Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chicago Flower and Garden Show

One of the highlights of March for me every year is attending the Chicago Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier.  There's nothing quite like seeing masses of spring blooms and creative displays of plantings to get one rejuvenated and inspired, especially after a long, hard winter like this one.  In case you missed it or don't live close enough to visit this annual show, here's a quick tour of what was on display this year.

It was a gray, rainy day when best friend Beckie and I headed north.  All thoughts of the weather left us, though, as we entered the exhibit and were greeted by masses of blooms and the heady scent of hyacinths and other fragrant plants.

Blue hydrangeas seemed to be a popular choice in several plantings. 

Asian-inspired accents always appeal to me.


The theme of this year's show was "Do Green, Do Good" and featured creative ways of repurposing old materials.

At least two different exhibits used old metal filing cabinets as planters.

Maybe I could clean out my basement and put all the castoffs in the garden:)

One of the most clever creations was in the display created by the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.  One of the students explained to me how these planters were made--holes were cut into fence posts, and then pieces of PVC pipe were inserted and filled with soil for the plants.  The fence posts were then inserted into plastic pails, which served as a water reservoir, I believe.  This school has an exhibit at the show every year, and I'm always so impressed by the creativity of these students.

The most elaborate exhibit was built by a company specializing in water features and hardscaping.

A fire pit at the end of the pond.

I'm always amazed by the work that goes into what is, after all, only a temporary display.  Creating an area like this in your own garden, complete with large rocks, stone walls, and flowing streams would probably take weeks or months, but the sales rep told me it took eight men only eight days to complete this...and then they have to take it all apart a week later!

There is so much to see and do at the Chicago Show--gardening seminars, cooking demonstrations, and a photo exhibit, just to name a few--that it is hard to fit it all in in a short day.  Beckie and I always enjoy the exhibit by the Women's Journeys in Fibers who have used hats and shoes as their medium in past years.  This year's theme was "Paradigm Shifts," and the artists were asked to take a basic shift dress to express themselves.  This particular dress traced the progress of civil rights in our country.

Another illustrated the shift in the roles of women, from the 50's housewife to today.

This one was entitled "In the Garden,"  expressing the artist's growing love of gardening.

Look at the detail on this dress!

Some other sights along the way . . .

. . . an interesting plant marker--a dried mushroom, perhaps?

Before we had to leave to catch our train, we made sure to allow some time to stroll through the vendors' booths at one end of the exhibit hall.  Last year we finally discovered that the gorgeous display of tulips that always entices me is presented by a wholesale bulb distributor who has a booth in the vendor marketplace, where any of  the tulips in the display can be ordered for fall planting.  These caught my eye last year, and I just had to have them.  I'm still waiting to see them in my own garden, but I hope in a few weeks, my "namesakes" will be blooming here.

This year my eye was caught by these 'Flaming Flag,'  but darned if I didn't forget them by the time I placed my order.  Oh well, maybe next year.

I did, however, order two collections of 'Patrick's Mix,' above--my favorite shades of pastels.  I even got to meet Patrick, a friendly bulb grower from the Netherlands who assured me that these were sturdy, long-lived beauties.  I can't wait to see these in my garden a year from now!

Someone commented in either a Facebook or blog post that she thought this was the best Chicago show ever.  Beckie and I disagreed; it was an average show, far from the best we've seen.  Some of the regular exhibitors had smaller displays than past years, and few, other than the pond company's, weren't as elaborate as some we have seen in the past.  Perhaps that was due in part to the theme this year which emphasized recycling and planting edibles.  Past themes, like the theatre theme from a few years ago, seemed to invite more whimsy and creativity.  Still, this year's show was certainly worth the trip, and it was a breath of fresh spring air for this winter-weary gardener.  We'll definitely be making plans to go again next year!


  1. Thanks for stopping by! I'm headed for the airport in a couple of hours to visit my daughter--and find some warmer temperatures! But I'll return your visit as soon as I can.

