A celebration was underway at the acclaimed 30th annual Northwest Flower and Garden Festival last week, where designers from across the country flocked to the Washington State Convention Center and created displays exhibiting this year’s theme of “Garden Party.” Islander Melissa Schafer was among them.
For their work, Schafer and her design team drew inspiration from one of the most famous parties of the year: Mardi Gras.
“Our garden is different than the others because we have three small spaces,” she said late last week, taking a break from the show.
Each vignette that she and her team designed evoked fundamental New Orleans culture. A private brick courtyard from a French Quarter fantasy was anchored by the façade of a brightly painted townhouse. Hanging above was a web of Spanish moss draped from heavy tree branches, which were adorned by nearly 500 beaded necklaces. A concrete water fountain was host to an assortment of colorful annuals. Planning took eight months and presented some unique challenges. Multiple forklifts were needed to transport the extensive stonework, carpentry and mulching required for each of the scenes. But the finished project lived up to its namesake: Kache Un Bijou, A Hidden Jewel.
“We completed it Monday night (Feb. 5) and the show was on Wednesday (Feb. 7). It’s a very restricted timeline,” said Schafer, who, with her husband, owns a landscaping business on Vashon that they began together in 2007. Their company, Schafer Specialty Landscape and Design, is a member of the Washington State Nursery & Landscaper’s Association (WSNLA). The nonprofit organization helped bring the garden to life, inviting Schafer and her team to represent them and the state horticultural community at the festival.
“It was just about having fun,” she said. “I think this show is a fun opportunity to be a part of.”
More than setting her business apart, joining the association at the festival gave Schafer a chance to promote their industry and the professional standards she believes are essential to its future.
“I think on Vashon, people are pretty rooted to the landscape around them,” she said. “There are a lot of people in this industry, and a lot who don’t do sustainability or use good horticultural practices.”
The festival was estimated to draw crowds of 60,000 to 65,000 attendees throughout its five day schedule, which is usually held in February.
Islanders have often been part of the famed garden show. Last year, Dig Nursery won the Best in Show Exhibitor’s Award, capping the nursery’s 18-year presence there. And in 2016, islander Jon Crouch won for his English-inspired garden. This year, Apple Cox Design, a Vashon-based art and illustration vendor, also featured original work throughout the week at the festival marketplace.