Being "country girls," we enjoy the sights and sounds of the Big City. The show is held every year at Navy Pier, giving us a chance to see the the expanse of Lake Michigan as well. I suppose seagulls are a common sight to locals, but not to us living in land-locked Downstate.
But as much as I enjoy visiting the Windy City, I don't enjoy the traffic, so Beckie and I travel up the evening before just south of the city to spend the night and take the train into Chicago the next morning. It also gives us a chance to talk and catch up with each other--except on the train ride home, when we accidentally got into the Quiet Car at rush hour. I don't think the two of us have ever refrained from talking for a whole hour ever before!
Going up a day before also gives us a chance to be refreshed and raring to go for a day of nonstop garden viewing. This year a friend of Beckie's met us at the show; it was her first time attending the show, so it was fun to see everything through the eyes of a first-timer. The entry display above did not disappoint as we walked through the doors.
Surrounding the entry display was a tall trellis filled with flowers. We debated at first what they were, but my guess was camellias. Apparently we weren't the only ones who were confused; later in the day, I noticed a handwritten sign someone had stuck in front of them reading, "Yes, these are camellias." It did seem a little strange that designers had chosen a plant, lovely as it is, that we can't even grow in the Midwest!
The theme of this year's show was "Do Green, Do Good." This display garden called "A Little Bit of Ireland" showed a different kind of "green."
It included several authentic, if rather different, garden accessories. I don't think any of us would add this to our garden!
An interesting part of the display that drew everyone's attention was this round stone hut. It reminded me of a very small Hobbit house.
One feature of the show each year is called "Tablescapes," different dining area tableaus created by local floral designers. This one was rather over the top, but we enjoyed seeing all the succulent arrangements.
Most of the table displays were rather elaborate, but this designer decided to appeal to a different audience. I wonder if any of the visitors turned to their spouse and said, "Honey, we could do this on our patio!"
Another yearly exhibit is by a group of female textile artists, Women's Journeys in Fibers. This year the assignment was creating a mask as a self-portrait, and each work was accompanied by an explanation by the artist. This piece was entitled "Ma Bell Transformed."
My favorite, though, was this garden-themed piece entitled "Maia, Goddess of Spring."
We have gone to the Chicago show for the last six or seven years and have developed a little more critical eye, I suppose. No longer are we those garden innocents who walked around oohing and aahhing in wonderment as we did our first year. But the truth is, the exhibitors have downsized since the first two years we attended. There was the usual creative and large waterfall pictured above.
And one company which specializes in water features had its customary large exhibit of ponds and small waterfalls.
They include a lot of stone as well in their designs; not sure what this was supposed to be--a mini-Stonehenge?
But this exhibitor was the exception, rather than the rule. I remember one year talking to a representative at one of the exhibits who told us about the tons of stone they brought in just for the week-long exhibit. Most of the displays now are much smaller and less elaborate.
One interesting display garden highlighted the plight of the Monarch and was designed to educate visitors on how to create a butterfly-friendly garden. But as I looked around, I noticed the plantings were mostly annuals with no natives or specific host plants for the butterflies. Plant selection throughout the whole show seemed less imaginative in past years with few that caught our eye and sent us scrambling for an i.d. tag.
But enough with the criticism! There is still so much to see at the show that it is well worth the trip. One exhibit that was different from any I've seen in past years was simply called "A Classic Rose Garden." Filled with a variety of roses, it was a rosarian's delight. I don't have many roses in my garden, but I've heard so many good things about 'Julia Child' (above) that I might have to find room in my garden for this one.
The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences always has an interesting display. This year to follow the theme of "Do Green," their exhibit was called "Tiny House, Big (Little) Garden." The focus of the exhibit was the tiniest house I've ever seen, showing how one could live in a much smaller space reducing our ecological footprint. The gardens around the house showed how one could make the most of limited garden space, too, including many compact plants and several miniature gardens.
Note the pine cones used to build this miniature house. I never got the chance to ask if the students had built this themselves, but it certainly was creative.
Another display garden also included some miniature gardens with lots of attention to detail:
Certainly plenty of ideas for any fairy-garden lover!
After seeing all the different exhibits, we always make sure to leave an hour or more to visit the vendors before having to leave. I made a beeline for my favorite vendor, the bulb company, where you can purchase any of the bulbs seen in their gorgeous tulip exhibit. This year I succumbed to the charms of 'Mata Hari,' pictured above.
Although I didn't buy any more of these, I was happy to see 'Patrick's Mix' in their display garden. I purchased these bulbs last year and am looking forward to seeing them blooming in my own garden very, very soon!
We spent the better part of the day at the show, but still didn't see everything. Somehow we missed the window box exhibit this year and didn't take time to go through the photography exhibit. There are also cooking demonstrations, activities for kids, and different gardening seminars throughout every day of the show. The Chicago Flower and Garden Show is well worth visiting, and yes, we do plan to go back next year!