Friday, March 13, 2009

"Thelma and Louise" Visit the Big City*

On a cold and windy afternoon, this past Sunday, Beckie and I set out on one of our biggest gardening adventures so far. We drove north to visit the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, the first time we've ever attended this annual event. We decided to spend the night just south of the Windy City in order to have more time at the show on Monday. At my prompting, we took a commuter train into the city rather than fight the traffic or wander around looking for a parking place. To tell you the truth, another reason we chose not to drive in the city is because Beckie and I are known to often take the scenic route wherever we go--translate: we get lost a lot.

After a relaxing, conversation-filled 50 minute commute by train and a short hop on a city bus, we found ourselves at Navy Pier, the site of this year's Garden Show. This was our first ever visit to Navy Pier, a popular tourist stop with many activities for all ages and a great view of Lake Michigan. Navy Pier is a huge place, a fact we discovered as we walked and walked and walked to get to the far end of the complex where the Flower Show was held. There were a few shops and many small restaurants along the way, but the most interesting part of the walk was the Museum of Stained Glass which lines the wide hallway before the Festival Hall. Marvelling at the many beautiful works of glass took our minds off the long hike. (Later we discovered there is a trolley that stops at the front, the middle, and the end of the Pier. We took advantage of that when we left!)

Finally, we arrived at the entrance to the Flower Show. We were fortunate that it was a Monday, because although there were quite a few people in attendance, we didn't have to fight the crowds that probably were there over the weekend.

What a feast for the eyes! For a little while we could forget that it was only 40 degrees outside and that spring was still weeks away. Flowering spring bulbs were everywhere, from daffodils and tulips . . .

. . . to waves of hyacinths and muscari.

There were other spring flowers, too, including drifts of cyclamen and these hellebores. While we were enticed by new varieties of flowers, the real appeal of the show was in the many displays of sample gardens set up by various organizations.

Garden Girl, Mr. McGregors Daughter, Beckie, and probably several others have already posted their take on the show, so I'll try not to repeat the same scenes here. One of the display gardens was called "America's Back Yard" where these familiar hollyhocks were tucked away in one corner. Every display garden was manned by at least one volunteer who eagerly answered any questions we might have about the plants or the design.

The Victorian Garden featured this antique wooden trunk filled with old-fashioned annuals. The bed in this scene featured a "bedspread" made completely with flowers; that can be seen on Beckie's post.

One display that apparently caught everyone's eye (also seen on Beckie's and Mr. McGregor's Daughter's posts) was this futuristic archeological dig. The title, "Paradise in a Parking Lot," and the idea for the yellow taxi door come from the familiar Joni Mitchell song:

. . . a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.

Now while you hum that tune, I'll explain a little more about the purpose of the display. Ironically, although the three of us all pictured this scene, the real garden lay behind this collection of 20th and 21st century artifacts. Designed by Community Gardens in the Parks volunteers, the garden made use of recycled materials and kites made by children in a local parks program. It was a great example of how an abandoned area can be reclaimed and turned into something beautiful. I believe this was the display where we were told that all the materials used in the garden would be placed in community parks throughout the city after the show.

Another display I enjoyed was "Greening Up" which featured a circular garden showing each of the four seasons. Funny, but both Mr. McGregor's Daughter and I photographed the winter scene. I'm not sure why; perhaps it's because this is the most beautiful display of "winter interest" I've ever seen.

My favorite garden at the Show, though, was this one created by the Chicago Botanic Garden. It included three tilting rooftop gardens, which could be best viewed from the mezzanine. We didn't make it up the stairs, but there was enough on the main level to enjoy.

Although the focus was on recycling and eco-friendly design, it was the Japanese elements that appealed to me. There were all types of water features, Shoji screens, and of course the fitting Japanese maple.

Asian-inspired garden sculptures added to the overall effect. I love Japanese gardens; they always seem so serene and soothing.

Throughout all the gardens, fountains were very popular, including this glazed ceramic small one.

Others were more ornate like this stone fountain. I'm not sure, but if you enlarge the photo you might be able to see the water flowing from the long slab.

Although the theme of this year's show was "A World in Bloom," a common theme of all the gardens was sustainability. Rain barrels were popular from the vendors who sold them to this striking blue one included in a landscape. Notice the vertical planting behind it; these were popular in several displays as well.

