Last year when I wrote about the Northwest Flower and Garden Show I talked a lot about how the gardens didn’t feature wildlife habitat, but could have easily done so and I featured specific examples. I also expressed hope that a nature organization would partner on a display garden. This year, my hope was realized with the Birdsong Garden, which was a partnership between the Washington Park Arboretum Foundation and Seattle Audubon. The garden aimed to illustrate the variety of bird habitat which can be found in the Washington Park Arboretum and featured many native plants including Indian Plum, Kinnikinnick, Evergreen Huckleberry, Red-flowering Currant, Salal, Salmonberry, Vine Maple and others. The corner of the garden replicated the habitat of Marsh Island, which was featured in Marsh Madness (Brackishology):: Marsh & Foster Islands and ‘the Fill’. There was also a woodland edge and towards the back of the garden was a forested area. Perhaps the centerpiece of the garden was the bird blind which drew visitors in to view the garden through it. Carved replicas of some of the most common bird species were placed in appropriate locations throughout the garden for visitors to discover including species such as American Goldfinch, Anna’s Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, Steller’s Jay and Cedar Waxwing, 20 in all. Also in the garden were actual bird nests and a snag.
The Birdsong garden won a gold medal from the show as well as the Pacific Horticulture magazine award. I was a docent for a few hours representing Seattle Audubon and had the chance to talk with visitors as they viewed the garden. Many of the visitors enjoyed the garden and claimed it as their favorite at the show. There was also great interest in the bird blind and much discussion on how people could replicate it at home, especially when many homeowners have a great amount of woody debris from this winter’s snow and ice storm.
It was very exciting to see a garden at the show devoted to habitat, it was the first I had seen in the three years I’ve been attending. Some other gardens at the show also featured birds, but mostly in an art form such as gates or paintings and not in actual habitat. One notable garden titled Pictures At a Northwest Exhibition – Rhapsody In Green had created an interesting insect hotel tower made up of found or reused materials. Aside from the plastic straws, which are not good for bees to nest in because they retain too much moisture, it looked like a good place for insects. The garden also featured a duck coop with a wetland green roof, native plants, a cistern, green walls and water features. Many of the materials throughout the garden were reused, such as auditorium seats, or recycled, such as the water features which were recycled plastic.
While it would be possible to write about the missed opportunities again this year as I did in last year’s post, it’s nice to be able to feature not one, but two gardens which featured habitat this year. Hopefully this trend will continue into the future.