Thursday, March 21, 2013

Springtime in Chicago: The Flower and Garden Show

The calendar may say it is now spring, but you wouldn't know it otherwise.  It was 25 degrees (-4 C.) when I awoke yesterday morning, and blustery winds penetrated my heavy winter coat to chill my bones as I walked the quarter-mile trek from my car to my Tai Chi class later in the morning.  Despite the feeling that winter is going to linger on for awhile, for one brief afternoon last week it truly felt like spring as friend Beckie and I visited the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.

Although we skipped the show last year and visited the Indianapolis show instead, we have attended the Chicago show for several years and feel somewhat like old hands now at navigating Chicago transportation. This year we were smarter and asked the taxi to drop us off at the Flower Show entrance, rather than walk the 5/8 mile path through all the shops and exhibits of Navy Pier to get to the east end of the building.  Even without the signs, we knew we had arrived when we spotted this huge bust bedecked with greenery and blooms outside the show's entrance.

Once we entered the showroom, our spring-starved eyes were immediately drawn to the displays of spring blooms.  Tulips of every color imaginable were everywhere.  Oh, how I do love tulips!

And hyacinths . . . those with a keen sense of smell didn't even need to bend down to catch a whiff of their intoxicating fragrance.

How I wish my spring garden looked like this!  I took quite a few photos of this garden--probably my favorite--but mostly I just stood and drank it all in.  The display was beautiful enough as it was, but a colored light wheel hidden in the middle highlighted the pink and white tulips, changing their hue--which accounts for the strange coloration in this photo.

The theme for this year's show was "Art in the Garden," as evidenced by this unique artist's palette.  I must admit the theme wasn't as obvious as some in past years, but it really didn't matter, as Beckie and I enjoyed the plant displays more than anything.

The "InspirAsian" garden was a calm oasis in the middle of the show. I was impressed when I learned that this garden was designed and built by students of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences who took ideas from their connection with sister schools in Japan and South Korea. These high school horticulture students always create an interesting display at the show, but this year's was especially impressive.

Ponds and waterfalls were featured in another display garden, "A Water Sonata."  The first pond as you entered was the smallest, but a charming one and a practical size for almost any home landscape.

The water features grew larger as you progressed through the garden, ending with this unique waterfall as you exited.  I was entranced by this "grand" idea, but the ex-pianist in me couldn't help thinking what a shame to ruin this once-beautiful instrument.  Still, it certainly was an attention-getter.

While we may have missed some of the art as we passed through the different gardens, Beckie and I both enjoyed the whimsical sculptures in the garden designed by Rich's Foxwillow Pines Nursery.  This froggie band was made from rusted pieces of farm and industrial machinery.  They made you want to boogie along with them.

Besides the display gardens, there are always other attractions as well.  A few years ago, creative hats were a crowd-pleasing display.  This year "Footwear: Women's Stories" showcased decorative footwear designed by Chicago textile artists to represent "a defining moment in their lives."  Accompanying each unique pair of shoes or boots was a short explanation from the artist explaining what the footwear symbolized to her.  These peacock slippers would have definitely appealed to my young granddaughter!

I don't remember the story behind these leafy boots, but I think any gardener can relate to them:)

Colorful dancing shoes almost beg you to do the rhumba!  I wish I had taken a photo, though, of my favorite display--a pair of sturdy work boots with one tongue stretched out nearly two feet in length on which the shoemaker had engraved her story of creating handmade shoes for customers around the world.

Other displays scattered throughout the exhibition hall were of elaborate cake designs. I wanted to reach out and take a lick of this little gnome's beard to make sure it really was made of frosting, but I don't think the exhibitors would have appreciated that.  So I just took their word that all of this was edible.

Visiting a show like this, I always come away with a few ideas to try in my own garden, and this year's Chicago Flower Show was no exception.  But before this gets too long-winded, I think I'll save some of those ideas for another day, so stay tuned for part II.

By the time we had to leave the show, the sun had disappeared, and the clouds were unleashing a swiftly falling snow.  The snow followed us all the way home, but for a few short hours on this day, we had been transported into a floriferous spring!


  1. Great post Rose. I was anxiously awaiting to read what you had to say about the show. It looks like it was great fun. I love the music theme of the piano and frog sculptures. Now I can't wait to see what really inspired you. Try to stay warm. Spring is bound to get here sometime soon.

  2. Hi Rose. Lots of creativity in the show and in your photographs. I liked the leafy boots and piano fountain best -- other than plants, of course. Our garden show is more house than garden anymore, so it's fun to get a peek at exhibits in other cities.

  3. Rose, very interesting flower show. I saw many creative people live in Chicago: the garden ideas are great, with waterfall, stones, Asia garden. And shoes show is awesome! I love leaf shoes!

  4. I love going to garden shows because I get so many ideas. My favorites were the artist's palette and the froggie band. I'm glad you were able to "get away" from the snow for a while!

  5. What a wonderful place to visit on a chilly spring day. It's below freezing in Maine too and I'm meeting a friend to ski soon. We got 8 inches on Tuesday, covering the few shoots breaking through the ground. I'm hungry for tulips. Thanks for sharing those from the Chicago show.

