Through another blog friend, my blogging habit was called to the attention of Christianson’s Nursery. They contacted me to get my attention to the display garden they would be creating for the show. Christianson’s Nursery is a favorite stop on our annual trek to see the tulips in the Skagit Valley. I have featured their nursery on my blog, most recently here. It is a wonderful destination just on its own.
February 27, 2019
The Northwest Flower and Garden Fest, Part 1 – A Visit to Hill Top Farm
February 27, 2020
Christianson’s Nursery’s “Hill Top Farm” display at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival in Seattle has everything you might find in a real garden — vegetables, a compost pile, ladybugs, slugs, chickens and more — in a nostalgic setting. The festival runs through Sunday at the Washington State Convention Center.
John and Toni Christianson, owners of the Mount Vernon nursery, said the real-life Hill Top Farm in Great Britain’s Lake District — once the residence of children’s book author and illustrator Beatrix Potter-inspired their 1,200-square-foot garden display. “We love to garden,” John Christianson said. “Toni is naturally creative and has an imaginative mind. As a nursery, we have the paint to paint the picture.”
The Christianson’s started planning “Hill Top Farm” in 2011, which was the last time the nursery had a display garden at the festival. The nursery built a cottage facade, three fences — a fence from reclaimed wood, a dry stone fence, and a fence built from woven-together vines — and a step-over stile, which are features meant to evoke the English countryside, Toni Christianson said. “We wanted to have (Beatrix Potter’s) favorite things in the garden,” she said.
It also takes science to make a display garden. Because flowers such as roses, lilacs, and hydrangeas do not bloom in winter, festival gardeners have to force plants to flower early. To do this, the nursery put plants in five different temperature zones and monitored them closely to make sure they didn’t bloom too early or late, John Christianson said. “Successful forcing is knowing when things bloom naturally,” he said. He said the nursery forced twice as many plants as it needed to make sure it would have enough for its display.
John Christianson said he expected it would take five trips in a 24-foot truck to transport the display in pieces to the festival in Seattle. He said 12 employees, in addition to friends and family, helped with assembly and setup. Since the festival began Wednesday, the nursery has won four awards for its display garden, including the festival’s top award — The Founder’s Cup Award Best in Show. The nursery is still in the running for the people’s choice award. Toni Christianson said participation in the festival each year helps brings more visitors to the Mount Vernon nursery. “(The Festival) is what made us a destination nursery,” she said.
The Northwest Flower & Garden Festival is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. More information can be found at gardenshow.com.
— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH
February 27, 2020
A new farm “growing” on Best Road moved to Seattle last Friday. Hill Top Farm was delivered in five 24-foot trucks to the Washington State Convention Center, where it was reconstructed for this week’s Northwest Flower and Garden Festival. The idea for the 2020 Christianson’s Nursery garden display – its first since 2011 – began germinating 15 years ago. On a visit to the Lake District of England, John and Toni Christianson visited Hill Top, the home of author and illustrator Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit and other beloved characters. “When you admire something, it stays on your mind,” said John.
Last year Christianson gave staff carpenter Carl Jaegel a photo of Potter’s cottage and asked him to get to work on an easy-to-set-up, easy-to-tear-down replica. With Jaegel in charge of set design, Christianson started buying and prepping plants in order to force their bloom. A week ago, a dozen Christianson’s staff members were putting the finishing touches on elements that would be assembled into the 52’ x 23’ display. Jaegel was making sure the 15-foot tall, 24-foot wide cottage could be broken down, packed and reconstructed easily. Christianson was trying to slow down the flowers. “We forced April, May and June blooms for February,” he said. “Once they are coming along you can’t stop them.” Greenhouse daffodils and lilies of the valley were beginning to bloom. One lovely peony would miss the show because its flowers were nearly spent.
The display garden includes an orchard, a vegetable garden and perennial flowers, roses, and rhododendrons that Potter loved. Wisteria will climb the walls of the cottage. A dry-set rock wall typical of the Lake District will stand in front. British banty hens and roosters will explore the grounds in a chicken tractor. Potter purchased Hill Top Farm with her Peter Rabbit royalties. Settling into country living and sheep farming, she acquired 4,000 acres of farmland, which she eventually donated to England’s National Trust. Much of the land she preserved is now part of the Lake District National Park.
The Skagit Valley version of her cottage was built in the Vinery, the large wooden building north of the nursery named for the stationery pea viner that sits in front. Guided by John Christianson’s photo of Hill Top, Jaegel and assistant Mike Braze used new and existing materials to recreate Potter’s home. Weathered wood for fence posts came from an old nursery loading dock. The mossy cottage roof came from a house Jaegel built from a granary on McLean Road. Every panel and piece is designed to be bolted together quickly. “It’s all labeled ‘tab A to slot B,” he says.