One of the best parts of a garden show for me is finding ideas that I can take home. I really liked this milk can on a sloping yard in the "America's Backyard" garden with marigolds spilling out of it. I have a couple of old milkcans at home; you might see something similar in my garden this summer.

With over 20 large gardens and many smaller displays, there was a lot to see at the show. There were also seminars throughout the day, but Beckie and I didn't make it to any of those. Had we been there on Saturday, however, we certainly would have made time to visit the Chicagoland gardeners' workshop on garden blogs. At one end of the exhibit hall was the "Garden Market" with over 100 booths for vendors displaying everything from books from the Chicago Botanic Garden's bookstore to every gardening gadget imaginable. I had no intention of buying too much other than some ShamWow! cloths (for Sophie, of course), but I wound up buying several things including some Dutch bulbs and a Cobrahead tool that should come in handy with the weeding this summer.

All in all, the show was well worth the visit, and Beckie and I had a great time. We "country girls" managed to navigate the Big City quite well, getting on the right trains going and coming. Other than gasping audibly when we were charged $3.00 for a single can of Pepsi, we felt pretty sophisticated. We arrived home very late Monday night, tired but very pleased with the day's adventure.

* Just a little explanation of the title: sometime last summer Joey dubbed Beckie and me "Thelma and Louise" because we often posted some of our little adventures in viewing other gardens. We've taken a liking to those nicknames, although I assure you no person was harmed in this adventure, nor were any vehicles driven off a cliff:)


  1. Oh I know you girls had a great time and your photos Rose are just wonderful. I love garden shows and you can pick up some wonderful ideas. Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

  2. How fun! It looked like a wonderful show.

  3. Rose, What a delightful day...a road trip with a dear friend to the city to hang out with garden plants all day! Perfect ingredients for a perfect day! I hope you do use one of your milk cans...I thought that was a clever idea. The water features always catch my eye, too...I do believe I would love to have one! Thanks for the tour!


  4. Rose, can you believe I was so preoccupied with our presentation that when I was there Saturday I didn't even see the stained glass! I got to go back today though, and saw it then. I wondered how I could possibly have missed it since it runs for a good part of the walk to the exhibition hall. That is a long walk! Today when I left I walked outside and it seemed faster and less confusing. The weather was much better today than it was earlier in the week, so it was nice being outside in the sunshine.

    I'm glad you had a nice time. I missed the hellebores (both times,) so it was nice to see them here.

    You got some wonderful shots! good job getting shots that weren't seen on other blogs. I liked the milk can idea too. I got one last fall at an antiques shop near my mom's and am looking for ideas for it.

    I just have one question - are you Thelma, or Louise?

  5. We are a little like Thelma and Louise aren't we? (As in we are always ready for an adventure!) I am so glad you got photos I didn't and explained a lot of what I missed. Although we both love gardens we do like some different things.

    I think a new bed out front is just what you need for the milk can. I can see it right in the middle of your front yard. :)

    Thanks for a wonderful time-I'm always ready to go adventuring with you!

  6. You didn't happen to see Brad Pitt and try to pick him up, did you, Thelma or Louise? I agree with you, Rose. The Japanese gardens always appeal to me too. They are so serene. The weather's been great here, but I'm still jealous! Navy Pier, garden show, girls' day out, adventure in Chicago....

  7. LOL I purposefully take the scenic route (as in, I'm not lost, but your way works too!). I love how everyone's photos of this show are so different--yours have a certain tranquility to them. And I love getting ideas--the Pepsi may be $3, but ideas are free for the taking! :)

  8. Which one wrote this post, Thelma or Louise? tee hee... I enjoyed reading about your adventure Rose. It is fun to read what captures the eye of people that see the same things.

  9. Thanks for the link love! I'm picturing Beckie as Thelma & you as Louise. LOL! I'm glad you both enjoyed the show. It is funny that we were both drawn to the winter garden display. My winter landscape has a lot of room for improvement, so I might be trying something from there.

  10. No vehicles driven off a cliff perhaps because you all wisely took the train?:) Too cute. I liked taking the trip with you. My favorite is also the Japanese styled gardens. Can't wait to see the milk cans in your garden. It does look quite good with the marigold spilling out. My son and daughter in law were married on the Navy Pier when she was in boot camp at Great Lakes. It is the one and only time I've traveled to Chicago, and I think you two country girls did a great job maneuvering thru the big city.

