It's show time.

Weather-weary gardeners will flock to flower and garden shows in February, and there are three excellent such events in Portland and Seattle.

• The Northwest Flower & Garden Show, held Feb. 8 through 12 at the Washington State Convention Center at Seventh and Pike in Seattle, is the largest spring flower show on the West Coast. More than 70,000 visitors are expected to pass through the gates this year, taking in some 350 exhibitions and 139 free seminars and workshops. It takes 300 people a little over three days to set up the show's display gardens. They will work day and night, shoveling 60 dump trucks worth of dirt and mulch to build the gardens. Meanwhile, more than 400,000 rocks and boulders will be placed in the elaborate display gardens. Some boulders will weigh in excess of 7,000 pounds (31/2 tons) each!

If this all sounds way too technical, you might like to know that the show organizers estimate that 96 percent of the attendees are not expert gardeners, so they have planned for lots of user-friendly classes and displays. A symposium for new gardeners, the "Get Growing Symposium," will feature topics such as "25 Plants I Couldn't Live Without," "Getting Started on Organic Gardening" and "Dirt Cheap Gardening & Landscaping for Less." No less accessible are speakers Dan Hinkley, Cass Turnbull and Sean Hogan, as well as Karen Platt, a leader in the bold use of color in the garden. A sampling of course titles for the new "Sprouts Stage" children's seminar series turns up "Going Batty for Bats!" and my favorite, "Gardening is FUN! FUN! FUN!"

The show runs 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets to the 2006 Northwest Flower & Garden Show are $16 in advance (purchased by Feb. 7), $19 at the door, $11 for a half-day, afternoon ticket, $15 for groups of 20 or more, $3 for a child (ages 6 to 17), and free for children 5 and younger. The All-Show Pass is available for $65 and is good for all five days of the show. New this year are a Two-Day Pass for $28; a Premium Ticket for $48 that is available to the first 1,000 buyers and includes exclusive viewing of the display gardens from 8 to 9 a.m., valet parking, and tote bag; and an $8 Student Pass, for students age 25 and younger (must present valid student I.D. at the door). Advance tickets are available for purchase online at www.gardenshownw.com, where you can order tickets and print them out on your home computer.

Sometimes two garden shows take place on the same weekend! Luckily, both are in Portland this time around.

• Featuring a bee garden with live bees and an artisan creating a three-ton rock sculpture honoring the Beatles, the Portland Home and Garden Show might have just a little bit for everybody. The show takes place Feb. 22 through 26 the Expo Center. More than 1,000 vendors offer advice and their home and garden wares. The Garden Gallery of fine art (see Beatles reference above) awaits, as does promised free wine tasting with admission. "Clean Sweep" television star Valerie Bickford presents two seminars, "How to Create Different Design Styles" and "High Style on a Beer Budget: Design Show Insider Tips." If you don't want to pay the admission, but still want to take in the seminar series, you can do that, because they're free. Flower lovers might want to stay for the Standard Flower Show, a horticulture design competition based on this year's theme - Jukebox Saturday Night, hit songs and dances from the '50s and '60s. The Pacific Northwest Orchid Show & Sale returns for its seventh year at the Portland Home & Garden Show.

A plant sale benefiting the Leach Botanical Garden takes place during the show. And on Sunday, the Garden Plant Blow-Out Sale returns. Plants will be for sale the final hours of the show on Sunday low prices. Proceeds from the Plant Blow-Out Sale helps fund Portland Community Gardens.

The hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. General admission is $10, with children ages 6 to 12 $2. For more information, visit www.oloughlintrade-shows.com or call (503) 246-8291. The Web site features discount coupons for tickets.

• The 2006 Yard, Garden & Patio Show at the Oregon Convention Center runs Feb. 24 through 26. It offers a particularly rich serving of horticulture seminars this year, including heuchera developer Dan Heims, Maurice Horn from Joy Creek Nursery talking about gravel gardening as a way to save water (and some plants really, really like it!) and Burl Mostul from Rare Plant Research, who talks about using tropical plants in containers. Display gardens total seven, as well as a Green Market and the Oregon Wine Pavilion. There's an indoor lake planned, and a 20-foot waterfall. Speaking of water features and the people who make them, Eamonn Hughes of Hughes Water Gardens talks about making pondless waterfalls at one of the seminars, which promises to be a good one.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $11 for adults and admission is free for children 12 and younger. The YGP accepts all other garden show coupons. A limited number of advance-purchase tickets are available for $8 at select retail garden centers; for a list of retailers as well as info on coupons and other show details, visit www.ygpshow.com or call (800) 791-2250.

Cathy Peterson belongs to the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association. "In the Garden" appears weekly in Coast Weekend. Please send comments and gardening news to "In the Garden," The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or online to peterson@pacifier.com

Winter is a great time to plan a garden makeover ... but where to start?

The Oregon State University Extension Service can help you organize your thoughts when designing or renovating your home landscape. The publication, "Basic Design Concepts for Sustainable Landscapes," helps you make sense of that tangled space outside your window.

First, take stock of what you have. Which plants are thriving? Which ones have barely survived their low-water regime this summer? Which have outgrown their place in your garden or are squeezed for space or sunlight?

Next, consider your goals. Do you have the time and energy to tend a large, formal garden? Do you want color? Shade? Privacy? Do you want a place to play or a place to snooze?

After considering the use of spaces, consider different arrangements of those spaces. How will people move from one area to the next? How will those spaces be viewed? What are the focal points that catch the viewer's eye?

Sketch a scaled drawing of your property and map the uses, views and pathways you want to enhance. It doesn't have to be fancy.

Now, on paper, fill those spaces with plants. Consider the size relationships of new plants to established trees, buildings, walls and walkways. Keep the arrangements simple and eye-catching. Consider arrangements that will shift with the seasons or with the passing years.

Consider the needs of particular plants. Thirsty plants will fare better if they are clumped together where just one sprinkler can meet all their needs. Let fragrant plants perfume an entryway. Give plants room to grow; resist the temptation to overplant.

Include in your plan all your irrigation and "hardscapes" - your decks, driveways and paths. These are the blood and bones of your garden, and should be planned from the beginning.

"Basic Design Concepts for Sustainable Landscapes" (EC 1533) can help you plan your garden makeover, from setting goals to composing a design to choosing plants.

Download this and several other OSU Extension Service garden design and techniques publications off the Web by going to: http://eesc.oregonstate.edu/agcomwebfile/Ed-Mat/pubresults.lasso?sortnum=0620

Printed copies are also available by mail for $2 per copy plus $3 shipping and handling. To order a copy of EC 1533, send your request with a check or money order payable to OSU to: Publication Orders, Extension and Station Communications, OSU, 422 Kerr Administration, Corvallis, OR 97331-2119.

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