Search My Garden Blog with Google Custom Search


Chicago Flower & Garden Show 2009

I think I've pretty much covered everything I wanted to cover for the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. Thanks to everyone at Sheila King Public Relations who extended me and my fellow local garden bloggers press passes to enter the garden show. The two images below is a panoramic view of part of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. You can click on them for a larger look.

Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Chicago Flower & Garden Show Panorama

Thanks to Bill Aldrich of Chicagoland Gardening magazine for inviting local garden bloggers to be part of a discussion panel on garden blogging and publicizing the event so well.

Because of the generosity of Renee's Garden our group had heirloom lettuce seed packets to give away to the people who attended our garden blogging panel. For more info on Renee's Garden seed packets see my post Edible Gardening in 2009. I highly recommend Renee and her seed company more. If you're looking to buy seeds for your garden please support Renee's Garden.

Because of the garden blogger panel I got to meet the women behind My Skinny Garden, Garden Girl in person for the first time. GG, MMD and myself showed up early the day of our discussion panel and walked around for a bit and took photos of the garden installations. The discussion panel went really well even though beforehand I could tell people were really nervous. I think we converted a few people to become garden bloggers. We even had some garden writers in the audience. Beth Botts, garden writer for the Chicago Tribune, showed up to our panel. After the panel Linda Krohne Nitchman, columinst & freelance writer, came up to us and offered to sponsor our memberships into The Garden Writers Association. Denise Corkery , horticultural writer, from the Chicago Botanic Garden also attended our discussion panel. I had a great time meeting all these garden writers and bloggers.

I hope in the future the Navy Pier people play nicer with the Chicago Flower & Garden Show people. When we were booked to do our panel discussion on garden blogging we were told there would be no Wi-Fi because of the cost. It is a little hard to give a presentation on something technical like garden blogging when you can't do demonstrations or show people what it is you're talking about. The night before we were scheduled to present I got the idea to take my laptop and hook it up to my cell phone and borrow the internet connection so we could have internet access at the show to show our attendees our garden blogs.

I'm a sucker for topiary so I want to give a shout-out to the these two garden installations.

I want to give the first ever What The Frangipani?!? Award to the Geo Garden installation by the Museum of Contemporary Art. I don't know what this is suppose to be. A Chicago pothole? Something from Star Trek: Voyager? The day of the media preview I thought it was some kind of mechanical garden that was stuck and they were waiting for the repair man.

Ideas and inspiration are all over the place. From building and gardening sustainably to plant choices and color schemes. I guess the overall theme of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show this year was water. I get it. Water is scarce and precious commodity that we should all conserve and protect. But Chicago isn't exactly Phoenix, Arizona and when it is raining for the first three days of the garden show it is a little hard to drive home the point about water conservation in particular since the place that houses the garden show extends into a ginormous lake.

I would have liked to have seen more garden installations like Paradise in a Parking Lot because it shows what people can achieve when they decide to undertake an urban beautification project. I understand the need for vanity projects by the cultural institutions of Chicago at the show but they could easily have attached themselves or sponsored more gardens that showcased the power of community. So much of the show looked "expensive" and some of the green technologies displayed are out of reach for many working class and poor Americans who would benefit from these kids of updates to their homes. We're in a recession and all the indicators are pointing to people being interested in learning to grow their own food and there was little of that at the show. I realize that a garden show of this size is planned way in advance but there was enough floor space for some last minute additions.

The garden installations at the show are beautiful but it seems like the designers are stuck either in replicating the mass plantings of Europe or copying Asian gardens. I don't know much but I would hazard a guess that people outside of Europe & Asia may grow a plant or two.

I didn't make a post on the garden installation "Del Agua Viene La Vida" (life comes from water) by the National Museum of Mexican Art because my photos didn't come out good. But I'm thinking of going back to photograph that garden. It was dark and I'm not accustomed to photographing in artificial lighting. Here's a video I took which isn't that great

but gives you an idea of what it looked like. More stuff like this please. It doesn't even have to be specific to one ethnicity but show us something different than Europe and Asia.

While going through the photos I took at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show I laughed when I noticed that I captured a little girl trying to eat the fake fruit on display in the Dancing Stones garden.

LOL. I love that the adults near her are oblivious to what she is doing.

If there is something you see in the background of a picture and you'd like to see more of it let me know and I'll try to take more photos when I go back on March 15th to take in the show without the pressure of creating content for this garden blog. If you are in the area I highly recommend attending the show.

Related posts from the Chicago Flower & Garden Show 2009:
Dancing Stones
Hope for a Healing Planet
Greening Up
Reflections: An Asian Inspired garden
Rooftop Garden of the Future
Garden Marketplace
Paradise in a Parking Lot

If you're a gardener in Chicago see my post on One Seed Chicago. If you're interested in helping pollinators in the garden see my post on The Buzz on Bees. Looking for gardening information? Try Google For Gardeners.


