed.
Same bonsai, different angle.

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