NOTE: All my pictures from this year’s garden show are here–Chicago Flower & Garden Show 2012
The Fun and Friends
Alas, after all the fun I had last year working at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show as a Master Gardener, I did not get an opportunity to do that this year. Apparently the Cook County Master Gardeners did not need any help from other counties, and when I got there I could see why–they just were not doing as much this year. Oh well. That did not stop me from going as a paying customer as I have for so many years before. And as I have for so many years before, I went with friends. April, who has gone with me nearly every time, was already downtown, so she joined us there at Navy Pier while we picked up her mother-in-law, Anna (a.k.a. “Oma,” which must mean grandma in Papiamento or Dutch). My friend Danelle drove us, and we also picked up another friend of hers and her daughter.
The Flower and Garden Show is always a treat, a lovely foretaste of summer’s glory. It comes in March, when the weather outside is usually cold and we gardeners are tired of winter’s blasts. This year, however, we had an unusually warm winter followed by an unusually warm spring. I think it was 70 degrees outside the day we went. That was no problem though as we still enjoyed walking from garden to garden inside the exhibition hall at Navy Pier.
My favorite garden this year was inspired by the New Orleans French Quarter: “Le Jardin de la Fleur-de-Lis.” I love French style stuff, and I like to use metal ornaments in my own garden. I have even used some French Provincial design in my kitchen.
I also got a kick out of the “Let’s Move White House Kitchen Garden.” Raised beds and organically grown food–what more could I ask for? This display was a salute to the First Lady Michelle Obama’s garden on the South Lawn of the White House, which I hope is an inspiration to many more Americans to begin growing some of their own food. My kitchen garden is the main focus of my own gardening efforts at home, so I was pleased by every display that included edibles.
In addition to the display gardens, there were tablescapes and horticultural contests (windowboxes) to inspire us. I was especially charmed by the magical vignettes created by Chalet Nursery.
I was especially charmed by the magical vignettes created by Chalet Nursery.
The Garden Talks
Due to time constraints, I made it to only one workshop and one cooking demo this year. The workshop was Craig Bergmann‘s talk on “The Art of Planting Design.” I have always admired the gardens he has designed, and I had hoped to learn something that would help me in my own garden designing. Unfortunately, what I mostly learned is that Craig Bergmann’s customers are multi-millionaires who can afford stuff I could not hope to try at home. But the talk was not a total waste. I like his idea of using something one loves, such as a painting or rug, as the inspiration for the colors and shapes in a garden design. And my friend Danelle liked his comment that our garden should be “poetry” to us. It really doesn’t matter what others think. What matters is that we love it and express ourselves through it. That is certainly how I feel about my kitchen garden! I even used its design as the inspiration for a painting assignment I once had in an art class.
On a more practical note, I am curious about several references Craig Bergmann made to horizontal lines in barriers being most effective at keeping deer out of a garden. That is certainly information that my own forest preserve district could have used to make the controversial deer fences they put around small tree plantings more effective. Yet I have not been able to google up any studies to confirm those statements.
The Cooking Demos
And what would the flower show be without the Garden Gourmet Culinary Demonstrations? A much less interesting and tasty event–I’ll tell you that! We gardeners love to cook, and my friends and I always look forward to the cooking demos. This year the cooking demos were even easier to see because a camera and TV screens replaced the overhead mirror for showing everyone the chef’s work surface. The chefs at the cooking demo I attended were Kirk and Terry Fucik of Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop. They made wonderful fish tacos with a chipotle-tomato salsa and avocado cream. And yes, we do get a sample of what is made at those cooking demos.
Of course there are always over a hundred exhibitors at these flower and garden shows, all with something to sell. These are fun to look through, too, but I try to maintain a skeptical eye before I buy anything. I have learned, for example, not to buy plant material here. The huge agapanthus bulb I bought a few years ago never did bloom for me. But sometimes I find something decorative that I like and that I think is worth the price. Five or six years ago I bought a tiny little birdbath that I have enjoyed using indoors and out. It is now the centerpiece of my miniature garden. Last year I picked up a very pretty pressed flower necklace, the perfect match for my flowery hoodie. Furthermore, it was at the Flower and Garden Show a few years ago that I discovered the company from which I would later purchase my rain barrels.
This year was a bit of a disappointment however. I had only a half hour or so to run through the vendors and see if I could spot anything I wanted. I could not find my favorite kind of vendors this year. Last year there were two who sold pressed flower jewelry; this year there were none. I was specifically looking for the vendor I’d seen the last couple years who makes cool metal garden signs. I had hoped that this would be the year I would spot one that really spoke to me as being perfect for my garden. No such luck. This year’s metal garden art looked rather cheesy to me. Oh well. There are still more garden shows and sales to come!
Here are all the pictures I took of about 20 different displays: 2012 Chicago Flower & Garden Show
TIP: By the way, the display gardens tend to be less crowded in the afternoon, so if you could spend the whole day there, you should fill the morning with checking out the vendors, seminars, and cooking demos.