  1. Thanks for the link love. It was very inventive of you to come up with a way to get around the technical problem of no internet, it's just frustrating that you had to do so. I think your excellent demonstration of the ease of starting a blog may have tipped some of those who were on the fence to decide to start blogging.
    Today I read on article about the Philadelphia Flower Show, the theme of which is even more out of step with the current economic climate than Chicago's show. The issue of water and sustainability is a pressing one in some suburbs that rely on aquifers instead of Lake Michigan water. In my own town, regardless of how much rain we've gotten, we're still limited to being able to water only every other day. During the drought of 2005, there was a complete ban on watering. In these communities, water harvesting is a good solution to the watering restrictions.

  2. I'm looking forward to going to the show on Friday.

    I remember once when I was that age I tried to eat a grape from a bowl on the table. I didn't know it was fake and boy did it leave a nasty taste in my mouth!

  3. Great job covering the show MBT! Love the candid shot of the little girl! People watching is part of the fun.

    I felt like the proverbial kid in the candy store, especially since this was the first time I've ever been to the show. There were things I loved about it and things I thought could have been improved upon, and for me it was just great to be there. I wondered why I've never gone before.

    It was great to meet you and Gina, and to see MMD again, and to share the stage with you all. I'd like to go back there again this week too, without the pressure of a presentation and the nerves that went with it.

    And yeah, what was the up with that Geo Garden? I didn't get it. at. all. I did like all that moss though.

  4. MMD, Thanks for the feedback. I guess living in the city I have a narrow view of water since I don't have to live with restrictions. Thanks for letting me know about what it is like in the burbs. I'll have to do some reading on it now.

    Laura, I hope you enjoy the show and when you post pics let me know. I'd love to see them. Just remember to stay away from the fake food this time. Okay?

    GG, Now that the pressure is off (the panel & producing blog posts) I'd like to go back and revisit the gardens paying attention to the plants a lot more.

  5. Thanks for all the great write-ups, photos, and videos! I'm glad to hear the blogging talk went well and that you all got some much-deserved recognition. (Glad you figured out the wi-fi thing too. What a pain.) The Geo Garden is beyond me too. Can't be a pothole--those I understand! :) Interesting to see all the gardens from above--beautiful, but glad I don't have to worry about that with my own gardens. I have enough trouble with the ground level view... Hope you get to relax and enjoy yourself at the show now. You've been working HARD!

  6. Anonymous10:13 PM

    Speaking of the geogarden, obviously there are a lot of people in the blogosphere/here that need there designs spoon fed to them. It is a simple concept of the triangles and squares starting to form a polyhedron shape, while the voids in the earth remain. The concept is a lot easier to grasp when (2) things occur, first, walk upstairs at the show and look down at the garden, second, quit sniffing the flowers and think about who the sponsor was and why. I'll wait, we have plenty of time here.....

    Done? Good. For those who are still pondering, it is a promotional piece for the Buckminster Fuller show opening up at the MCA this coming weekend. Here is a link for an explanation of Fuller's Dymaxion Map which the display is based off of:

    I personally think the piece is challenging (in a good way) and has a much different feeling than anything else seen at the show this year or in past years, but in the same breath, I do not think it belonged at the show since the intent of the show has been to celebrate what we make spaces into.

  7. I found my way here through a twitter comment. I love the article on the Chicago show and especially the video of that wonderful garden. It seems the show is a little bit like the Chelsea, Hampton Court, Tatton Park show with a display of small gardens by great designers. The roof top is also a delight. I'd just be happy for the price of solar panels to come down! When I wonder?
    I wasn't quite sure what you meant by European gardens being mass plantings. Did you mean the cottage garden look or were you referring to the mass plantings of tulips etc in botanical gardens. We see these here too. At the Dallas Arboretum for instance. I don't really care for it as you will see if you look at my recent blog about garden visits. One such public garden in the country is in Salt Lake, Utah. Red Butte gardens is a wonder of garden rooms set against the spectacular backdrop of mountains. Our own Wildflower center in Austin is somewhat the same with design befitting the Edwards Plateau. Our gardens should reflect the area in which we live and use sustainable plantings. That lush growth in your video would not work here in Texas.

  8. Your video was fun, Mr Brown Thumb - it's always fascinating to see what can be constructed inside on a concrete floor in an Illinois March!

    The plants may not grow as lushly in Texas, but Austin people may need ponds and fountains even more than you in Chicago and having them also benefits birds and wildlife. But most of them are on a smaller scale - for us in drought, that big and beautiful water garden in your video may be "Garden porn".

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  9. Hi, Mr Brown Thumb! My mom and I sat in for most of your seminar on Saturday. We had to leave to catch our bus home shortly after you started your part of the discussion panel, which made me sad b/c I had actually heard of your blog and was most curious to see what you had to say. Ffft.

    I had the same reaction to the Geogarden. Wth? It looked to me like there should have been Teletubbies and huge rabbits wandering around in there.

    From what I could tell, The Del Agua Viene La Vida garden did seem to get a reaction from just about everyone who came around that first corner to the reflection pool with the rose petals and the fake fireplace tv "show." Personally, I loved it (the rose petals were so striking), but I heard a lot of comments from folks who didn't "get it."

