I’m not much of a gardener myself (unless you count the pandemic-fueled raised beds we’ve planted the past few years), but I love admiring the handiwork of green-thumbed friends and neighbors. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just thinking about dipping your toes into a new hobby, my kids and I found the Northwest Flower and Garden Show to be a surprisingly delightful spot for a family outing.
With home gardens mostly hibernating for the winter, local nurseries and landscape design companies pull out all the stops to invoke the joy of a lush garden indoors. Held over a long weekend in February since 1989, this annual tradition’s festivities extend through Sunday (Feb. 13, 2022) at the Convention Center. Get tickets soon or bookmark the event for a future visit.
Flower & Garden Festival: What not to miss
Gardeners from around the Pacific Northwest have only 72 hours to put together the epic display gardens, and it’s a superhuman feat. Each one feels like you’ve been dropped into the backyard of someone with an evergreen thumb.
I loved the NW Orchid Society’s greenhouse, which is staffed by volunteers and filled with their own orchids. Farmer Frog’s “Tribute” garden touchingly honors the essential workers and natural escapes that have carried us through the pandemic. There are even live quail to peek at in the farm area.
While it’s a tad awkward to beeline from the entrance at the Atrium Lobby to the Skybridge area, try to make that your first stop. For one thing, it’s where you’ll find the striking Fleurs de Villes mannequins in their floral finery (you can also stop by Pacific Place for a free peek at other designs). But most importantly, it’s where you’ll find the Show Information booth that hosts the kid’s scavenger hunt.
Very few of the gardens allow walk-throughs (look for Urban Earth Nursery’s garden for one that you can stroll through), and it can be hard to keep little hands from reaching out to touch everything. The scavenger hunt offers a hands-on activity that really made the show for my kids. We searched for glass jars filled with foil-covered chocolate at each of the display gardens and city living patios, then turned in our completed sheets for a prize. Expecting the prize to be one of the chocolates, we were surprised to find out that it’s a potted flower to take home and enjoy in your own garden! My kids might have slightly preferred the chocolate, but my nearly 6-year-old proudly toted her pot around for the rest of the afternoon.
We loved enjoying a unique experience together and getting to stroll around downtown after our visit to the show. Next year, I’ll also return with a friend to take advantage of a Blooms & Bubbles workshop or sip one of the floral-inspired cocktails at the bar!
Flower & Garden Festival: details
Dates and times: February 9-13, 2022. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
Cost: $25 per adult, $10 per student with ID (ages 13-23) and free for kids 12 and under. There are also multiday packages at a discount.
Accessibility: The convention center is ADA accessible. However, during peak times (approximately 9 a.m – 2 p.m.), it can be difficult to navigate wheeled devices (wheelchairs or strollers).
Parking and transportation: The Convention Center has its own garages, but prices are spendy. Enter after 5 p.m. and pay $7 until midnight or look for alternate garages and street parking. Our family likes to take Link light rail to Westlake Station and walk over.
Other garden outings
If you’ve missed this year’s garden show or aren’t ready to venture inside right now, here are some other options for garden adventures:
UW Botanic Gardens Discovery Kit – pick up an inexpensive kit (offered on a sliding scale) or have it shipped to your door. Then head out to explore some of our local gardens with kid-tested activities in hand.
King County Library Master Gardeners for Kids (next session on Feb. 16): designed for kids ages 6-10, participate in a virtual class or pick up materials at the Woodinville branch to learn more about plants’ important roles in our lives.
Garden-themed activities at home: This list is chock full of ideas to include kids in the excitement of gardening.
Places to visit:
8 public gardens worth a visit– we’re fortunate to have multiple public gardens near Seattle (they’re often free). Enjoy a family visit any time of year.
Plant nurseries: Many local garden purveyors have extra features to make them kid-friendly (think play structures and water features). Families love Swanson’s (Ballard), Sky Nursery (Shoreline), Molbak’s (Woodinville) and Watson’s (Puyallup). For a day trip, check out Bainbridge Gardens, Christianson’s Nursery (Mount Vernon), Bayview Farm and Garden (Langley) or the hobbit house at The Brothers Greenhouses (Port Orchard).
Published Feb. 2, 2022