Chicago Flower & Garden Show (???)

Danville, IN

The last time I was at the Chicago show was over 40 years ago when it was in the original (pre-burned down) McCormick's Place. I heard that the show had gone down-hill for many years, but recently read an article that lauded it's "rebirth" as one of the premier shows in the country. I know it's now on Navy Pier, and the website makes it sound inviting. I would love some feedback from anyone who has attended this show in the last few years. Would it be worth the drive from Indianapolis?

Hoosier - I've been to several of the Chicago shows. My first one was at McCormick Place and I was truly fascinated. Fell in love with a garden designer up by the IL/WI border (senior moment - can't think of his name). I think I went a second time to McCormick Place and then it switched to Navy Pier. Still good early on but then it switched to Rosemont (I think) but didn't go there. It came back to Navy Pier and it's become more about selling product than ideas. They did have a few decent exhibits in 2009 but not enough for me to go back again unless it changes for the better. To me, it's lost is charm. I wouldn't qualify it as "premier" but perhaps I'm too critical (and blunt). I think it's a small venue for the money (heck, 1/4 of it is all about selling product) but you're in downtown Chicago. It is fun to be on the pier (if the weather's nice). The show itself won't take up the whole day so you might want to spend some time exploring the pier.
That being said, if you haven't been, you'll always wonder what you missed and there might be some inspiring exhibits.

Des Plaines, IL(Zone 5b)

Hoosier - it really depends on what you want to see. If you want to see plants you can actually use in your garden, if you want real plant information and talk to real gardeners, trust me: don't go. I've been to two - Navy Pier about 6 or 7 years ago and Rosemont about 3 years ago.

Here's what you'll encounter: Lots and LOTS of products for sale, all overpriced; fantastical "garden rooms" that feature themes like English Country Ancient Crumbling Walls, dazzling tropicals, plants pruned and trained into fantasy shapes, some lighted like Christmas trees, each more bizarre than the next; one or two "Master Gardeners" asking ME questions . . . and perhaps a couple of marigolds.

It's a "Show" alright, but has nothing to do with "Chicago Gardens".

If you ever come into Chicago, skip the "Chicago Garden Circus" and go to Chicago Botanic Gardens. It's a wonderful, beautiful place!

P.S. I almost forgot - the nice thing about the one I went to at the Pier is that I found a brand new Chicagoland Gardening magazine that someone apparently forgot on a bench! I sat and held it for a few minutes to see if anyone would say "Hey, that's mine!". No one did, so it was indeed mine! : )

Danville, IN

Thanks to both of you for the feedback. I was concerned that there would be too much hawking of "garden products" which seem to include house siding, hot tubs, and the like. My worst fears seem justified. We have a small flower and garden show here in Indy in March, which also includes lots of merchandise, but I do enjoy the display gardens for a breath of spring. I'll plan to attend ours, and skip Chicago's.

BTW, I absolutely LOVE the Chicago Botanic Gardens! We try to visit them at least twice a year. It's an unbelievable deal and all for the price of parking. We spend hours and hours there. For anyone who hasn't been there, GO! You will kick yourself for what you have been missing both in beauty and knowledge / ideas. I think it's the #1 best garden deal in the country. We made it to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens a few years ago... expensive to get there (train...no subway connection...from NYC, then bus, then walk, then admission, whew!)... and the admission price didn't even include the whole property (extra for this, extra for that, etc.). All the while we were there, I was contrasting it to the wonderful Chicago Botanic Gardens.

Des Plaines, IL(Zone 5b)

Hoosier, it is SO nice to hear you like our Botanic Garden! As for Garden Shows, maybe I'll come to YOURS! I'm sure it's better than ours. : )

The garden designer I absolutely crave is Craig Bergmann. He's a designer out of Wilmette and did the best feature gardens at the Chicago show - Peter Rabbit and others. He used a lot of unusual plants and his gardens always looked real and aged. I haven't seen him at the show for several years now. Some of the gazebo designs are okay - I do remember one shaped like a pagoda that was absolutely to die for but way out of my price range. But you're right, Hoosier - siding, windows, cookware, etc complete with cooking demonstrations. The new thing is a wine tasting area. But I can only look at so many potted tulips, hyacinths and daffodils anymore.
sherri - What are the CBG like in spring? I've been in summer when it was hot but that's not my ideal weather. I was totally awestruck though by a summersweet bush covered in flowers and bees and smelling heavenly.

