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Chicago Spring Fling In Words

Today was the last day for Chicago Spring Fling, and have been surprised on a number of occasions. Some people were exactly like what I was expecting and some nearly brought a tear to my eye with their generosity and warmth.

Friday was the first day of Chicago Spring Fling and the attendees were greeted with open arms by the Chicago Botanic Garden. I wasn't able to make that event because I was waiting for some packages to arrive in time for me to hand the items to the garden bloggers. During the day Denise Corkery of the Chicago Botanic Garden sent me email updates about the group when they had been picked up by the private shuttle and while they visited the gardens. They created a page just for attendees of Chicago Spring Fling and posted a group photo they took of most of the group.

That morning I got an unexpected surprise from Sue Markgraf of GreenMark Public Relations. Just a couple of days prior she had heard of Spring Fling and arranged for Colleen Lockovitch to be available to answer questions garden bloggers may have while visiting the Lurie garden. Colleen Lockovitch is the director and horticulturist of the Lurie garden and I'm deeply disappointed I didn't get a chance to meet her but I'm glad many of our visitors got a chance to do so.

Free Hug Friday

I arrived at the site of the dinner/reception as the group was leaving the Lurie and set out to fill the gift bags. I was waiting for some packages to arrive last minute so I missed out on earlier festivities, but the reaction of several garden blogger to the gift items we got made it all worthwhile. Since I was late I was prepared to do all the giftbag work by myself, so I was pleasantly surprised when Diane, Beth Botts & Monica got to work and helped move the gift items from boxes into the gift bags. You don't expect guests to show up ready to work- so a big thanks goes out to them.

Lainey & Fallon from Edelman Public Relations were also early arrivals & guests who went to work putting together the gift bags full of gardening items. They were there to represent The Scotts Miracle Gro company and the GroGood campaign, who sponsored Chicago Spring Fling, to raise awareness about growing food this year for the needy. I'd met Lainey before when I was invited to attend the dedication ceremony of a new community garden in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. Before the reception started and garden bloggers were let into the room, they approached me after seeing some name badges and made it known that they didn't have to be in attendance and would be ok with leaving if their presence would be a distraction or cause problems with some of the garden bloggers who have been pretty critical of the company they represent. Being sponsors and having paid, like everyone else, to dine-I insisted they stay and gave them the option of sitting together at a table or splitting up so they could talk to more people about the GroGood campaign and how important the issue is this year. They chose to sit together in a corner of the room at the table that typically gets filled w/strangers or your weird cousin at these kinds of events.

When all the bags were filled with gifts (thanks to the help of these wonderful folks) we let the garden bloggers into the room and they sat around and continued the conversations they were having from earlier in the day. Once everyone was seated I made my way to the tables and introduced myself. At the second table I stopped at I was greeted with a hug by Kylee and this nervous wreck just about lost it and started crying. When I finally got around to the table were Chris & Katie from GardenPunks were seated I was the recipient of yet another hug and I was having trouble holding it back so I had to cut that convo short and make it to my table before my mascara started running. One day when my mind isn't occupied we'll have to delve into the reason why Katie thought I'd been incarcerated before. Yeah, you read that right.

At the table for the misfits and randoms; Lainey, Fallon, myself (the weird cousin) and Garden Girl were joined by Ben Helphand of NeighborSpace who was there to tell the group about the organic community garden we would be visiting the next day. We had an awesome conversation about brands and the relationships they develop with bloggers and just how transparent bloggers should be when they form these relationships. I guess I've let television and my interaction with some "marketing" departments pollute my view of the industry and their connections to bloggers. We talked about several things but mostly our conversations revolved around blogging ethics, is there such a thing? Should there be such a thing? And what happens to a blog that becomes a dumping ground for giveaways and press releases. Hopefully the Chicago gardening ideas Ben & I talked about come to fruition and I can be a part of them or help in some way.

