Forever Greens

It’s the most wonderful time of year for evergreen foliage! From wreaths and boughs to trees and table settings, you’d be hard-pressed to walk down the block or through the store without spotting these familiar seasonal favorites. Though the name indicates hardy, long-lasting plants, it’s important to remember to treat your evergreens just like your flowers—with lots of TLC to keep them thriving.
Matt Mansueto Photography-6701

Speaking of evergreens, it’s not too late to sign up for tomorrow’s Stem Studio Workshop! Join us at Mariano’s Ravenswood (1800 W. Lawrence) from 6:30–7:30 p.m. December 17, to create your own beautiful rose-berry-pine arrangement. All materials are covered for $25—reserve your spot now.


The quickest way to take the “green” out of “evergreen” is dehydration. If possible, try to position your evergreen décor away from direct sunlight, fireplaces and heating vents. If you mount a wreath on your front door or set up your tree in a window, you may have to be more attentive and try some of the following tips:

  • Delay the decorating. Even the most robust greenery can only last about four weeks indoors
  • Submerge your wreath in water overnight before hanging it to fully hydrate the needles
  • Consider using a glycerin solution in the water to preserve your evergreen arrangements
  • Mist boughs with a spray bottle every couple days
  • If your tree needs more water, drill a few holes in the stump just below the water line to increase intake
  • Use hairspray to keep dry needles from falling

What are your secrets to preserve your holiday decor? If your evergreens are taken care of, but your holiday shopping isn’t, make sure to grab your tickets to the 2015 Chicago Flower & Garden Show by December 31, 2014 to save $5 off the total box office price with code NEWYEAR15.


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Celebrating National Poinsettia Day

Eggnog. Carols. Snowmen. Holiday cheer. This time of year is overflowing with traditions that span generations and booming with anticipation of a new year. But when it comes to staples of the season one colorful plant comes to mind: poinsettias.

Brightly colored and known for its star-shaped silhouette, poinsettias have a rich history and unique tie to the holiday season. As National Poinsettia Day approaches us this Friday, December 12th, we thought it perfectly appropriate to share some lesser known details about one of our favorite holiday plants.

1. Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first ambassador to the new Republic of Mexico, was historically responsible for the popularity of the ruby plant throughout North America. While visiting the Taxco region of Mexico in 1828, Poinsett became so captivated with the plant that he decided to send clippings of it back to his home in Charleston, South Carolina. Upon return, he forwarded the clippings to his friends, thus introducing and spreading the beauty of poinsettias throughout the region.

Joel Poinsett
2. In 1833 the poinsettia had been originally assigned the botanical name of Euphorbia pulcherrima. By 1837 the plant had been renamed Poinsettia pucherrima by William Hickling Prescot. Prescot had been asked to rename the plant and chose to honor Joel Poinsett for his many achievements in government and horticulture.

3. In Mexico the poinsettia is known as “La Flor de Noche Buena,” or Flower of the Holy Night. It is displayed around Dia de la Virgen on December 12th to celebrate the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe). On this day people from all parts of Mexico make their way to the nation’s chief religious center at the Basilica of the Virgen of Guadalupe where a mass ceremony and traditional fair preside in her honor.

Dia VIrgen Guadalupe Celebration
4. In the United States, December 12th is celebrated as National Poinsettia Day in remembrance of Joel Poinsett, who died on the same date in 1851. It is only coincidental that December 12th is the celebrated date of the poinsettia plant in both Mexico and USA!

5. Poinsettias are not poisonous. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect. However, poinsettia leaves have an awful taste, so you might want to keep your pets from snacking on poinsettia leaves. Eating the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

6. There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today. Poinsettias come in colors like the traditional red, white, pink, burgundy, marbled and speckled. Poinsettias contribute over $250 million to the U.S. economy at the retail level and are the best selling potted plant in the United States and Canada.

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100 Days to Go!

The countdown is officially on—we are 100 days out from the Chicago Flower & Garden Show! It’s a busy time of year and there’s so much to look forward to, but here’s an exciting taste of all the awesome things we are preparing for you come March.

28-plus Feature Gardens


Garden Gourmet


Potting Parties

Kids’ Activity Garden


Educational Seminars


National Cake Decorating Competition


How-to Gardens

The Marketplace


Evening in Bloom

Matt Mansueto Photography Web-3559

And much, much more!

