Re-characterization is around every corner. Windows, old metal signs, heater vents, radiators, architectural columns, we could go crazy picking out things, but there is a line between cluttering up a garden and creating artistry from found objects.We even found the old door keys we needed, come to the show to see how those are going to be used…crazy cool!
“A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but waste is a terrific thing to mind.” –
“The Green Book” by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen
So here’s the background on my garden.
I have attended the Northwest Flower and Garden show since 2003, but my first true involvement in the show was in the year 2005. My mom and I (as an almost twelve-year-old) collaborated on a designed a garden titled, “A Child of The Garden Grows.” The design was based on what an ideal garden would be like for a school-aged child. The garden’s popular characteristic was the purple trees. A greenhouse was set to look like a tree house, and on the four corners of the greenhouse were dead Madrona trees we had painted bright purple. During that show, I was soon nicknamed “The Purple Tree Girl” by Ciscoe Morris and plenty others. My horticulture career was about to blossom. 😉
During the 2009 Northwest Flower and Garden show, there was discussion between my mom and I about the next show. Since the output for the flower show is immense, my mom developed the idea to design a garden every two years of the show; one year on, one year to have a break between. According to the pattern the next show was 2011 for her, my graduation year. We thought, hmmmm, “Senior exhibition!”
The point of a senior exhibition in high school is to discover a way to involve yourself in the community. Most kids pick a volunteer project such as Habitat for Humanity, or creating their own event to raise money for a cause. I went a different route. I decided to submit a special design to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in July of 2010.
The theme for the 2011 Garden Show is literature, and I knew exactly who I was going to use: Henry David Thoreau. Some say he was ahead of his time, some say he was controversial, but either way, he is completely right in certain ways. His essay “Paradise (to be) Regained” is a review of Joseph Etzler’s book.
“Etzler talked much about the taming of nature. Gardens would replace swamps; mountains could be leveled and the land made useful for human habitation; forests cultivated; the ugly and unfriendly areas of the natural world made beautiful and friendly. Thoreau, who claimed that the wilderness is the salvation of mankind, certainly had doubts about making nature serve narrow economic ends.Thoreau thought that while the idea of working with nature to improve human life is not without merit, we should not believe that a life of material ease can substitute for the need for wild nature to provide aesthetic and spiritual values for our soul. And an absolute triumph over nature might rob us of the goods nature provides us freely without mechanical labors when we attend to her with respect” (Moran, par 6).
You can see why I picked Thoreau. A huge part of my garden design is recycling, re-purposing, and “re-characterizing” used materials. My goal and intent for this garden is to have eco-minded green and fun ideas that anyone could instill in their lives. I want the message to get out that not everyone can afford solar panels or hybrid cars, but anyone can and will make a difference by using a little bit less and utilizing what they already have. My generation is facing the difficult challenge of using less and conserving more, so any little bit from anything helps.
You, yes you, can be the change you want to see in the world.
1Moran, James.”Thoreau’s ‘Paradise to be Regained'”. Utopia, Philosophy Now.
Well then, let’s get to it! Hi there, I’m Courtney Goetz. I’m a seventeen year old senior attending Gig Harbor High School, and as you know, a display garden designer this year at the Northwest Flower and Garden show.
I think the best way to introduce myself is telling you how I got into gardening.
Growing up on the potato farm in Idaho, there was never a time of boredom. Being seven years old, most of what I did was make mud pies on Grandma’s porch, play on the farm equipment, and have sprinkler fights or pick off the buds on the Lilac bushes to throw at my older sisters (sorry Mom, never knew they actually had a purpose on the plant.) We had a 460 acre farm, and I picked random places to explore, build forts on and claim as my own. Along with adventures, I helped my mom in the greenhouse and in the flower fields not as a chore, but just because it was something fun to do. We even got a field trip of my kindergarten class to come out to the farm and learn about plants and take home a planted sunflower seed.
After we moved from Idaho up to Washington, our play space was reduced to a claustrophobic amount. But, there still was an acre of unexplored and very native vegetation, and if I could crawl through bushes to it, it was mine. I can think of three places that I claimed.
Two different spots were in the front yard with tall trees, Salal, Huckleberries and a stick fort with tree stump chairs. Another spot was in the backyard: it was my hide-and-seek spot. I’d crawl about 12 feet into the thick of bushes and clear out a tiny space only I could fit in.
I used it so much the dirt became quite comfy, and no one could ever find me because they’d give up so easily. 🙂
Seven years later, most of my evidence is gone or cleared away. But as we cleared away bushes, the forest of native plants changed to perennials and yard maintenance. I was gardening, whether I liked it or not. Don’t worry, most of the time I did. My love for gardening matured from exploring stick forts to having flower beds and cutting lavender.