I'm particularly grateful that Beth Botts was a part of Chicago Spring Fling and made herself available to garden bloggers and shared the wealth of her gardening information and Chicago history. Beth, if you ever need a second pair of hands or help in some way with a project you're working on I owe you three days of helping in any way I can. Professor Jane S. Smith was there to sign copies of her book The Garden of Invention. It isn't every day that I get a chance to rub elbows with a Pulitzer Prize nominee so I was especially geeked that she was there, but I forgot to ask her to sign my book. Professor Smith volunteers at the Lincoln Park Conservatory so maybe I'll get a second chance to get that book signed in the near future.

Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors we were able to give away some awesome items. Our giftbags included:

Seeds and a couple of garden cook books from ReneesGarden.

Seeds and mouse pads from Botanical Interests.

Garden Gloves from EthelGloves for all the garden bloggers in attendance. They've also provided a coupon code for anyone who would like to order extra gloves. Just enter "BROWNTHUMB10" into the "Discount Code" field on any of the screens at checkout. The code is good through June 6 & 10% off your purchase. Just to be clear; I don't get anything from you using this coupon code, I think Angela just named it "BROWNTHUMB10" because when she made it up she and I were emailing each other a lot with arrangements for CSF so I guess it was easy to name it that.

A few $50.00 gift certificates from GardenShoesOnline.

A shirt, book and buttons from YouGrowGirl.

Troy-Bilt® was another sponsor of Chicago Spring Fling and as part of their sponsorship they each garden blogger a garden journal. They also generously gave away a Super Bronco ™ CRT garden tiller valued at over $600.00!!!!!

Chicago Honey Co-Op gave us enough lip balms to hand out to every attendee and a few personal beauty products made from their urban apiary here in Chicago. They also have a blog about the bee farm those products came from.

Proven Winners grew a Supertunia® Vista Silverberry for each of the participants. It has a wonderful scent and

Layanee was nice enough to get us gift certificates from for free bags of organic fertilizer for every garden blogger. The same offer was then extended by her to the community garden we toured on Saturday. As a Chicagoan, I was really touched by that. Thank you Layanee and I'm sorry I never got around to talking about those.

Cindy also got us a few items from The Houston Chronicle. I'm sorry we couldn't use those bags but we already had one from one of our sponsors but I'll put mine to good use. And thank you very much for the poppy seeds, I love them even though I haven't sown a single one. They are one of my favorite flowers.

Leslie gave out hand made Christmas ornaments to commemorate the event and had one for everyone one.

Anneliese from CobraHead brought a long a few CobraHead garden tools that we were able to raffle off.

Garden Girl secured a $25.00 gift certificate from Gardens Alive that we raffled off.

On Sunday I learned that on Friday people were giving out "free hugs" at Millennium Park, I guess the universe knew it was one of those days.

"T" is for thank you, tipsy & Troy-Bilt
On Saturday we visited the Bayless urban/edible garden and I don't think my words could do the garden justice, so I'm going to make a photo post about Chicago Spring Fling and include that tour in there. Along with photos from the Ginkgo Organic Community Garden that grows food for the needy in Chicago.

A big thanks to the four wonderful women who blog at My Skinny Garden, Garden Girl, Lake Chicago Shores & Sweet Home And Garden. I appreciate your honesty, dedication, drive, selflessness and the respect you showed me and your fellow members of the organizing committee during the process. People who attended the event will never know just how much you put into this and every single little thing you helped arrange & every whim you indulged. That you all did so much without once having to make sure the spotlight was shining on you says a lot about the people who raised you, the people you've raised and the people you will raise in the future. They say that you're judged by the company you keep and I'd be honored if I could call you all my friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thanks to all the people who attended Chicago Spring Fling. When we started organizing this we didn't know the response would be so big. We thought the state of the economy would mean just a handful of people showing up and were surprised at just how many people turned out to spend time with friends and visit some gardens. We hope you got your money's worth, and then some.

Thank you to the Chicago Botanic Garden (Denise Corkery in particular) for being sponsors and making sure everything went well with the group visit.