  11. ... and the Big City will never be the same! Sounds and looks like a grand time had by all. I'm heading to the Indiana Flower and Patio show this weekend sometime!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  12. Rose, you took some great pictures of gardening eye candy! I was just thinking the other day, that it was time for The Adventures of Thelma and Louise. So smart of you to take the train in...I hate navigating in the big city, and that certainly takes the stress out of it so you can enjoy the day.

    I am intrigued by the vertical planter. Were the plants just sitting in individual pots in the spaces? I could see that to help break up the monotony of a privacy fence or a wall.

  13. That was one heck of a show! A perfect outing, Rose! I've never been to garden shows as we don't have them here :(, but seeing many of the creative displays in blogs around makes me want to visit one for real!

  14. I love to visit shows like this and our city used to have a yearly one. However since that was stopped, I haven't managed to visit a Flower Show & that is a great pity.
    London has a wonderful Chelsea Flower Show that I must go to one day.

    Like you, I enjoy the theme entries and I love all the ones you photographed. The little chest with the jewellery falling out. Lovely! And of course, the Japanese........

  15. Hi Rose....

    Tku for bringing back a beautiful memory.....When Mr P and I did a fly drive holiday one year...we started our journey in Chicago....we stood at the waters edge of lake was absolutely beautiful.....

    I must say the 'greening up' display is beautiful and for me that is a personal favourite.....I love the structure and form....

    My brother is a lover of japanese gardens.....I can see why so many like them, but they don't work for me....not quite wild
    I always find them a bit plain....beautiful but plain....
    The best one that I saw, was an amateur gardener who had mixed cottage garden come japanese...for me that was amazing ......

    I love the little girl at the entrance to the garden show....such a lovely photograph.....

    I am so glad that you and Beckie had some time together after all the ups and downs with your 'Dads'.
    I do hope they are improving and that you both have a peaceful and happy weekend. Take care.....

  16. hello..i m here admiring yr flowers...

  17. What a fantastic trip, especially with your best friend. Beautiful photos :)

  18. Susie, We did have a great time, and I'm hoping we get to do something similar soon.

    Sheila, It was, and I hope anyone near Chicago got to see it.

    Gail, You've described it well--a perfect day. I would love to have a water feature, too; I drool over every fountain and pond I see. Perhaps you could put one in your new patio garden?

    Linda, That's funny that you missed the stained glass, but I imagine your first trip there you had other things on your mind:) When we were leaving and voting for our favorite garden, the man at the booth said his favorite was the Spanish one--we realized we had missed it completely! We did go back then, but it shows how much there was to see. I thought I was Thelma, but we're still figuring that one out...

    Beckie, Thanks for sharing this great time! I'm going to dig out those milkcans and start thinking a little harder.

    W2W, No sign of Brad Pitt, but if he ever shows up on one of our adventures, my 13-year-old granddaughter will want to join us:) Beckie and I both "needed" this day out--a great girls' getaway.

  19. Monica, The problem with Beckie and me is that we're talking too much to notice the road signs:) Free ideas are my favorite!

    Lisa, The answer to who's who is below, sort of...The funny thing is when I saw the other posts I realized I missed some things at the show.

  20. MMD, When we were younger, I would say it was the other way around: I'm Thelma and Beckie is Louise. But as we've gotten older, I think we're both more Louises. Besides, Susan Sarandon is one of my favorite actresses; I should look so good at her age:)

    Tina, Do you know this was my first trip to Navy Pier? I've been to Chicago on many occasions, but always somewhere else in the city. I can just imagine it as a setting for a wedding!

    Carol, Chicago is still standing:) We had thought about going to Indy, too--much easier to navigate:) But Beckie has other commitments; maybe next year. Enjoy!

    MG, One of the vertical planters was explained to us by a volunteer--it was built so the slats were tilted to keep the pots in place so that nothing fell out. I think you could either use as is or with pots, but the angled slats made the difference.

    Chandramouli, Sorry you don't have anything similar nearby. It's really a fun way to spend the day, plus we get so many new ideas.

    Maggie May, I've seen the Chelsea Show pictured on VP's posts. That one looks fantastic. The trunk wouldn't work in my garden, but it was lovely to look at.

