Warm weather here in Chicagoland, followed by rain showers and the springing forward of daylight savings time brings about all things not winter. Robins have made their way north followed by Daffodil and Tulips, poking out of the ground waiting for their cue to bloom on the stage known as our gardens and landscapes. Snow of course is not out of the question, but spring is waiting on the front porch with the patience of a child.

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Navy Pier’s new Ferris Wheel March 2016

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show is taking place now through Sunday March 20th at Navy Pier in Festival Hall. .

This historic Chicago garden exhibition made its first showing in 1847 as a flower and fruit exposition.  That’s ten years after Chicago officially became a city.

This year’s garden show theme is “Chicago is,” which is a lovely open ended topic to work with.

The smell of roses stimulated the senses.

The CF&GS is an inspiring event that motivates and educates urban gardeners after a sometimes long and cold Chicago winter.  It’s usually filled with exhibits from growers and designers in and around the Chicago land area.  This means flowers, plants and the sweet smell of soil. There are plenty of folks with gardening on the brain, out and about, ready to talk about compost and spring bulbs. Workshops and seminars are sprinkled throughout the show filled with new and sustainable ways to green up your life. Also, there is a market crammed with vendors selling everything from succulents to the world’s greatest donuts.

Window Box Competition 2016

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show teams up with the Garden Clubs of Illinois and together is hosting the 2016 Chicago Flower & Garden Show Window Box Competition.  As a member of the Brookfield Garden Club, which in turn are members of the Garden Clubs of Illinois, we will participate in the competition this year. This is Brookfield Garden Club’s rookie year in the competition and I had the honor of designing the window box.

Horticulture and Chicago history seemed like a winning combo. Using The City of Chicago’s official motto ‘Urbs in Horto‘, which translated into English means ‘City in a Garden’ as our theme, it fell together gracefully in the last few weeks.

Finding plants in bloom during the winter months seemed to be the biggest obstacle. I visited Ted’s Greenhouse located in Tinley Park, Illinois this past January. They dedicate 100,000 sq. feet of greenhouse to succulents and cacti alone. Wandering through the greenhouses with snow on the ground taking in the sweet smell of fresh soil stirred my soul.  I decided to work with the color and texture of the plant foliage instead of blossoms, keeping in mind plants that were well matched to live together in the same environmental conditions.I settled on a deep burgundy colored oxalis, wire vine and lavender thyme.

A few weeks later at the Illinois Landscape Contractors Associates Convention, I stumbled across the unique bright chartreuse Piggyback Plant and spiky deep Black Mondo Grass. The last day of the show when everybody is ready to tear down their booths and head home, plants on display are sometimes given away or sold for a small price. I felt like I was on “Maxwell St.” such a deal!

Wild Ramps
The origins of the name ‘Chicago’ is thought to come from a Native American word Shikako, which loosely translated means smelly onions, most likely garlic or leeks.  So in honor of this plant which may be the namesake of “The City Beautiful” I chose to add some Allium.

20160311_121221Alongside the plants are three wire sculptures representing Chicago architecture; The Willis Tower, The John Hancock Building and The Crane Communications Building, also known as the kite building which my children named many years ago. This art work was made by a local Chicago artist, Margarita Ramirez. Margie is one of my dearest and oldest friends who also enjoys gardening.

20160311_121406Keeping in mind the thrill, fill and spill formula for container gardening I covered the bases.

In my design I used culturally compatible plants that thrive in well-drained soil and need full sun to part shade growing conditions.

Piggyback Plant ‘Cool Gold’ (Tolmiea menziesti) andCharmed Wine’ Shamrock (Oxalis) as my thrill.

Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘ Nigrescens’), Bugleweed ‘Chocolate Chip’ (Ajuga reptans), Viola ‘Sorbet’, and Allium as the fill.

Wire Vine (Muehlenbeckia), Lavender Thyme (Thymus lanacaulus) as the spill.

As we wait for this temperamental spring to leave the front porch, which could be at any moment, come on down to Navy Pier and enjoy the community of like minded garden folks. It’s good for the soul and great for the cabbage.


Check out http://Chicagoflower.com for more details.

Ted’s Greenhouse http://Tedsgreenhouse.com for your garden needs this growing season.