  6. Lisa, I do wish you could have joined us! I thought the show was much better than the one we attended two years ago, but maybe that is because we hadn't attended in awhile. We're supposed to get snow this weekend:(

    DJ, We went to the Indianapolis show last year, which I thought was more house/patio than gardens. The Chicago show is more focused on gardening, thankfully. I was a little disappointed in the lack of new plants, though.

    Nadezda, Yes, there were lots of creative ideas here. I always come away with something I can copy.

    Christy, The froggie band was just so darned cute! It makes me want to scavenge around in our barn for something I could use in my own garden. But my creation would just look like a piece of rusty metal:)

    Sarah, Sounds like you're making the best of your snowy winter! We're supposed to get more this weekend, but about the only skiing around here is cross-country--no hills:)

  7. Hi Rose, What a delightful taste of Spring! It all looked so creative and sumptuous. I loved that first, tiny pond and all the shoe creations. It must have been wonderful to enjoy exploring the displays without fear of rain or snow! I did have a vision of you licking the exhibits ;-)

    We have heavy snow forecast for tomorrow...will Spring never arrive?!

  8. I love art in the garden. Such a good theme and wow-springtime already wrapped up in a nice show!

  9. Love all the whimsical touches. The froggies got my attention right away (they look like they're having the best time!) but I'm glad you pointed out the piano/waterfall. I didn't notice it at first, what an amazing idea - although I won't be taking apart my piano anytime soon.

  10. Oh I want the dancing shoes!

    The scent from those hyacinths must have been amazing. And that little gnome! What a creation.

  11. I loved that mixture of Spring flowers behind the logs. I also wish my garden looked like that!
    Some of those shoes/boots made very unusual studies........ as did that head with the plants growing out of it.
    Maggie x

    Nuts in May

  12. Have been horrid catchin' up with dear bloggin' friends but ... thank you, thank you, dear Rose ... I so enjoyed the whimsical froggie band garden ... and how is dear Beckie? Love to see that Thelma & Louise are still 'on the road again' and 'boogie-ing'!

  13. I would send some warmth from Southern California- but in no-time you'll just send it back):-

    Lovely shots of the flower show. Thank you.

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  15. Rose, I know that the displays were balm for your winter-weary souls ... I hope this storm is winter's last hurrah!

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  17. Based on your post and others who went to the Chicago show, it looks like it was fabulous this year! I will have to try to make it next year. I missed the Madison one this year, too. It would be fun to meet you at one of the garden shows! I just got back from visiting my folks in Florida, so I'm catching up on blog visits. Cheers!

  18. I wished I was there. Wow what a lovely atmosphere with all it's brilliant colours. As a piano lover I know what you mean but I think I never could create an idea like this.
    I hope spring will be around your garden in short time Rose.
    Have a wonderful day.

  19. and a wonderful time was had by all...I wished I had been there with you and Beckie! gail

  20. Beautiful spring at you, a bit I am envying since at me behind the window still winter. I am greeting

  21. I was so unimpressed with the big garden show in Toronto. The Chicago displays look so much better!

  22. Oh, I bet all of those tulips and hyacinths were a welcome sight, and smelled heavenly!

  23. Songbird, We had a wonderful time; I really needed some visions of spring. Hope the snow didn't hit you too bad--we had a big snowstorm this past weekend, and all the schools were closed on Monday. I hope winter is done with us now!

    Tina, I suspect Chicago plans this show so early because gardeners there are even more tired of winter than we are:)

    Marguerite, I had the same thoughts about the piano--it was beautiful, but it made me a little sad, too. I always wanted a grand piano:)

    Liz, I wish I had remembered the story behind the shoes, but the artist had a Latin heritage. I don't think I could walk in them, let alone dance:)

    Maggie May, I was there to see the flowers, but the footwear display was really interesting--so many creative artists!

    Joey, Yep, Thelma and Louise still hit the road occasionally! We're hoping to do more short plant expeditions this spring.

    Lydia, Southern California sounds heavenly right now--we were blanketed with snow this weekend, so it will be awhile before I see any spring bloomers in my garden.

  24. Cindy, The show definitely helped to soothe my winter-weary soul. The good thing about this weekend's snow is that I'm going to plant poppy seeds today. For several years I've scattered the seeds on top of the melting snow, and it seems to work.

    Plant Postings, It would be so much fun to meet you in Chicago next year! Two years ago, we met up with three fellow bloggers there and had such a great time.

    Marijke, When you're as tired of brown and gray as I am, the show really provided a lift.

    Gail, Me, too!

    Zielona, We're still in the midst of winter, too, but I'm hoping this is winter's last hurrah.

    Jennifer, This year's show still doesn't compare to the first one we saw five years ago, but then maybe we've come to expect so much each year.

    Sweetbay, There were some elaborate gardens on display, but the tulips and other spring bulbs were still my favorite.

  25. What a stunning photo at the end, Rose!
    I loved traipsing through the flower show with you. Thanks for taking us along!
    Even though water features in a garden always make my heart beat faster - I think I liked Mr. Edible Gnome the best this time. What a cool display!

    {{sigh}}} spring gardens are still a ways off - but so nice to enjoy this one.

  26. There's nothing like a show to gladden the heart.~~Dee

  27. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Those spring bulb displays are breathtaking. I can't wait until more of that appears in my garden.


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