A few people made it a point to personally approach me and thank me for being part of the committee that helped organize Chicago Spring Fling. If at that time you got the impression I didn't appreciate the gesture, I'd like you to know that wasn't the case. 1) I'm not good at meeting new people, 2) For as much as I run off at the keyboard I'm really bad at trying to make conversation. Being part of this has taught me that the words "thank you" have so much value--I hope to carry that with me in my personal life forever and I have you to thank for that.

We tried to make Saturday's dinner as easy as we could. We chose a restaurant close to the hotel so everyone could attend and make it back to the hotel at night, and we made the cost as reasonable as we could. Thinking we had planned for everything to go smoothly so people could linger and talk afterward and have all those conversations about blogging people were so sure they were going to want to have-we were so pleased with ourselves. At the end of the night some items that were not part of our dinner package had been ordered. Garden Girl made an announcement that people who had ordered them should figure out the cost of those items including the crazy tax we have in Chicago and the tip. That's when things threatened to get ugly and the grumbling started and some comments were made, some barely audible-- but we heard them. Barbara Hastings, who was there representing Troy-Bilt, perhaps sensed the coming frustration of one person doing math on a paper napkin and picked up the added cost that wasn't part of our agreement with the restaurant and saved the night. Thank you Barbara and thank you Troy-Bilt for all the support.

On Sunday, the last day, the last event for Chicago Spring Fling was a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory. Words don't do the place justice so I'll include pictures of that visit in another post.


  1. MBT, you have no idea how much my mom and I appreciate all that you and the rest of the committee did to make our weekend in Chicago one that we will never forget. We talked all the way home about how there was so much jam-packed into these past three days and how smoothly (for the most part) everything went.

    You all deserve more than thankful hugs and words for giving of yourselves to make this a success. Thank you personally for walking Mom and me to the train station to make sure we made it back on our own okay.

    I wish we lived closer to you all, because it would be so much fun to be able to get together now and then just to shoot the breeze about our gardens and other things in life. You guys are just great people.

    I've always loved Chicago and now I have even more reason to feel that way. Please know that you are welcome at Our Little Acre anytime.

  2. MBT - Thanks for visit my blog! it's mostly in Thai language, so u may not understand them at all. haha.

    If I have something interesting (in english, ofcourse) I'll let u know ;)

    Frankly, I thought u're woman at first. caz I've perception that women'd more likely to enjoy gardening! turns out, I was wrong :P

    Anyway, keep your good story. I love them all :D

  3. I will keep this event in mind for next spring!! I am very jealous.

    I'll need to leave my boys at home to come visit the chicago botanical garden. I've hit most of the chicago sites - but not that one!

    We have a nice conservatory in columbus - the franklin park conservatory.

    Thank you for the info.

  4. Sounds like it was an incredible weekend. Wish I would have been able to make it. I can't wait to read everyone's posts about it.

    Thanks for sharing some of the "behind the scenes" stuff with us.

  5. MBT, thank you, thank you for all your hard work in organizing this whole weekend! This was my first Spring Fling, and it was an event I will long remember. My only complaint is that I'm tired:) So many fascinating places to see, so many delicious meals, and of course, so many wonderful people we met! The sponsors are to be thanked, too; they were so generous, and I was amazed at the gift bags. I met Jane Smith at the cocktail reception and learned about her book--little did I know we were all going to get a copy!

    I've run out of superlatives, so again thank you for organizing this fantastic weekend.

  6. Mr.B! Sounds like you and all of your fellow gardeners had a fantastic turn out and a wonderful time! Keep up the good work in representing gardeners everywhere! xo~

  7. PS: tehe @ your being the "weird cousin!" ;)

  8. Let me add my words of thanks and praise for all your hard work and efforts for Spring Fling. I have now had my first glimpse of Chicago, glimpse is the wrong word since I feel I did see some of the best of it which includes its' wonderful community. You all did a great job and I will look forward to coming back to Chicago.

