The coordinator of the annual show has a difficult challenge: building 25 three-dimensional gardens from scratch on a concrete floor.

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LLOYD GLASSCOCK, garden coordinator for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, must have one of the more challenging jobs around. He not only recruits designers, but also shepherds them through the process of creating a display garden that’ll exist for only five days within the Washington State Convention Center. That means building 25 three-dimensional gardens from scratch on a huge concrete-floored space with no natural light or air, no breezes and no topography. Let alone bringing plants into bloom in mid-February.

Not only that, but the display gardens are required to conform (somewhat) to a theme, and this year’s is “America the Beautiful,” in honor of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday.

“Part of my job is working with the designers to embrace the theme,” says Glasscock, but he’s not complaining. He believes the ticket-buying public loves a theme. “It sells the entertainment aspect of what we do, and provides some cohesion to the show floor,” he says. He does admit some themes are more challenging than others, and this is one of those challenging ones.

Northwest Flower & Garden Show

The 28th annual Northwest Flower & Garden Show runs Feb. 17-21 at the Washington State Convention Center. Find a complete listing of seminars, times, events and ticket prices at

Some designers take the theme more literally than others — there’ll be a garden celebrating Yellowstone National Park, complete with geysers, and one based on Denali. Others not so much. Jon Crouch, who owns the design-build firm English Landscapes based on Vashon Island, is new to the show this year. His urban cottage-style garden is themed on the city of Seattle, and will include native plants and a conservatory.

I’m not sure how the food garden for Cascadia Edible Landscapes, complete with chickens, fits the theme, but showgoers are sure to be delighted to have a garden dedicated to growing food. And then there’s the wildly creative Judith Jones of Fancy Fronds Nursery, who is riffing on the theme of Broadway. Her garden will feature the musical “Cats,” and a hookup with the Humane Society for cat adoption.

The Washington Park Arboretum’s garden is always a highlight of the show, and this year they’re creating a Hoh Rain Forest scene. The garden will be built within a 10-foot-high box to create the effect of a living diorama.

Other gardens include a “Practice for Zion” climbing wall and a fire lookout high in the Cascades. “The gardens will be very different this year,” says Glasscock, who is anticipating the imminent arrival of tons of stone, bushels of soil and hundreds of trees. It’s nearly time to start the construction and planting, to be unveiled on Feb. 17.

There’s more going on at the show than the display gardens. A huge roster of speakers presents what can feel overwhelmingly rich in possibilities. Seminar manager Janet Endsley recommends a couple of new-to-the-venue speakers. Darcy Daniels, designer and owner of Bloomtown Gardens in Portland, is known for her creative use of small spaces. Kelly Norris, a young designer from Des Moines and author of the new book “Plants With Style: A Plantsman’s Choices for a Vibrant, 21st Century Garden,” is promised to be a high-energy speaker. Gardening 101 panels aimed at newer gardeners are always popular; this year’s choices include “Gardening for Serenity” and “Gardening with Wildlife.”