The show is held each year at Navy Pier, a popular attraction in downtown Chicago that is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. The entrance display highlighted this birthday and introduced the show's theme, "Chicago in Bloom" with replicas of famous landmarks in the city, including "The Picasso," the iconic sculpture in Daley Plaza.
As we entered the huge exhibit hall, Beckie and I mapped our course, making sure we didn't miss any of the exhibits. I'm always drawn to the water features, and sure enough, there were some waterfalls.
And, of course, a koi pond. Every year I say that if I ever win the lottery, this is going to be my first extravagance--building a pond area with lots of big boulders and a waterfall. Since I rarely buy lottery tickets, I don't think this is going to happen any time soon:)
Another interesting water feature that is much more "do-able" was this simple water spout in front of drainage tiles filled with gravel. I'm not sure if the tiles had any purpose, but it was interesting and eye-catching.
Another way to incorporate water was this display containing the ultimate in rain chains--a wall of actual chains of different sizes with water flowing down them to decorative receptacles below. The sight and sound of the streaming water made you feel as if you were in the middle of a gentle rainstorm, a nice effect, I would think, on a hot summer day.
But a flower show is all about flowers, right? One exhibit featured dozens and dozens of different roses. My only complaint with this exhibit is that the roses were not marked with i.d. tags, so that if you found one you especially liked, you had to dig around the soil where you might find the original tag if you were lucky.
Another criticism of this year's show is that there wasn't much variety in the types of plants used. Hydrangeas were everywhere as were Senetti. I love hydrangeas, but these were all either a variety of 'Endless Summer' macrophyllas or the type of hydrangea usually found at a florist shop. If you're not familiar with Senetti--as I wasn't--they are a cool-weather annual. Although the bright pinks and purples of these plants certainly pop, I don't like to plant too many cool-weather annuals because they don't last long in our typical Illinois summers. It seems to me the different exhibitors could have been a little more imaginative in their choice of flowers.
One flower display I won't criticize was the tulip exhibit provided by Doornbosch Bros., a wholesale bulb company. First of all, I love tulips, and secondly, I really enjoy seeing the actual blooms rather than looking at photos in a catalog. Each stand of tulips was clearly marked, so that visitors could note the ones they especially liked and then order them later from the vendor's booth---which, of course, I did:)
One of the things I enjoy about any garden show is finding new ideas to incorporate in my own garden. This exhibit featured ways to re-purpose old items.
A broken shovel? Don't throw it away--turn it into garden art!
This year's theme of "Chicago in Bloom" was carried out in much more subtle ways than in past years, when exhibitors often were more imaginative in bringing out the theme. This display was more elaborate than most of the others with a replica of the Chicago "L" perched above the plantings. In the background you can see another exhibit, this one created by the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.
The Chicago School for Ag Sciences is a magnet high school located on the South Side of the city. I didn't take many photos of their exhibit other than this display of plants and cute ideas for planters. But their exhibit is always impressive, and this year was no exception.
The exhibit is manned by students from the high school, and we talked to a very articulate senior who explained the school's mission and curriculum. He also explained that the hundreds of plants on display would be taken back to their greenhouse and would be sold later to provide funding for their studies. Chicago City Schools often take a bad rap, but this high school's students show that this public school system is also doing something right.
Celebrating the city of Chicago in this year's theme wouldn't be complete without a tribute to the World Champion Chicago Cubs, a simple display of hundreds of chrysanthemum blooms. You know I would have to take picture of this:) And because I like saying it so much, I'll just repeat that--the World Series Champs Chicago Cubs.
Ok, back to flowers--another simple water feature with a pot I just loved.
|One example of the Tablescapes exhibit, an annual exhibit at the show.|
The Chicago show has become much more downscaled than six or seven years ago when Beckie and I first started attending. The exhibits are much smaller and less elaborate than they were back then, and we were disappointed that one of the usual exhibitors wasn't there, a suburban nursery that specializes in unusual conifers. We were also disappointed that we didn't see an exhibit this year by the Women's Journeys in Fiber, who in the past have created some interesting and creative works in fiber revolving around a theme, including one year in hats and another in shoes. But when I looked again at the booklet on our way home, I discovered that there had indeed been an exhibit. I'm not sure how we missed it, but it must have been smaller than usual or we surely would have seen it.
Still, despite the shortcomings, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and finished our afternoon visiting the many vendors' booths. I've learned to ignore the massage chairs, the miracle face creams, and anything non-related to gardening. But I did make a few purchases; besides the tulips and other bulbs, I was happy to find a booth for the Seed Keeper company where I bought some burlap "girdles" for planters as well as some of Annie Haven's Moo Poo Tea. I can't wait to try both in the garden this year.
Besides enjoying the show, I always enjoy a trip to the "big city," and we couldn't have picked a more beautiful day. Temperatures were in the 70's, and there were throngs of people walking down Navy Pier. We took a few breaks from walking around the Exhibit Hall to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine and marveled at the number of people there. I'm not sure if people were simply enjoying the first truly spring day in the city, but I am pretty sure that most people in Chicago had taken this day off work:)
A beautiful spring day, garden inspirations, and time spent with my best friend--what more could you ask for?!