top left: the stars of the display, the out of season poppies that glowed as silky lanterns, especially on Day 3.

top right: graceful
Stipa arundinacea gives the grouping of Saliva 'Hotlips', Linaria purpurea alba and Albuca shawii a meadowy feel.

above: cheery Tagetes lemmonii drew in passersby, who then noticed Salvia 'Anthony Parker' and shaggy Aster carolinianus.

below: poppies, Albuca, Linaria, Salvia, Gomphrena and Lavandula in a river of warm hued  Stipa arundinacea.

home      design      installation      consulting      journal      projects 

Green Festival  
overall idea for site:  a temporary indoor representation of my work

description of site: San Francisco's Cow Palace, under flourescent lighting

pluses, solutions to challenges: plus: potential public exposure. solutions: homely* interior makes anything living look stunning in contrast, wits to find enough good-looking plants in November, raised containers kept plants out of foot's way (but in the direct line of absently swinging shoulder bags), good help from good friends and a random stranger.

Right off the bat, big praise for the wonders of modern digital cameras and those who know how to wield them. A huge part of decent garden images depends on point of view, framing, composition, and subject matter, and all that goes out the window when lighting isn't cooperating. Luckily for me, a random stranger showed me a simple trick with a white card so that I could better use the flash on my camera's automatic setting. The result is a set of photographs that look like they were shot under perfect outdoor conditions, instead of sickly flourescent tubes.

Above is a long shot through a 'cool' bed that looks pretty warm with the mauve Scabiosa and the complementary gold buttons of Chrysocephalum in the background. Even the silvery Salvia canariensis looks golden, but that's due to how the digital camera translated the indoor lighting and manipulated flash.

Here is a more accurate shot of what the colors would look like outdoors on an overcast day. The purple spires to the left are from a new Trichostemma hybrid, with Salvia 'Anthony Parker' to the right. The dazzling white Helipterum roseum never opened up to reveal their bold black and yellow eyes because they were indoors.

An end to end view of the two 'warm' beds, with Lavandula canariensis offering complimentary accents. Most of the plants had long elegant lines in keeping with the feeling of the grasses. The variety in bloom size and type lent a wildflower meadow look to the tub.

Obtaining the plants required much work. I thought I would be clever and bought a truckload of plants a month ahead, thinking they would be at their peak at the time of the show. Well, that didn't pan out, so I started over and went on a couple more shopping trips the weekend before the show. I knew the effect that I wanted, it was just a matter of finding plants at a typically dull time of year at the nurseries.

I made it a game to find enough plants to make a display with impact. Many came from Annie's Annuals, where I had bought plants a month prior. This time, I found Abucas, Linarias, Gomphrenas, Lavandulas and Verbenas in bloom. From Half Moon Bay (650-726-5392) I picked up Stipa and more Verbena. From Sierra Azul, worth the long haul, Trichostemma, Tagetes, Chrysocephalum and Salvias. I even gleaned the clearance section of Flowercraft, and among the scores were budding poppies (in November) and Salvia spathacea , which I urged visitors to rub and smell, much to their delight.

Putting the tubs together took some on my feat resourcefulness, empty nursery cans, cardboard and the help of three good friends, Sam, Ken and Mike.

I made a small handout explaining that the way I filled the tubs was not the same way that I planted in ground. The density was thick, and some of the species would have overpowered their neighbors at that spacing in a couple seasons. Still, I was impressed by how well the effect turned out, and I'm looking forward to trying some of those combinations in the real world.

Would I do the Green Festival again? Probably not, but now that I have the experience, I'm thinking of doing future garden shows.

*to you Brits, 'homely' in America is pretty much the opposite of what it means back home.

Dean Ouellette 415-820-1623