  2. Such beautiful and creative displays. Your post made me smile and linger to see what is coming in my garden. Spring is slow to emerge this year of which I am glad, but I am also quite hungry for some color and flowers and wondrous odors. Enjoy your time with your daughter.

  3. Lovely post Rose.....lots of imaginative planting.

    I love the use of the filing drawers....would look wonderful in a modern garden. I do so like to see what would end up in landfill, being recycled in this way.

    I also love the cloud pruning. I started clipping some of my small trees last year, using this method and was very pleased with the results. Problem is you must keep on top of it, otherwise it soon goes out of shape.

    Enjoy your break......

  4. I really should make the effort to do this at some point. I love that dress with the garden, and the exuberance of that frog!

  5. I liked the idea of fence posts and tubes, great! Also I always love small pond with waterfalls.
    Thanks for sharing, Rose!

  6. It looks like a really nice show. Way bigger than ours here in Nashville. I think I love the fountain with all of its petals best. Those shifts are really really creative too. I can just imagine all the work. And wow for temporary displays. It's so worth it for us to see tho.

  7. Loved the reuse and recycle bits but wouldn't a metal filing cabinet get rusty? or wouldn't that matter? Might look nicer in fact.

  8. Oh darn--now I'm regretting that I didn't go! For some reason, I kept thinking I didn't want to bother, and it was kind of cold which cut back on my motivation. The hubby wasn't able to get away, so we stayed home. I guess I could have taken a bus into Chicago--which is what I'll think about doing next year. Thanks for sharing, Rose! I love the drawer garden, the water features, and the fire pit. How fun that you found a Tulip named after you! ;-)

  9. This truly was an amazing flower show. I loved all of the repurposed planters. Imaginations abounds.

  10. I was wondering when we would see your post about the show. I am not fond of the file box planter. Of course it would look nice in a certain type of garden. The posts with flowers are interesting. Again not something I would want. I am glad you and Beckie had a good time.The tulips you ordered are gorgeous. It will be interesting to see how your Rosalie tulips faired in this cold winter.

  11. A lovely post Rose.
    Have a wonderful time together with your daugther.

  12. I adore garden shows, it's ages since I've been to one. Just love those pastel tulips too and the metal filing cabinets!
    I have tulips in bud at the moment and I though I remember planting them last autumn, I can't for the life of me remember what they are going to look like! The joys of gardening!

    Thanks for sharing
    S x

  13. Thanks for sharing the garden show. I did love those blue hydrangeas in the Japanese setting. The froggy splits brought a smile to my face.
    Hoping you enjoy your time away!
    maggie x

    Nuts in May

  14. The show had many interesting and creative displays, but those file cabinets were a hoot. This show was far better than the one here.

  15. Gorgeous blooms! I was wondering how Chicago pulled off an early flower show but it makes sense that it's inside. I'm longing for spring but outside there is still snow.

  16. What a great show. Some really good ideas there. Thanks for passing them on. Garden shows are so inspiring and so much fun!

  17. Hi Rose, thanks for the tour – I’d love to have some of these features in my garden, and if it was a bit bigger I would really have liked to have that tall water feature, what a spectacular thing!

  18. The garden show here in Toronto was so disappointing my camera wasn't put to use even once! I am glad that, though you didn't think the Chicago show was as good as it has been in past years, it was still good enough to make you want to return next year. It must be hard to find the money for big displays. As you pointed out, it is also a lot of work to put such a display together, and then have it come down a week later. Hopefully as the economy improves so will the garden shows.

  19. Hello Rose girl : )
    It is April 8th today and I am finally seeing some of the back garden without snow! haha
    I keep smiling over that funny frog, wish I could find one like that!
    I love water features and with a flame near the edge ? perfect !
    What a beautiful scenario if you had a cottage near the edge of a lake with that happening at sunset .. heaven! LOL
    Nice seeing all these pictures!!
    Joy : )
    PS Thanks for stopping by and I have my fingers crossed for more butterflies this year to try over wintering one again !


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