Last Tuesday, the sense of urgency was palpable. The cottage would be finished Wednesday, its components disassembled and stacked in a truck on Thursday, driven with all the nursery stock to Seattle on Friday and reconstructed at the Convention Center on Saturday. On Sunday and Monday, Christianson and the garden crew spread 80 yards of soil and start planting flowers, trees, and vegetables. Trees were placed in Christmas tree stands and crisscrossed with braces to keep them upright. The dry stone wall was constructed by artisan Joshua Barwick of Vashon Island. Laura Campbell, owner of MoonRose in LaConner, wove a living fence from small trees.
As this issue of the La Conner Weekly News went to press, the display garden was being judged. Festival doors open today. “How it all comes together is the coolest part of the show,” says Jaegel. For Christianson, what matters is the satisfaction of a garden well done. Most years, Christianson’s Nursery has a commercial booth. “We cart the nursery down to Seattle and sell,” says Christianson. “A display doesn’t sell. It’s all expense, so we need to attract new customers.” With 70,000 people about to admire the world of Beatrix Potter, that shouldn’t be a problem, especially if the display wins a prize. The odds are good since Christianson’s displays have twice been named “Best in Show.” (“It will!” predicts Jaegel.)
Christianson’s has chartered four buses to take local customers to the festival. All four are sold out. Tearing down the display is the saddest part, says Christianson. Plants return to the nursery’s holding space to recover after being forced to leaf early. Christianson’s staff members return to their usual jobs. The special energy of the Flower Festival dissipates. “The Festival has taken over,” says Jaegel. “I haven’t done anything else, but it has been so damn much fun!”
Read more from the award-winning newspaper, La Conner Weekly News
February 26, 2020
King 5’s “Take 5” with Chris Cashman mention of Christianson’s Nursery at the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival
King 5’s “Evening” mention of Christianson’s Award-winning “Hill Top Farm” display garden at the NWFGS
Gardening personality, Marianne Binetti’s 2-minute clip aired around 6:15 a.m. on KING 5’s “Mornings”
5 of the Best Flower and Garden Shows to Soothe Your Winter Blues
Tame your spring fever at these popular indoor events, where you can immerse yourself in all things green and flowery.
Winter has its own charms for sure, but sometimes you just need a break, especially when everything is covered in snow and ice. When a tropical vacation isn’t in the cards, you can still escape into a lush, colorful wonderland by visiting a flower and garden show. Many of these events take place before spring really gets underway, right when you start hankering to get out into your garden again but the weather hasn’t warmed up enough yet. They’ll give you a brief respite from Old Man Winter while you spend a few hours exploring flower-filled displays and picking up new ideas for the upcoming growing season. Here are 5 of the biggest and most breathtaking flower and garden shows happening across the U.S. that are well worth experiencing.
1. Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, Seattle, WA
For five days starting at the end of February, you can indulge in “Spring Fever,” which is the theme of this year’s Northwest Flower & Garden Festival. Here, you can explore 30 display gardens, all created in less than 72 hours on the show floor of the Washington State Convention Center by local nurseries, landscapers, and garden designers. You can also choose from 100 free seminars and workshops that will provide tips on pruning, flower arranging, supporting pollinators, and more. And don’t forget to browse garden supplies, decor, and fun plants offered by tons of vendors.
Dates: February 26 to March 1
WHAT IF I told you that you could give the gift of spring?
Goose winter-dulled senses and catch “Spring Fever” at this year’s Northwest Flower & Garden Festival. A harbinger of spring for more than 30 years, this year’s show is filled with more colorful blossoms and ideas to spark horticultural flights of fancy than ever.
Whether you’re a seasoned grower or just learning your maple from your mulch, there’s something for everyone at this five-day gardening extravaganza that starts in late February. “Completely approachable and an entertaining mash-up of flowers, fashion and horticulture, the NWFG Festival is not your grandmother’s garden show,” says operations manager Courtney Goetz.
Wait — I’m a (new) grandmother, and I anticipate this annual event like a kid looks forward to summer!
Dozens of spectacular display gardens in all shapes and sizes, including small-space urban living vignettes, make up the heart of the festival. Two-time “Best in Show” winner and perennial People’s Choice selection Christianson’s Nursery returns to this year’s display garden stage to craft a verdant landscape within a cavernous cement structure in downtown Seattle. Prepare to be transported.