We hope these photos remind you of all the great things to come at the 2015 Chicago Flower & Garden Show. Don’t wait to get your tickets—buy them online today and receive $2 off the box office price. See you in 100 days!

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Create a Pumpkin Centerpiece

Who doesn’t love pumpkins this time of year? With so many ways to enjoy these seasonal delights—soups, pies, coffee flavors—we couldn’t help but share one more!

This pumpkin-inspired tip comes from and is perfect for your Thanksgiving dining décor! All you need is a pumpkin or gourd, flowers and any other fall accents you find appealing. From leaves and pine cones to berries and branches, creating your own pumpkin vase is easy and allows you to be uniquely you.

Pumpkin vase

Step 1: Draw or scratch a cutting line on the top of your pumpkin. This will be the opening of your vase. Feel free to create a zigzag, wave or asymmetrical design, as this can help guide cascading flowers or branches in different directions.

Step 2: Gut and clean your pumpkin! Clear out the contents of your pumpkin to ensure an empty space for your fall arrangement. (But don’t forget to save and bake the seeds!)

Step 3: Place a small container or bowl inside your hollow pumpkin. This will hold the water to keep your flowers and greenery alive. Be sure to get a proper sized container that doesn’t peek over the top; it should be hidden from the outside. Tip: Insert a shaped piece of chicken wire to help hold flowers in in place.

Chicken wire inside pumpkinStep 4: Fill your pumpkin vase with your favorite fall flowers and accents! Chrysanthemums, dahlias and asters make for beautiful colors of yellow, red and purple. Your centerpiece will look even better if the flowers and arrangement explode over the sides of the vase, rather than stand straight up.

Some favorite arrangement combos to try:


Mix chrysanthemums with a fountain of red winterberry, burning bush and purple beautyberry for a dramatic, yet romantically rustic look.



Yellow beech leaves with pink and white dahlias are the perfect pairing for a welcoming centerpiece. Add gold spider mums into the mix for more texture.


Dahlia meets mums:

Using dahlias and mums, mix the colorful beauties with crabapples and orange winterberry. This will create a fresh and full display that warms your table.

Dahlia meets mums


Create a lavish and lush display with pomegranates, red viburnum berries, orange tulips, roses and ranunculus. Contrast the rustic color scheme with a bronzy-green magnolia-leaf wreath that cascades over the pumpkin edge.


Step 5: Enjoy your beautiful fall centerpiece! Water as needed. Note: Carved pumpkins can start to mold within a matter of days, so take that into consideration before creating your masterpiece.


Have you created your own pumpkin centerpiece? What is your go-to flower arrangement? Be sure to share what’s on your Thanksgiving table with the Chicago Flower & Garden Show!

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Winter is Here—Is Your Garden Ready?

This early cold snap is a reminder that winter is here to stay—for a lot longer. Hopefully your bulbs are planted and your garden is winterized in time, but if not, here are some tips to protect your garden from polar vortexes, snowfall and burrowing critters.

Clean & Prep
Tidy up your garden for winter by trimming back dry stems, removing pests, slimy leaves and weeds, and cutting off dead foliage. Clean out all annual plants after the season to prevent harmful insects and disease from festering. If you compost, these remnants will make a great addition to your pile. Cut back your perennials to four to six inches tall once they’re dead.

Stand Tall
Don’t cut back all of your plants, however. Sunflowers, thistles, coneflowers and others with unique seed heads look great in winter and provide a safe haven for butterfly eggs and bird nests!


Compost & Cover
Leaves, food waste, trimmings, straw and grass make for a hearty compost to layer on top of your garden to make your soil nutrient-rich come spring. Spread 1–6 inches of compost over your garden before winter takes hold.


Layer with Mulch
Just how we bundle up in layers and scarves, your garden benefits from a coat of mulch. It helps regulate soil temperate and keeps the roots of your plants nourished, as well as prevents weeds and erosion. Just make sure to remove weeds and leaves before laying 2–4 inches of mulch around the base of your plants. Be careful! Too much mulch can lead to nesting animals, rot or disease. Roses can have a deeper mulch base. Don’t mulch too early—around the first freeze should work best. You can also use boughs from your holiday plants and decorations.


Plan Ahead
Once your garden is winter-proofed, take some time to clean, organize and store your tools so that you’re ready to go at the first sign of spring. This is also the perfect time to grab seed catalogs or log into Pinterest to start dreaming up next year’s purchases and plants! Happy planning!


