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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Chrysanthemum

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Colchicum

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

Helenium

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

Sedum

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!

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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!

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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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A Glimpse of Green

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show, presented by Mariano’s, is in full swing at Navy Pier, now through this Sunday. Since opening day, we’ve already had hundreds of visitors enjoy the first glimpse of spring with our gardens, demonstrations and seminars. Haven’t made it yet? Here’s a look at what’s going on—and what you’re missing!

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This is just a glimpse of what’s happening at the 2014 Chicago Flower & Garden Show! There is plenty more to do and see—so don’t miss your chance to join the fun.

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The Chicago Flower & Garden Show, presented my Mariano’s, is open now until March 23rd at Navy Pier. Buy your tickets now. 

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10 Ways to Better Enjoy the Show

The 2014 Chicago Flower & Garden Show is almost here! With only 3 days left until the show opens to the public, we thought it would be helpful to share some tips on how to make the most of your trip.

1. Wear your walking shoes. (And maybe a sweater.)
The Festival Hall where the Chicago Flower & Garden Show is held is more than halfway down the 5/8-mile length of Navy Pier. And once you’re inside the Festival Hall, you’ll see 170,100-square-feet of space filled with gardens, activities and exhibitors. This means a lot of walking. (But don’t worry! The show has plenty of seating and lounge space available so you can easily take a breather.) Also note, the Festival Hall tends to be a bit cool…so grab a sweater, just in case.

2. Think of travel time and commute.
This year, the show falls during St. Patty’s Day, so take into account that the city will be booming with festive Chicagoans. Navy Pier is also undergoing construction, so parking and transit might not be as smooth as in years past.

However, there are many convenient and “greener” public transportation options to Navy Pier. The CTA provides seven bus lines with more than 200 buses serving Navy Pier daily. These include the #29 State St., #65 Grand Ave., #66 Chicago Ave. and the #124 Navy Pier Express, serving Metra lines, Millennium Park/Randolph St., Ogilvie and Union Stations.

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3. Look at the schedule ahead of time.
The Chicago Flower & Garden Show offers more than 100 educational seminars and workshops hosted by industry pros. From how-to classes to culinary demonstrations to horticulture presentations, our schedule is jammed pack full of inspiring, educational and motivational activities for attendees to participate in. Be sure to check our daily schedule ahead of time so you don’t miss your favorite chef, speaker or activity.

4. Give yourself time to enjoy and explore.
As we mentioned, the Festival Hall is huge—and it’s filled with larger-than-life gardens, engaging activities and great marketplace exhibitors. Give yourself plenty of time to walk through our 22+ garden spaces and 100+ marketplace exhibitors. Also give yourself time to attend seminars, workshops and presentations!

5. Bring your camera! (And be social.)
The Chicago Flower & Garden Show is a show that ignites all your senses. We can’t help but be inspired by the beautiful sights and innovative ideas, and we hope you are too. So take pictures of what you love and can’t wait to bring home! Be sure to share them and join the #ChicagoFlower conversation on our social media channels: Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Photography at the Show

6. Take notes.
We want you to leave the show feeling inspired, educated and motivated. Bring a notebook and take notes of what inspires you and what you learned during a seminar or workshop. This will help you to better bring the Chicago Flower & Garden Show home, and find greater success in your own green space.

7. Talk to the pros.
We have top industry pros at the show every day ready and willing to share their expertise. Whether it’s a seminar speaker, chef or garden builder—ask questions, seek advice and take home some great tips.

8. Buy your tickets ahead of time.
Have your tickets ready to go by ordering them online. You’ll also save $2 off box office ticket prices by purchasing your tickets online before March 15th.

9. Use and keep the Show Guide.
Our 68-page Show Guide is not only a great keepsake, it’s full of rich take-home information. From gardening tips to contact information of your favorite exhibitors, the guide is a helpful tool to have even after the show ends.

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10. Check out everything!
We all have our favorite must-see attractions, but don’t stop there. See everything! Visitors tend to skip around and end up missing some of the show’s hidden gems. You’ll be surprised at how many activities and sights there are to see, and you never know what will catch your eye and get you excited.

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We hope these tips help you to better enjoy the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. And we hope to see you soon! The Chicago Flower & Garden Show runs March 15-23rd at Navy Pier. 

 

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Eat Green. Feel Good.

This year’s theme at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show is Do Green. Do Good. and with our exciting lineup of 2014 Garden Gourmet chefs, show-goers will learn how eating green does the body good.