Danville, IN

Butting in... The CBG gardens are totally awesome in the spring, especially if you can get there when the azaleas and dogwoods are blooming. The Japanese garden is breathtakingly beautiful. Later, with the crabapples and / or flowering cherries in bloom with all the spring bulbs, it's just a fairyland.

I believe you can check on their website to see what's in bloom, so you can plan your visit.

Des Plaines, IL(Zone 5b)

Hoosier, you said it! Very beautiful and very Midwest!

I may have to make this my new early spring celebration rather than the Chicago flower show. I do miss the late winter exhilaration of the event of the past but it just doesn't deliver for the money anymore. Could I be jaded??? I was wondering if anyone's been to the Philadelphia show and how the Chicago show compares.

Danville, IN

Going to the Philadelphia show is on my "bucket list". From what I have read, it's the "Mother of All Flower Shows" and just spectacular. I think a trip that includes the show and some of the gardens in the area (Longwood, Chanticleer, DuPont, etc.) would be a dream tour. Supposedly, all American flower shows pale in comparison. The Philadelphia show has been compared to the Chelsea Show in England. Wow!

DH keeps mentioning a trip to the Chelsea - our one big international travel destination (or maybe Hawaii). I'd settle for the show in Philadelphia. My sis and husband have been to Longwood and he came back with ideas for their backyard. I would think that it would tough to tie in both the Philly show and Longwood unless the conservatories at Longwood would be the highlight. I've heard of Chanticleer in very obscure references but fantastic none the less.

Danville, IN

With this winter, and depending on the date of the Philly show, the Longwood conservatories would probably be the "only" part to enjoy, but they are fantastic. They have seasonal displays that are worth the visit.

Without checking, I think the Philly show is the first week of March.

Danville, IN

Yep, the first full week of March... March 5th thru the 13th. Theme is "Springtime in Paris". Sounds inviting. Nice website.

Yeah - does sound inviting. Not sure about the 180 vendors though.

Danville, IN

But the themed display gardens sound so-o-o nice. From what I've read in garden mags, the organizers really have it laid out so that the vendors don't detract from the overall impression. It's tempting, but depends on the weather.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

I went last year. The show was fun to see, but I wouldn't go again any time soon. Yes, there were some gorgeous displays to look at and yes there were some vendors...but I'd say at least one third of them (maybe even half) weren't even selling gardening-related products. The vendors last year were far enough away from the show area that they didn't interfere at all with the displays. I agree that was nice. Overall, though, the show felt kind of small to me. Smaller than I expected for Chicago, at least.

Where garden shows are concerned, I much prefer the Wisconsin Garden Expo, which is coming up this weekend in Madison. http://www.wigardenexpo.com/

Danville, IN

KarlyRed: That's good to know. Thanks.

I think Madison is a wonderful city. Was there a few years ago and just happened to hit the huge summer art fair on the capitol grounds. Drove around the city and enjoyed the beautiful neighborhoods.

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

I love Madison, too. Fortunately, I only live about 45 minutes away. :)

The Art Fair On the Square is a lot of fun. :) So is the Saturday farm market that takes place on the capitol square the rest of the year (except winter, when it's moved indoors.

Monroe, WI(Zone 4b)

I'm going to the Chicago show March 9th.....bus tour thingie, so not like I have to drive. I like it for the sheer pleasure of getting away from home for a day and seeing gorgeous displays that I will never want or have if I did want them. The Spousal Unit is coming too, and I told him the greenery and displays would blow his mind. So, for me it is a great "day away from home". The Madison one is ok, been there several times; am only 50 miles from Madison. Went to the Orchid show/display the weekend before and I was disappointed in that. Don't think I will go back.

