Category: Garden Shows

A Tale of Two Cities’ Garden Shows

Early spring…..the time when gardeners in the upper-Midwest start itching for some greenery. It’s the beginnings of seed starting season, but still several long weeks from outdoor planting time.

So what’s a gardener to do? Visit a garden show or two. Which is exactly what I did. First up the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, held March 10-18th at Navy Pier. This one had an added bonus for me of a tweet-up with other Chicago area garden bloggers. A couple of weeks later closer to home, Hubby, Kiddo and I attended the Milwaukee Realtors Home and Garden Show, held March 25 – April 3rd at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds.

The theme for the Chicago Flower and Garden Show was “Sport of Gardening”. The display gardens all had some kind of sport theme, from the obvious such as giant croquet mallet and balls (made out of beautiful white orchids), backyard putting greens, and sailboats. Or the less obvious “sport” of backyard entertaining and chicken keeping. Even the decorated tablescapes/floral arrangements had a sports theme.

Best of all the sport’s themes, the over the top but fascinating Blackhawks garden

 The display garden where I spent the most time was the garden featuring stone sculpture’s and plants (mainly woodies, both deciduous and evergreen) from Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery in Woodstock, IL. While we were visiting, the artist was actively working on a new piece. Watching him hand carve the stone was fascinating – as were the mainly examples of his craft woven throughout the garden.

 But, of course, it was the plants that drew me in. Can’t wait to get down to Woodstock and check out this nursery located 65 miles southwest of me, 35 miles due west of my Mom, I have no excuse not to go. Based on the specimens in the garden (which were very nicely marked), this is a must see place for me.

Spring garden shows can get ideas flowing for projects large and small. Unfortunately, as one of the garden bloggers commented, more and more these shows are about selling bricks, pavers, and other hardscape. The Milwaukee show made no bones about it with both the sponsorship of the “Garden of the World” theme by Uniloc, a manufactured block and paver company, and the outdoor bedroom display when you first walked in the door.
Like the Chicago show, the Milwaukee show’s display gardens included lots of focus on outdoor entertaining, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, and water features.
My favorite garden at the Milwaukee show was the one that highlighted a bit more green practices. Beekeeping, green roofs, rain barrels…
Both shows had water features created by drilling holes through rocks. The Chicago show even had a vendor selling kits of pre-drilled rocks to make your own at home fountain. I love this technique for fountain building, first seeing it in the Better Homes & Gardens display gardens in downtown Des Moines back in 2003 or 2004. Trend setters that we are, Hubby & I built one at our last garden. Here’s the ones from the garden shows:
And mine from 2006, in situ:
Each show also had a market area. The Chicago one a bit smaller than the Milwaukee one – which to be fair was a *home* and garden show. From Chicago I brought home seeds and a few bulbs. Milwaukee’s catch was much more fun. I’ve always wanted a bottle tree. There was a vendor with iron bottle tree forms, plus other iron garden scupture. Couldn’t resist the bottle bug to go along with the bottle tree. Now to find them a home…..
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