    Thanks for posting your garden recaps from the show! Though, I'm a little disappointed not to see a video from the WaterSHEDD xeriscape garden. I think there were other more flashy gardens on display, but I was particularly interested in this one b/c we have been working on putting together a native plant garden/education area at the community college where I work.

  10. Hello from the crazy Looking gardeners in the front row!
    Great talks from all of you!

    Brilliant idea to use your cell phone!

    I really enjoyed the show, as I have a 106 degree spring fever!! LOL

    I am so jealous that you get to go back!
    I didnt get to the shopping at all!
    (One of my fav parts)

    But my sister had to get home Wisconsin to leave for florida...
    Does the torture ever END??? hee hee

    I have been trying to sign on the blotanical site... having quite a bit of problems, but I will keep trying..

    P.S. We had no idea you were so HANDSOME!!

    Vanessa and Tanya :)

  11. oops I forgot to add the forward slashes in the address.... see ! I am still trying to figure this all out~!


  12. Aren't press passes fun?! I agree there should have been WiFi! I love the pig topiary in particular. And I really love the panels of green (please tell me that's not grass!) from the museum of contemporary art. I don't know what it speaks to me, but it does and I love it.

  13. A fantastic job of covering the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, MBT. I'm sorry I missed it this year.

    As an artist, gardener and garden designer I'm certainly for freedom of expression but I swear if an alien landed in the Museum of Contemporary Art they'd probably think something's wrong with this planet :-) And if I don't get it I don't think its because I need to be spoon fed!?

    Just because someone throws up on a canvas doesn't mean it's art. The same goes with that piece of moss covered structure they've named Geo garden and you could look at it suspended from the ceiling or standing on your head and it won't get any more charming.

  14. @Donna,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    @Fuller Fan, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate distension. I did see it from the top floor and I knew who the sponsor was but still What The Frangipani?? Because like you said the intent of the show has been to celebrate what we make spaces into.

    @Lancashire What I meant by mass planting like European gardens I meant both the cottage look and when plants are planted so tight so that you can't see any soil. It looks very formal and coordinated to me. Thanks for stopping by.

    @Annie, I can understand how the use of water would appeal so much to people in dry climates. The Lincoln Park Zoo had a pond display. It was basically a bridge over a puddle of water so I didn't take pics. Nice, but not my thing. I don't have the room to put in a pond.

    @Monica, If you saw the first 122 seconds of my part of the presentation then you saw everything I had to say. I just did a demo of how to start a garden blog then we took questions. :0) but I'm glad you stopped by. Geo garden does look like something from the Teletubbies stage. What I liked about Del Agua Viene La Vida is that it looked so different than everything else there. When you walked in past the fireplace it looked like you were walking into a ruin in a jungle in Latin America until you turned the corner into that patio. For a moment there you could image yourself being there. Was the WaterSHEDD the one with the rain falling on the tin roof? I didn't do that one because you had to hear the rain to really experience it and there was the sound of construction going on during the media preview. The next day it was full of people. If I go back and manage to see it during a quiet period I'll try to take pics and video so it can be experienced the way it was suppose to be.

    @ GardenDesigner, You want to know what's funny? I've seen your blog before can't remember how I got there...but when you asked me about adding the watermark to the pics I thought to myself "She looks like "The Rhinestone Contessa." LOL. I didn't know that was you. It was nice to meet you and thanks for stopping by.

    @Monica, they are indeed fun. The Geo Garden was moss and not grass so don't worry.

    @Carolyn, It is still going on until the 15th and I believe they're open until 8pm. At least they were the Sat I was there. I didn't leave 'til about a little after 8. Thanks for stopping by. Also, I think you have a press pass to attend the show.

  15. looks like a good time, wish I had been in the area to see it!

  16. RE a comment you left at Garden Girl: Dumpster diving at the flower show--genius! :)

  17. Great photos MBT, but not a surprise that you would write such a descriptive post of the experience, I thought those were skateboarding ramps :)

    P.S. .. so the ladies like your looks too huh ? Yes, I can see you blushing LOL

  18. Anonymous10:37 AM

    Contemporary art? Looks like a grassed skateboarding park.

  19. Thanks for the info - and I'm glad the Garden Panel went well. Sorry I had to drop out of the planning process - I just found myself with no extra time to spare.

  20. Nice! And I already loved Renee's Garden seeds, so now I have even more reason to--since they are cool enough to have given you packets of seeds to give away at your panel. :)

  21. Love to take my kids in the garden show especially my daughter.She really love gardening.




Feel free to leave a comment. You can always use the search box for my blog or the search "Google For Gardeners" if you're looking for gardening information. If you're looking for seed saving information check out "Seed Snatcher"search engine.

Do not have a blog yourself? Comment using the "anonymous" feature. If you have a Twitter or FB account feel free to use the "Name URL" feature so other people can find you.

Thanks for visiting.