  9. MBT it was nice to meet the mysterious man behind the blog. I wish we had had more time to chat. Y'all did a great job getting this organized. If you are ever in NC, stop by for a garden tour and my vicarious stories of unfortunate incarcerations.

  10. Organizing Garden bloggers strikes me as more like herding cats than leading a pack, Mr Brown Thumb - not an easy job!

    Congratulations on what looks and sounds like a fabulous Spring Fling - it's been wonderful to follow along through all the posts and tweets.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  11. I second, third, fourth all the expressions of thanks you've received. It was great to meet you and I'm impressed and amazed at all the work you and the other organizers put into this lovely event! And thanks also to everyone who attended for being such wonderful, friendly, easy-going people. I didn't know anyone except occasionally by name or by reputation and was very nervous at first, feeling like an interloper. I shouldn't have worried... after all, who could be kinder or more welcoming than someone who loves plants?

  12. I've just begun reading the posts about the Fling, and it's fascinating to see how different and personal the impressions are. By the way, MBT, if you're a "weird cousin," you can be part of my family anytime! I'll save you a place at the table....

  13. Just wanted to add my thanks too. All you Chicagoans did a fantastic job of keeping us entertained, awed, informed and fed. I'm resting up all week long now. You left difficult shows to fill for next year's fling.

  14. What can I say that has not already been said?

    Thank you.

    And it was great to finally meet the man behind the blog.

  15. As one of last year's hosts, I do indeed know how much work you and the other planners put into the Fling, and it showed. It was a terrific event. I enjoyed the gardens and the company, and we all talked about how tasty the meals were. The swag was amazing too. Thanks again, MBT.

  16. MBT -- thank you for all you and the Chicago bloggers did to make this Spring Fling a success. I'm still in awe of all the amazing sights you arranged for us and loved being in Chicago to socialize with old friends and make new ones. I know how much work went into your efforts and I extend a heartfelt thanks to all of you for showing us all a good time.

  17. MBT, it was truly a joy working with you on the organizing committee. You're indeed a first-class human being, and someone I'm proud to call my friend. Thank you a thousand times for everything you did to assure SF was a success. Words seem woefully inadequate to express how grateful I am to you for everything you did.

    I'll never forget how our committee selflessly toughed out some challenging and difficult circumstances and stayed committed to the event, our participants, and each other to make sure Chicago SF was as successful and enjoyable as possible for everyone involved.

    I'm very proud of you and all of us on the committee, and am looking forward to continuing the friendships we formed in the process of planning SF.

  18. Hi MBT, I want to join in the thanks for the wonderful event. So much to do and so much to see and so much to eat! That lunch at Andie's was divine, as was everything else. We know it was a great deal of work and stress and do appreciate your efforts at making it such a grand success.

  19. Hello! Thank you and the committee for working so hard to make sure we all had a grand time! I know I did! The gardens were wonderful and the opportunity to gab with the other gardenbloggers was perfect. I just didn't have time to visit with everyone! Love the garden bling we thank the sponsors! gail

  20. It was a truly impressive event and I came away loving Chicago. Saturday's lunch choice was particularly excellent, and of course every garden was fabulous.

    Thanks to all!

  21. Ramon: Deep thanks to you and the Chicago crew who put this together and pulled it off. I wish we could ahve spent more time together.

    I'm still sifting through and uploading photos from the weekend and writing my posts. I'll have more to say about each stop on the tours. I'm also trying to link to others' posts from mine, so my readers can get multiple perspectives.

    As for transparency, the greater burden falls on corporations who co-opt public institutions, including social media such as blogs, in all manner of ways to bury the truth, silence opposition, and ensure that only their "message" can be heard.

    We must not be seduced into selling our voices, our selves, our souls, in exchange for cheap trinkets and the addiction of consumption. There is such a thing as blogging ethics, and I think it matters. I'd like us to have more conversations about this, online and face-to-face.



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