Earlier today I attended the press preview of the Macy's Flower Show for 2012 at the State Street store in Chicago. This year's flower show is titled Brasil: Gardens in Paradise. In previous year when I've encouraged people to attend the flower show I've been told that it wasn't necessary because they had already seen the pictures on this blog. So I'm only showing a few shots of the show because I want people to see the changes themselves and experience the gardens. Brasil takes you through a tour of gardens in the country's colonial past, arid landscape, lush tropical forest, slum gardens and modern Brazilian gardens.
The show, which was little more than floral decorating in the past- if I'm being honest, has been moved from the 1st floor to the 9th floor at the State Street store. This has brought a dramatic change. It looks like a real flower show with a display garden you can walk through. It's an experience of sights, sounds and scents. I'm a big fan of topiary; I judge flower shows by whether or not they have topiaries, and how large they are. In previous years I was charmed by the giant flamingos at Macy's, and I'm glad that this year there are two giant toucan bird topiaries at the show. Several of these were created for Macy's flagship stores across the country, but Chicago is the only location with two of them.
You enter the show through a proscenium that depicts Carnaval in Rio de Janiero, and begin the garden tour in the arid gardens. It's a wonderful collection of cacti and succulents amid a backdrop of colonial architecture.
From the desert gardens you can enter the lush, jungle interior and see vignettes like this tropical hut. You almost expect to see some villagers walk in and lay on the hammock.
There's even a tropical waterfall in the gardens. To get the design of the waterfall right the show's designers visited the Garfield Park Conservatory and studied the waterfall in the Fern Room to get it just right. A bulk of the plants from the Brasil garden show will be donated to the Garfield Park Conservatory after the show closes.
The slum gardens of Brazil were explained to us before we actually got to see them. The moment I heard "slum" I cringed internally because I was expecting poverty pimping. Once I saw what the slums looked like I felt foolish. Given that the flower show pays homage to the country's Portuguese heritage by using the Portuguese spelling of Brasil, my concern of how they'd represent the poor areas proved to be unfounded. The slum garden (not fully pictured) is very tastefully done.
Another sign that Macy's was careful and respectful of the theme is the nod to the country's present and future in this modernistic garden.
The plant selection consists of 5,500 tropical plants and 60 specimens of trees, representing more than 200 species. I won't show you all of them because you have to experience the gardens for yourself. But I will say that I was blown away by the colorful bromeliads the show is covered in.
After touring the flower show, which is more like a conservatory mixed with a natural history exhibit, you can head to the Walnut Room where the second of the toucan topiaries can be found and dine one Brazilian flank steak from March 25th through 31st and grilled pork churrasco from April 1st through 7th. The Brazilian wines and other food items are offered throughout the store.
Brasil: Gardens in Paradise is located on the 9th floor of Macy's on State Street and is free to the public. The flower show runs from March 25th to April 7th. I highly recommend it. If you go to the flower show in your area this weekend I'd like to hear how different the setting is compared to the one in Chicago.
I'll leave you with one more picture of the toucan topiary. 30,000 Brazilian button flowers comprise the beak. 7,000 black Brazilian strawflowers comprise the stripe/ring around the beak.30,000 dyed magnolia leaves create the "feathers." Man, I wish I worked on the Macy's flower show so I could take home of the toucans.