WHAT DOES AN internationally renowned garden show “across the pond” have to do with one woman’s starry-eyed championship for the Pacific Northwest growing paradise that we call home? You’re about to find out.
Sue Nevler is a passionate gardener and an untiring advocate for public gardens and green spaces where plants bring people together. Nevler is also the creative force behind this year’s Seattle Satellite of Chelsea Fringe.
London’s Chelsea Flower Show, the grand dame of all horticultural extravaganzas, has been around for more than 100 years. With opulent gardens, marquees brimming with perfect plants and the occasional royal sighting, Chelsea is posh.
In contrast, Chelsea Fringe is all about gardeners, not gardens. Dreamed up by garden writer Tim Richardson in 2011, the Fringe is a not-for-profit collective of volunteers celebrating the many ways in which garden-making intersects with art, literature, music, food, craft — you know, everything. From tree planting and tea and cake in the garden, to canine floral crowns and al fresco musical interludes, Chelsea Fringe events are as diverse, eccentric and inclusive as the gardeners behind them.
Now in its 11th year and back in real life after last year’s appropriately virtual events, Chelsea Fringe has grown into an encouraging community spread throughout London and the UK with ever-growing international involvement. According to the Chelsea Fringe website (chelseafringe.com), anyone and everyone can participate in the open-access festival, provided the event is “on-topic, legal and interesting.”
Enter Seattle. When Nevler found out there had never been a Chelsea Fringe event in all of North America, she got busy. “The Pacific Northwest horticultural scene is first-rate,” she enthuses. “Plantspeople from our region have connections that ripple across the globe. It’s time for Seattle to make a big splash.”
The Seattle Satellite of this year’s Chelsea Fringe, which runs May 21 through 29, features events, both in-person and online, celebrating the art and craft of making gardens. Discover 25 disarming portraits of horticultural heroes depicted by photo-chameleon Miles Nevler and posted on public telephone poles throughout Seattle’s Chinatown International District, while members of the Seattle Garden Club are presenting an online photo exhibition of embellished bumbershoots designed to thwart gray skies with color and beauty.
Botanical beauty crafted by Seattle ceramic artist Laura Brodax fills the gallery wall of Modern Glaze (modernglaze.com), open from noon to 6 p.m. May 21-22 and 26-29. Outside the studio, local gardener Sandra Banducci has created a lush streetside container display of beautiful Pacific Northwest flowers and plants. On Sunday, May 29, Modern Glaze hosts butoh dancer Joan Laage performing “Dance Among the Porcelain” with strands of handcrafted flower garlands created by artist Lana Sundberg.
Shift Gallery (Shiftgallery.org) presents a pop-up show of quirky garden follies May 27-28 featuring ceramic sculptures by David Traylor and joyful garden-inspired paintings by Anna Macrae. And at some point, acclaimed mystery writer and Seattle gardener Marty Wingate will read from her Chelsea Flower Show murder mystery, “The Bluebonnet Betrayal.”
At PowellsWood, a Northwest pleasure garden in Federal Way, exuberant head gardener Justin Henderson celebrates “Joie de Vivre in the Garden” with a series of videos including a live online tour of the lush spring garden, an “entirely ridiculous dance performance,” and a montage of daily discoveries and garden moments. Also presenting in a public garden setting, Richie Steffen, Elisabeth Miller Botanical Garden executive director and fern fanatic, will post an instructional video demonstrating how to create a fern table, a tabletop woodland display that Steffen has mastered.
Me? I’m hosting a Chelsea Fringe Color Collective takeover on my #seeingcolorinthegarden feed, complete with free download materials inviting anyone and everyone to begin capturing and recording the colors in their garden. Head to Chelseafringe.com for further details and to explore the delightful roster of in-person and online events — both near and far.