The fascination of gardening with kids is being able to see the effects of their effort with a touch of unknown science, e.g. planting a seed and watching it grow into a sunflower. My fascination was no different than normal, I just believe it was prolonged exposure to it. I was lucky to be a part of my mom’s work sometimes because I knew not many my age had the opportunities or knowledge I had. And I’m not saying it is effective to have a child grow up in a high maintenance yard to get them to like gardening, I’m saying the little extra exposure and education from my parents really shaped my love for it all.
For those of you who know Courtney, you also know what she has been through for the past two years. In April 2009, this vibrant, normal healthy teenager doubled over in pain. A pain radiating from her stomach that she would describe as swallowing nails or someone cutting her open. We could only control it with IV pain medication in the hospital for a week. So the mystery began and continues today. Courtney lives in pain every day; it surrounds her and has become her. Our battle is not to let it define her. Three hospital stays, multiple trips to the ER and every test to poke, prod, scan, scope, inject , swallow, radiate; she’s been there and still no answer. She has become a child who never could swallow pills to young woman who manages multiple medications to help control her chronic pain (and ones control the side effects of the meds that control the pain). Our new family motto? “Redefining Normal” Because normal is not what it was two years ago, nor is it for a teenager.
Here comes the flower show.
Before she became sick, we had talked about the show. It was in her head to do it as her senior project and it caught hold of her and simply would not let go. We spent long hours of serious contemplation about whether she should. The pain can be debilitating and exhausting and when it is out of control it means the hospital, it is unpredictable at best. Knowing this, one thing always comes into focus, when she works on the show and gets in the pure creativity of it; the pain becomes a background to her. I have marched her though rows of greenhouses of plants wondering if she will get too exhausted, but somehow she finds joy instead. Her eyes light up over the possibilities we find at our favorite re-purposing store Earthwise in Seattle. She is transformed and the pain does not define her in these moments. There are a few who have disagreed with her decision to continue with the project, but by far almost everyone has supported her. Her sisters and I have her back, in case a pain episode slows her down. This is a glimpse of her life story and she hates that I tell it, but for those who know what she is going through, the support of prayers, love and encouragement are all her to ways to find joy. I like to call it “choosing joy”.
One of the challenges of designing a garden in February is finding plants that have maturity. The goal is to have plants showing what they look like in a full, lush garden. There are the tricks of the trade we have to do to make the garden look mature, but it starts with getting plants up to size and in “show worthy” condition.
As we were searching for plants last fall, I told Courtney that I found some Grevilleas at the NHS plant sale and I think she should look at them. We drove to a greenhouse to check them out. They were over-flowing 5-gallon pots and loaded with buds. She closely inspected the plants. When her pain is acting up, she typically is lack-luster in response, so I wondered if she was tired and in pain or simply did not think they’d work out for the garden. Know how I figured out she was happy with the plants?
She was puttering around the greenhouse further and she came across a plug tray of teeny, tiny “hens and chicks” sempervirens. She carefully plucked two of them out of the tray, turned to me holding them up to her eyes exclaiming, “Did you see the size of those Grevilleas?” Between giggles, I managed to get out my cell phone and take a picture. So glad her illness has not stolen her humor…
It has been interesting…the questions about the Northwest Flower and Garden show. Who is Courtney Goetz, garden designer?
Here is your introduction
She is my 17-year-old daughter. She has two older sisters who had already started school when she was born, so she was my sidekick when I had a small garden business in Idaho. She became a child of the garden by osmosis. She simply absorbed her environment. She learned botanical names and rattled them off to customers as if they were her natural language as she puttered in the greenhouse with an oversized watering can.
Fast forward to 2004
In 2004, I built my first display garden at the show and Courtney was too young to help us build, but when the show opened, she came and handed out brochures. As I watched her work the crowds she was a natural, answering questions about plants, not intimidated at all by the massive crowds. I wondered if she were to design a garden for the show, what it would look like.
A child of the Garden Grows
This was the garden I produced in 2005 based on Courtney’s ideas. The centerpiece of the garden was a beautiful wood greenhouse made to look like a tree house resting on purple painted Madrona tree branches. Courtney was once again too young to help us build, but I still remember the look in her eyes when she saw the completed garden for the first time. Magical! She handed out brochures during the show again and she was an absolute pro. I had a woman pull me aside with a smile and say, “who is that child?” she is spouting off botanical names and telling great information. She was impressed and I was proud.
As time went on, Courtney helped build for the 2007 and 2009 shows. She finally was able to experience the creative hum of how the show really is built. Show garden building has always been a family affair with my two oldest daughters and husband pitching in. After the show in 2009, we were having a discussion around the dinner table and it came up that my rotation to do the show next would be her senior year in high school. That crazy light bulb went off over her head, as we began to chatter about how fun it would be to make it her senior project.
Follow along as Courtney and I blog about the final countdown to the show in February.