Still blue about the end of green? Spring can be in reach with discounted tickets to the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, available online now! We can’t wait to see you March 14–22, 2015 at Navy Pier! 

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Did You Know? Interesting Plant and Flower Facts

When it comes to gardening, greening and outdoor living, there are countless facts to be learned. We did some digging to uncover plant-inspired knowledge that you might not already know. At the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, we are always excited to discover new information, so feel free to spread and share your own did-you-know facts!

Chemical changes cause fall colors

The reason we see such robust color in the fall is because of a chemical change in chlorophyll, which gives leaves their basic green color during the growing season.

During autumn, the chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible—giving leaves part of their fall splendor. At the same time other chemical changes may occur, which form additional colors through the development of red anthocyanin pigments.

Leaf change

More trees = Less money

Planting just three shade trees around your home can save you between $100 and $250 per year in energy costs. Some of the best options for keeping the temperature down in your home are deciduous trees. These trees help shade your house from sun in the summer, but allow the sun to penetrate during the cold winter months.

Deciduous Trees

Some plants bloom at night

Although many plants bloom during the bright hours of the day, some bloom at night to attract night-flying pollinators. Common night-blooming species include Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana alata), Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) and Angel’s Trumpet (Datura inoxia). Other beauties like August Hosta (Hosta plantaginea), Lemon lily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) and Citron Lily (Hemerocallis citrina) are known for releasing pleasant scents into the evening air.

Lemon lily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus)

Fallen leaves help enrich the soil

Needles and leaves that fall are not wasted. They decompose and restock the soil with nutrients and make up part of the spongy humus layer of the forest floor that absorbs and holds rainfall. Fallen leaves also become food for numerous soil organisms vital to the forest ecosystem.

Fall leaves

Make a wish with a wishbone flower

Torenia, a shade-loving annual, is called the wishbone flower because of the tiny wishbone-shaped stamens that can be found inside the purple, blue or burgundy petals.

Torenia Wishbone

The rose family isn’t what you thought

Peaches, pears, apricots, quinces, strawberries and apples are members of the rose family. Other members include ornamental species such as spirea, mountain ash, goatsbeard and ninebark.

Rose Family

Chrysanthemums are the birth flower for November

With a history that dates back to 15th century B.C., chrysanthemum mythology is filled with rich stories and symbolism. Named from the Greek prefix “chrys-“ meaning golden (its original color) and “-anthemion,” meaning flower, years of artful cultivation have produced a full range of colors, from white to purple to red. Daisy-like with a typically yellow center and a decorative pompon, chrysanthemums symbolize optimism and joy. They’re the November birth flower, the 13th wedding anniversary flower and the official flower of the city of Chicago!


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Delicious Fall Vegetables

Comfort food is so much more comforting when it’s cold out. Soups, stews, roasts, mashes and more suddenly begin populating seasonal menus, while the produce section grows rich with hearty veggies. Don’t grow any in your garden? Our presenting sponsor, Mariano’s, is the best place to find fresh, in-season produce—and they even have the recipes to boot! Here are some of our favorite fall vegetables.

1. Squash

Pureed to stuffed, squash is a fantastic vegetable to incorporate into your kitchen this time of year. Cube it and toss it into a soup or serve it as an entree filled with a savory center—squash is a delicious crowd-pleaser that’s rich in vitamins A, C, B6 and K, as well as potassium and folate.

Mariano’s recipe: Spaghetti Squash Pancakes

Tip: Pick squash that are very hard to the touch, with a matte finish and attached stem.


2. Cabbage & Brussels Sprouts

Once despised by children everywhere, Brussels sprouts have been given a new life in the farm-to-table cooking world, where they are now ubiquitous. Cabbage and sprouts flourish this time of year, and are rich with vitamins and cancer-fighting glucosinolates. They’re a versatile, hearty addition to any dish.

Mariano’s recipe: Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Tip: Ever-hardy cabbage lasts a long time when refrigerated in a plastic bag.


3. Leafy Greens

Beautiful greens like Swiss chard, kale and spinach are packed with super nutrients and bountiful in the fall. Leafy greens have been shown to reduce cholesterol, improve your vision and boost bone health. They’re great beyond salads too—try in ravioli, a smoothie or pop them in the oven for some chips.

Mariano’s recipe: Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Quesadillas

Tip: Massage kale with olive oil to soften the texture and bitter taste.