    Cheryl, I'm glad this brought back memories; I love Lake Michigan. Japanese gardens are beautiful, but they don't really fit my farmstead garden, either. I thought of you when I saw the winter scene--it looks the way I imagine your garden looks in winter:) Beckie and I had a wonderful time; we both needed this day away!

    Reanaclaire, Thanks for visiting!

    Suburbia, We had a wonderful time! You could use a girls' day out, too; hope things are going better with you.

  21. I love all of the fresh ideas and colors.Just wonderful. I will just have to do the spilled milk can idea :)

  22. Sounds like you and Beckie had a great time! I read Beckie's blog before my husband and I went to the show; when I was walking through the stained glass I was thinking that I didn't recall Beckie mentioning it and I hoped you two had seen it!

    You had pictures of some things that I don't remember seeing (and we walked through twice).I'm planning on posting my pictures later today or tomorrow- I think we took some that I haven't seen on other blogs.

    I think you ladies made the right choice bt taking public transportation! The only place I'll drive downtown is the Museum of Science and Industry!

  23. Rose .. again I am jealous of you gals seeing such a great garden show .. but thankful for such great pictures too !
    There is a humongous one in Toronto next week .. but we have too much going on and the drive (over 3 hours) is too much for me let alone walking 3 acres worth of displays (if I didn't see every bit of it I would go crazy .. so better left undone ? LOL) Thanks for the tour girl !!

  24. That was obviously a wonderful show. Great photos, as usual. Love the milk can idea! Roll on summer!

  25. I'm glad that you & Beckie had a great time at the Chicago Garden Show. After reading her post & yours it sounds like your both had some fun adventures. I'm glad that no was harmed & no car was driven over a cliff during your visit to the big city. ;)

  26. Wowie! Zowie! What a spectacular show!! Thanks so much for taking us along. I loved all your pics. The flowers are amazing. Lucky you to have experienced this. Don't think I've ever gone to a flower show. Will have to see what I can do about that.
    I also loved the milk can idea. Food for thought - or garden. LOL!

  27. Hocking Hills, Glad you enjoyed it. I always love getting clever ideas from other gardeners.

    Laura, The stained glass exhibit really caught our eye; it was beautiful. And at that time, after walking forever, we were glad for any diversion:) I've seen photos on other blogs of things I missed at the show as well.

    Joy, We had a great time, and I think we each walked off about 1000 calories:)

    Mean Mom, I really liked that milk can idea; now I have to find the right spot for it.

    Racquel, We did have a good time, and not just at the show. I think we talked non-stop for seven hours the first night:)

    Wendy, I enjoy going to flower shows, and it's so much more fun with a friend along who enjoys it just as much. I always come away with some new idea.

  28. I just got the Guernsey... book and started reading it--I love it so far and wish I didn't have another adventure planned for today, because I'd like nothing more than to sit down and read it through!! Thanks for the tip!

  29. Hi Rose, HA, thanks for explaining the title! This looks like a fabulous garden show. So many good ideas to take back home, did you jot them down, or just take photos to help you remember the things you might be able to use for your own space. I loved the Japanese garden with the lantern. If only I were starting over again, there would be something like that here.

  30. Gorgeous! Looks like Chicago dos a wonderful show. So glad you went and had a good time. Your photos are great. Thanks for sharing.

  31. I felt as though I traveled beside dear Thelma and Louise on this delightful garden tour. Most impressed with your fine photos and professional script, you might be able to turn these adventures into a profit making business (if I hadn't lost so much $ in the market, I'd back you :)

  32. Monica, Glad you are enjoying the book!

    Frances, In an effort to carry around as little as possible, I left the notebook at home:) I'm hoping the photos I took will be enough to help me remember. I wish, too, I had the right place for a Japanese garden.

    Julena, It was our first trip to the Chicago show, and I was very impressed. So many people were involved! I will drop by for a visit; hopefully, I can leave a comment again.

    Joey, I've been waiting for just the right time to bring Thelma and Louise out:) I'd use my retirement savings to back a book, but they've been losing money faster than I can save it:)

  33. I very much enjoyed your big adventure to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. Also loved your photos.
    The snow is melting here but it still feels more like winter than spring so it was so refreshing to see your post.
    Nan and the Maine cats

  34. What a fabulous show! (Though you must have been exhausted at the end!!)

    I love the marigolds tumbling out of the milkcan.


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