I've never been to Madison. Road trip!
Admittedly, it is nice to walk into the Chicago show (my only late winter show) and take a deep breath to smell growing things (especially hyacinths) and perhaps for that reason alone, it's worth the price.

Monroe, WI(Zone 4b)

I don't even know what the ticket price was for the trip........bus and admission ticket was $50.00. I thought that was reasonable. I wouldn't drive to Navy pier for $5,000.00 LOL

Watertown, WI(Zone 5a)

Cindy, you should take a road trip to Madison for the Wisconsin Dave's Garden Roundup. :) Some folks go to the farm market on the square (always a TON of perennials and annuals there) and then after meeting up for lunch some folks head out to The Flower Factory, a nursery a bit south of Madison that has...EVERYthing. Here's a link if you don't believe me: http://www.theflowerfactorynursery.com/index.asp ;)

We'd love to see you!

Monroe, WI(Zone 4b)

Is the Wis. get-together still the first Sat. in June? If so, I won't be able to make it, dagnabbit.......my niece is getting married. Spose I'd better show up for that. :>) I had a good time at the first one I was able to attend last year.

I saw references to the Flower Factory catalog. Looks like they carry a LOT of "stuff" and I'm jealous.
Thanks for the invite to the roundup. Will have to play it by ear since I have to start job hunting again after my TN trip next week. Ugh. Hope there'll be a posting later as a reminder.

Did anyone make it to the show? I was curious to see if it had changed at all.

Monroe, WI(Zone 4b)

Yup, I went. The displays were nothing like what I saw when I was down there about 6 or 7 years ago. And, yes, quite a bit of vendors that were hawking wares that weren't all that gardening related. There was a wholesale bulb vendor that was making a killing.......yeah, I contributed to their financial security. I will post a pic this weekend whe. I get back home. I am currently in NY and only have my iPad, which isn a bear to type on this despot keypad, as you can see. But, the SU and I had a day Way from home, so in that respect it was a success for me.

Anna - I had heard from a Chicagoan that it was pretty much as you described but wanted a second opinion. I'm usually a sucker for Rich's Foxwillow Nursery - all those little cute baby conifers.

Monroe, WI(Zone 4b)

Trying to talk the SU into going to the Philly one. LOL

Danville, IN

CindyMzone5: I making a trip to Rich's Foxwillow Nursery in April, after visiting our daughter in Chicago. Plan to spend my tax refund there. I emailed him about coming, and he answered with a phone call the next day, chatting over a half-hour and being very welcoming. Sounds like a bit of a character! I'll have to take photos and post them.

Hoosier - I've never been to Rich's. I've read various articles and have seen the nursery on tv. Sounds like you may be in for a treat. Sadly I lack enough sunny space for conifers. Have no idea what I'm going to do about the little babies I've purchased at the flower show when they outgrow their current small space. Chalk it up to impulse buying.

Danville, IN

I'll let you know how my "field trip" works out. You might keep your little treasures potted and set them in whatever sun you have on a porch or patio. They will grow slower potted and you could enjoy them for many years that way.

I do love the look of them in pots. My sunniest spot is close to the street though so don't think that'll work well. However, if DH has his way about removing two oaks next to the driveway, I may end up with more sun (and less trees :().

Danville, IN

If they get at least a half-day of sun, they should do well, in the ground or in pots. Most conifers can do fine without full sun. Not necessarily part-shade which usually refers to reduced or filtered sunlight, but part sun meaning a half-day of direct sun, like on the east or west side of a building.

Good luck finding a home for your new babies!

I know I'm straying from the thread topic but what type of pot is best for conifers? I'm assuming that conifers are best left outdoors all year (maybe protected in the winter?) and am wondering what pot would hold up to freezing.

Danville, IN

CindyMzone5: I'm not too familiar with potted conifers, but I know there're plenty of more experienced people on the container gardening forum. Post your question there and I'm sure you'll get lots of good advice!

Thanks!

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