4. Root Vegetables

A great costar to any entree, root veggies like turnips, carrots and rutabagas shine during the cooler months. A great source of calcium and fiber, root vegetables are the perfect alternative to starchy potatoes and add a hearty, earthy flavor to your favorite comfort foods.

Mariano’s recipe: Hashed Brown Turnip Cakes with Ham and Eggs

Tip: Store your root veggies in a cool, dark, humid room, or in a bag in the refrigerator—storing them uncovered will lead to softening.


5. Beets

Yes, beets are root vegetables as well, but this ruby, juicy veggie deserves its own spotlight! When it comes to beets, the options are endless. They’re chock full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and taste good raw or roasted, and even better alongside goat cheese and some nuts.

Mariano’s recipe: Winter Borscht

Tip: If the stems are still attached, remove before storing. Beet greens take all the moisture from the “meat” of the beet.



What are some of your favorite fall vegetables and recipes? Share below! If you’re interested in learning more about cooking seasonally and sustainable, don’t miss our Garden Gourmet chefs at the 2015 Chicago Flower & Garden Show—get your tickets online now and save off the box office price!

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What’s in Your Fall Garden?

Just because summer is over doesn’t mean your garden or home can’t be filled with beautiful scents and colors. Autumn is filled with rich flower shades and robust vegetables that not only add warmth to the season, but also a vibrantly unique color palette.

So don’t go into a flowerless hibernation yet. Here are five gorgeous and hardy plants to include in your fall garden, seasonal décor or flower bouquet.

1. Toad Lily

Frost-hardy and easy to grow, this orchid-like perennial adds a tropical feel to any garden and is very attractive in coloring and shape. Toad Lilies bloom in late summer to early fall, and flower in a range of colors, including delicate pink, maroon, purple, yellow and white. Leaves are solid green, green and white, or green and creamy-yellow.

Pair with: Hostas, ferns and astilbe

Toad Lily

2. Russian Sage

Airy blue flowers with silvery foliage, Russian Sage is a welcoming contrast to the many rustic hues of autumn. Adding color to your garden from midsummer into fall, this member of the mint family is drought tolerant and trouble-free.

Pair with: Perennials, succulents and ornamental grasses (try Echinacea or Rudbeckia)

Russian Sage

3. Colchicum

Add a burst of bright color to your garden with this fall-blooming beauty. Having big cup-shaped blooms, colchicum flower in shades of pink and white. Although gorgeous, be aware that all parts of this plant are poisonous—causing them to be ignored by deer, rabbits and other hungry critters.

Pair with: Evergreen hellebores


4. Helenium

If you’re looking to add some cheery yellow, orange and red blooms to your fall garden, this is the plant for you. Tough and easy to grow, this perennial has daisy-like flowers and tall stems. Heleniums start to bloom in midsummer and on into fall—making them a wonderful pop of color while the seasons change.

Pair with: Celosia and daylilies


5. Sedum

Bursting with dense foliage and large flower heads, these low-maintenance perennials can bloom in red, pink, gold and yellow from summer to fall. Known for attracting butterflies, sedum look fresh and vibrant all growing season long.

Pair with: Aster, dianthus and chrysanthemums


What are your favorite fall combinations? Share what’s growing in your garden!

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Fall Even More in Love With Fall

It’s hard to believe we’re already one month into the fall season. This time of year in the Chicago area is a special time of temperate weather, beautiful colors and tons of opportunities to Do Green. Do Good.

Though we will be sad to see the leaves and temperatures drop, we are so excited to be inching closer to the 2015 Chicago Flower & Garden Show, presented by Mariano’s, coming up in March. Just as our Show greets spring and all the exciting potential that comes with warm weather, fall is the time to say goodbye with a last call for outdoor activities as we cherish the food and fun that come with this fleeting season.

Here are some of our favorite ways to celebrate fall:

  1. Shop Seasonally
    Fall is an ideal time to stock up on delicious and hearty seasonal produce, which doubles as a great way to stay local and sustainable. Some of our favorites that are in their peak now include:Apples, arugula, Brussels sprouts, celery, eggplant, potatoes, squash and many more. Check out a full list before you make your grocery list.Often, the best place to find in-season items are farmers markets across the city and its surrounding suburbs. The outdoor markets typically run through October, but a number of them take it inside for winter. Fortunately, you can always find great seasonal produce and fun from our presenting sponsor, Mariano’s. Visit your local store for more information on the “All about Apples Cooking Seminar,” pumpkin bowling, cocktail classes and more.

    img_1160Food and fall fashion aren’t the only items in season! Now is the time to stock up on fall bulbs and plant them before the ground freezes. There are thousands of varieties of bulbs, from tulips to daffodils to garlic, and they each come with specific planting recommendations, but generally mid-October to Thanksgiving is a safe bet. Space them two inches apart, 5 to 8 inches deep. The best part about fall bulbs? They’re novice-friendly and require minimal work for a bountiful spring garden!

