Highlights and Lowlights from the 2011 San Francisco Garden Show

Just got back from the San Francisco Garden Show, and man has it ever expanded since the last time I went (in the old Fort Mason days). I scored some cool swag, met so many amazing movers and shakers in the garden world (and everyone was so SWEET!), and got to make both horrified and delighted faces at the display gardens.

Here are some of the highlights:

The Annie’s Annuals booth (photos from Annie’s Annuals Facebook Page). This photo was taken before the show – during, we could hardly squeeze in it was so popular:

annies annuals booth

Jenny Peterson and Laura Schaub visiting the Annie’s booth:

jenny and interleafie!


Amy Stewart and I deciding which plants to buy. I wanted this ‘Bill Wallis’ Geranium:

amy and gen garden show geranium 'Bill Wallis' from Annie's Annuals


We then oohed and ahhed over these seriously awesome bugs by artist Sean Goddard. I want one!

bugs bugs (2)


Visited the Atlas Glove display where Amy tried on the new kids’ rubber ducky gloves. Sorry Amy, when they say extra small they really mean it.

IMG_3622 - Copy IMG_3620


This is for my hoseAlmost bought an Ultimate Hose Nozzle, which is my favorite style of nozzle and has an incredibly cool feature where you can turn it off in either direction. My existing one only turns off after cycling through the SUPER POWER SPRAY, so if the phone rings while I’m watering I have to scare the chickens to turn the darn thing off. This one can turn off at the gentle shower end of things, too.

I didn’t buy it there because they don’t come in purple, and were $30! I’m sorry, but if I’m buying a $30 hose nozzle I want it in my favorite color. Luckily when I got home I found it cheaper on Amazon. Score!

We were suitably awed by this, erm, interesting lettuce display. I was puzzled, to say the least:


lettuce display - Copy

This display garden made me outright mad. Seriously? Azaleas next to lavender crammed in with gardenias and daisies. There is no design statement here, except maybe tacky. And it won the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers Gold Medal Award. Why, I can’t say. Maybe because anyone trying to replicate that at home would end up buying all new plants every year because they all freaking DIE?awful

I was so grossed out. It felt like a bad dream.

tacky everything

Luckily, this gorgeous, succulent-walled dovecote distracted me from the above eyesore. It definitely gets my “coolest thing in the whole show” award.

the best dovecote ever

The walls are made of succulent frames that are drip-irrigated and look almost like a landscape painting. Incredible!

doves done in succulents on the side


closeup succulents wall

I loved the straw stuffed into the top, as though a rook had roosted there:

rook's nest!

Then, this landscape by the West County College Landscape Architecture Club made me so happy. Living walls planted with native Dudleya hassei, blooming Ceanothus, beautiful relationship between hardscape and plantings:

living wall, natives

dudleya hassei wall by west valley college landscaoe architecture club photo by annies annuals

(Close-up photo of the living wall by Annie’s Annuals.)

I was glad to see the California Landscape Contractors Association had the sense to recognize this beautiful work with a medal. Nice!

I loved the Star Apple edible landscape, too. So many inspiring touches:





Chicken coop with a living roof, cute bee hex:

chickens! cute bee hex! - Copy


patterened but not stuffy

sweet foliage combos

Johanna Silver’s alternatives to raised vegetable beds:

display by johanna silver

Also checked out this no-mow yoga garden:yoga area


yay! No Mow


What a fun time. We hit snow on the way back to Humboldt and almost didn’t make it home. Phew! Thank you Caltrans for clearing the road!still more snow

Want to see more from the San Francisco Garden Show? Check out these posts:

A fantastic video by Cindy McNatt of the show (I’m in the very last shot!)

The SF Garden Show, Contained: Planter Ideas for Balcony Gardeners

Rockin’ It: Odd and Innovative Use of Stone at the SF Garden Show

Edible Landscaping Ideas from the SF Garden Show

23 responses to “Highlights and Lowlights from the 2011 San Francisco Garden Show”

  1. Glad I missed your weather – I feel your pain, we’ve had icy springs for 6 straight years – but the show looked great, except where you noted! The azaleas with lavenders – sounds like the firm I worked for in San Diego, using azaleas as annuals in that near-desert soil type. Not sure I get into the “drip irrigated succulent vertical wall” trend, but a minor detail. Very creative for sure! Enjoy living in an area where creativity is cared-about or even allowed outside…..