A Garden Gourmet demonstration at the 2013 Chicago Flower & Garden Show.

A Garden Gourmet demonstration at the 2013 Chicago Flower & Garden Show.

Eating green can mean using fruits and vegetables that are in season and preferably organic and locally sourced. It can also mean using greener methods in the kitchen and at the grocery store (BYO-produce bags, anyone?), growing your own ingredients, composting and more.

Delicious dishes sizzled on display at the 2013 Chicago Flower & Garden Show.

In our specially designed amphitheater, chefs will showcase sumptuous innovative dishes that capture the flavor, color, texture and beauty of fresh ingredients. They will also share tips for growing and using sustainable food, from growing on the rooftop or deck to community gardens. The free 45- to 60-minute Garden Gourmet demonstrations will give attendees a behind-the-scenes look at the methods that Chicago’s top chefs use, as well as delicious samples, meet and greets and recipes to try at home.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t boast about the top chef talent that will be featured at this year’s show—and the only reservation you need is your general admission ticket! Mariano’s, the presenting sponsor of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, will feature a number of demonstrations by their chefs, and chefs who regularly shop at Mariano’s stores—”Chicago Tastemakers”—each morning of the Show at 11:30 a.m.

Chef Rick Ortiz of Antique Taco.

Chef Rick Ortiz of Antique Taco.

These Tastemakers include some of the biggest names around, including: Bill Kim of bellyQBelly Shack and urbanbelly; Lorin Adolph. private chef for businessman Sam Zell; Rick Ortiz of Antique Taco; Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno and Piccolo Sogno Due; Rodelio Aglibot of  e+o Food & Drink and Yum Cha; Meg Galus of NoMI Kitchen; and Joseph O’Connor, Mariano’s own executive chef.

Mariano's own Chef Joseph O'Connor.

Mariano’s own Chef Joseph O’Connor.

Is your mouth watering yet? What if we told you there are even more chefs who will hold demonstrations Sunday through Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday at 1:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.?

They include Richie Farina of moto; Tim Havidic of iNG; Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh of The Hearty Boys; Dean Lubbat of Dinotto Ristorante; Dirk and Terry Fucik of Dirk’s Fish; Ruben Izaguirre of The Palm Restaurant; Didier Durand of Cyrano’s Farm & Kitchen; and Sam Netter of Real Urban Barbecue and even more. Check out the Garden Gourmet schedule and start planning your trip—you may even want to come back for seconds.

Chef Bill Kim of bellyQ, Belly Shack and urbanbelly is one of the many Chicago Tastemakers appearing at this year's Garden Gourmet.

Chef Bill Kim of bellyQ, Belly Shack and urbanbelly is one of the many Chicago Tastemakers appearing at this year’s Garden Gourmet.

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We can’t wait to share the sights, sounds and tastes of this year’s Chicago Flower & Garden Show with you! Get your tickets online before March 15 and save $2 off general admission.

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Get Inspired, Educated and Motivated With Our Seminar Speakers

For decades, the Chicago Flower & Garden Show has been considered a welcome sign of spring after another arduous Midwestern winter. The show is a breath of fresh-smelling air, with gardens galore and great new ideas. Though the flowers and gardens are the eponymous stars of the show, we love participating in the exchange of ideas with our educational seminars, including speakers who inspire, educate and motivate our show-goers.

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This year, we are so pleased to have more than 40 top horticultural experts and professionals from academia, business and garden centers to share their tips, tricks and knowledge with our guests. This year’s show theme is Do Green. Do Good., and a number of the topics will be related to sustainability, as well as other topics like landscaping, annuals and perennials, planting techniques, organic gardening and more.

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We’ve featured a number of this year’s speakers on our blog, including Jan Riggenbach, Cheryl Munoz, Scott Mehaffey, Melinda Myers and LaManda Joy. Seminars run daily and are free with show admission. Visit our educational seminars page for topics and times, and start planning your day (or days!) at the show!

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HGTV’s John Gidding. Courtesy Photo.

We’ll also be welcoming John Gidding, host of HGTV’s popular DIY programs “Curb Appeal” and “Curb Appeal: The Block,” to share tips on how to make your home’s public appearance stand out from the rest with front doors, welcome mats and more.He will be presenting and answering audience questions at noon and 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 20 and again at noon on Friday, March 21.

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We’re three weeks away from Chicago’s official gateway to spring, get your tickets online now and save $2 of the cost of admission until March 14!

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