  2. Hit Up Eli’s Cheesecake Halloween Fest
    If you love cheesecake and Halloween, this is a don’t-miss opportunity. (And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love those things?) Our feature garden sponsor, Eli’s Cheesecake, is pulling out all the stops during their four-day festival, including free cheesecake buffets, a pumpkin patch & other produce, live music, a fall marketplace and more. Taking place October 23–26th at their Chicago headquarters, this delicious festival is sure to please visitors of all ages.Halloween-Fest
  3. Get Outside!
    Bundle up, grab the family and head outside to pick your own pumpkins, pears and apples! While you’re at it, why not go for an old-fashioned wagon ride? The list of possible places to visit is endless, but here are some of our favorites:

    shutterstock_220749589 Kuiper’s Family Farm in Maple Park, IL
    Apples, pumpkins, pig races and a corn maze

    Richardson Farm in Spring Grove, IL
    Wagon rides, zip line, pumpkin patch, corn maze and giant slides

    Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch in Hampshire, IL
    Pumpkin patch, apple cider donuts and pony rides

    County Line Orchard, Hobart, IN
    Apples, pumpkins, wagon rides, animal farm, “Moo-Choo” barrel ride, mazes featuring Chicago sports teams

    Smith Pumpkin Farm, Kenosha, WI
    Hand-painted pumpkins, giant jumping pumpkin pillow, face painting, haunted forest

  4. Visit Navy Pier
    When in doubt, we always turn to Navy Pier. Beyond hosting our lovely Chicago Flower & Garden Show, their fall activities calendar is stacked with fun things to do. If you’re into zombies, boats or being scared, you have to check out their Zombie Containment Haunted House—located on a barge in Lake Michigan off the Pier.shutterstock_138401984

    If you’re more into green than ghouls, check out the Chicago Green Festival, October 24–26. Featuring tons of products and services that will help you live a more sustainable life; it’s a great way to learn how you can Do Green. Do Good.That’s not all, check out everything else Navy Pier is offering to celebrate the season, from trick-or-treating and costume contests to fireworks and haunted tours.

  5. Get Crafty!
    What is it about the fall that fuels the urge to craft? There’s nothing quite like hunkering down on a cool fall day and cranking out some seasonal crafts. Gourd-and-cornstalk fall displays, centerpieces, wreaths, Halloween costumes and decorations and seasonal menus—nothing is off-limits! We love browsing Pinterest for inspiration.Show partner, Peterson Garden Project, offers a bunch of cool seminars for all experience levels at their Fearless Food Kitchen, including “Pickling 101—Pickled Green Tomatoes,” “Seasonal Salads 101″ and “Canning 101—Pressure Canning and Boiling Water Bath Demo.” Visit their upcoming events page to learn more!


So there you have it—just a quick list to get you in the seasonal spirit! What are some of your favorite fall activities? And for those of you interested in fast-forwarding to spring, get your tickets to the 2015 Chicago Flower & Garden Show online now and save $2 off the box office price!


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Spring Has Sprung!

After nine beautiful days, the 2014 Chicago Flower & Garden Show, presented by Mariano’s, has successfully drawn to a close. We helped Chicago ring in spring (despite some snow sprinkles!) and we had a blast doing it. It was a whirlwind of gardens, presentations and flowery fun at Navy Pier. Fortunately, we have these beautiful pictures to help us remember all the ways we Did Green and Did Good!

Speaking of which, did you hear the news? Next year’s theme is also Do Green. Do Good! Sustainability and environmental-friendly choices have never been more important, and we can’t wait to explore new ways to help make better decisions that can improve our earth.

For more beautiful pictures, check out last week’s post, Facebook and our Instagram!

Matt Mansueto Photography-3547-X2

Matt Mansueto Photography-9376-X2

Matt Mansueto Photography-3561-X2













Thank you so much for joining us at this year’s show. What was your favorite part of the show? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!


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