    • David, none of my clients seem to be lining up for a succulent wall that needs periodic replanting, is expensive to get started with, etc, either. But it’s neat to see something that is in such a fantasy world that could actually be done at home, even if on a much smaller scale. I want to make a small succulent frame just for fun.

  2. Gen, It looks like a fun and inspiring time. That’s an interesting point about the gold medal winning design. I hope ‘the powers that be’ will take your comments into account in the future since it would seem the standards for winning a medal should involve more than cramming a bunch of colorful plants into a little area. I especially liked the edging in the no-mow yoga lawn – and I right in assuming that’s a bunch of terra cotta pots.

    • Debbie – YES!!! They were totally terra cotta pots! Cool, huh? I don’t think it’s very practical but it was certainly interesting, and maybe could be incorporated into an actual garden someday.

  3. I gotta say I kinda like the strange sci-fi lettuce… I don’t want it at home, but I absolutely go to garden shows for the strange and the fanstastic.
    But that award winning display garden… wha??? I’m willing to forgive bad design it is includes really cool plants, and I’m willing to forgive irrational plant choices if it is beautiful, but that thing had no redeeming qualities whatsoever…

  4. Thanks for the great report. Looks like a lot of fun. I share your opinions on both the succulent wall thingamajig and the gold medal winning display.

  5. thanks for sharing! the lettuce thing – weird, but cool at the same time…. lol. and i love the no mow fine fescue! i need to look into that! awesome.

    • Yeah, I remember the pics of that dining room last year – very cool. Fern, I was so bummed you couldn’t make it this year. I’m so looking forward to meeting you one of these days…

  6. Nice review Gen.
    I was captivated by the fine ‘bug’ art from Canadian artist Sean Goddard and hope to visit his studio this June when I visit his hood with The Hortisexuals.
    Annies Annuals booth was jammed pack when I strolled by. It was good to see the economy picking up !!
    In the past 10 years or so there has always been some horrors along side with some outstanding design craftsmanship. Hopefully as the years go on and the economy improves they will once again ‘curate’ the design propositions as they are submitted for display consideration . It would also enhance the show ‘s appeal if they invited some of the masters of landscape design as they once did during the Ft. Mason days.
    A ‘historical’ nod to the founding fathers of landscape architecture would be a great draw along side with the new contemporary masters of landscape design.

  7. Michelle! I loved your review of the show, too! It cracked me up that we commented on so many of the same things.
    I stopped in my tracks when I saw that bug art. Tell him to get a flippin’ website up! I got home and wanted to link to him and maybe buy his stuff, but can’t find a source online.
    Oh man, yeah, those Annie’s peeps were hoppin’! Only thing that bummed me out was falling in love with Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ and finding that it had been the popular plant of the day. All gone… Luckily they’re still growing them, so another month or so and I’ll be in business.
    I’m shocked to hear they don’t curate the exhibits! I hope if they ever begin to, that you’ll be consulted. That certainly explains a few of them. Though I was really very excited about a lot of the elements there.

  8. What fun Gen!!! Thanks for the tour. I liked the little video with you and Amy at the end. I really liked the corrugated panels. By the way….right here on Fickle hill….we have Bill Wallis for sale. One Bill Wallis and then you will have lots of Bills….seeds easily.

  9. Love the succulant wall art – very cool! I must admit I am disappointed at the apparent absence of dwarf conifers – anywhere. Sigh.

    Loved your enthusiastic post! Thanks for sharing a glimpse of your adventure.

  10. Thanks for sharing your pictures. I would have liked to have gone, but I used up my garden show ticket with the Philadelphia Flower Show. Anyway, loved seeing what I missed. About the lettuce display, it seems oddly fascinating, but it bothers me to see so much plastic heavily outweighing the plants it is showcasing. Just seems wrong!