Of Wonders and Weeds
By PAULENE POPARAD
March is for .... our annual pilgrimage to Navy Pier.
If we can’t have spring outside, we can enjoy it inside the 2004 Chicago
Flower and Garden Show, this year host to 25 gardens based on the event’s
theme “Public Spaces, Private Places.”
Where else could you see a giant 12-foot tall, high-heeled shoe except
perhaps in Carrie Bradshaw’s dreams?
There’s certainly diversity among the gardens. The www.chicagoflower.com
website describes an architectural meadow garden (whatever that is) and
another that reproduces the finest features of Oscar de la Renta’s 400-acre
Connecticut estate. There’s also a Japanese garden with tea house, stream
and lanterns and a second Oriental garden with a bamboo house, pond and
One of my favorite exhibitors, the University of Illinois Extension Service,
will showcase groundcovers this year, while I’m also anxious to see the
Chicago Park District’s “Spring Rhapsody in Blue” garden featuring, what
else, blue flowers.
A late Victorian street scene will depict a Frank Lloyd Wright-style garden,
and PBS’s Ryan Gainey will interpret the classic American garden. There’s
even a surrealist garden inspired by Salvador Dali.
In addition to the 150 sales and exhibit booths hoping to part us with our
money, there’s 50 how-to lectures scheduled during the flower show’s March
13-21 run. There are so many great speakers planned I want to take the South
Shore in and attend every day!
Michael Weishan, the new host of PBS’s venerable The Victory Garden series,
titled his talk “The Seven Deadly Sins of the Modern American Landscape, and
How to Avoid Them.” Erring on the side of brevity, James Van Sweden, garden
designer and author, entitled his “TBA".
If you can make one seminar, I highly recommend Felder Rushing’s “An
Irreverent Southern Gardener Looks Northward” at 3:30 p.m. March 20. He is a
delightful speaker with hilarious slides (like a garden with dozens of
mismatched shoes on sticks) and the person who gave me the idea for a bottle
Warning: this year I’m moving the new, improved bottle tree (whose skeleton
will be December’s carefully trimmed Christmas tree) to a different location
in the garden with more bottles than ever. All ye of little faith who don’t
appreciate funky yard art, just avert your eyes.
Felder also is speaking at 12:30 p.m. March 20 on “Tough Plants for Midwest
New 2004 plant introductions will be featured at other seminars, and several
speakers will be Chicago Tribune contest winners describing their home
gardens. Our own Basil Cross of Furnessville will describe the lovely garden
he and the late Bill Brincka developed during a 11:30 a.m. March 21 seminar.
You can check or download the seminar list on the website. For more
information phone 312-222-5086. The flower show is open Monday through
Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All lectures begin
at 11 a.m. each day.
Congratulations to Chesterton Feed and Garden for being ranked the third
best garden/nursery store in Porter County in The Times of Northwest
Indiana’s recent Best of the Region poll. Curiously, Frank’s Nursery and
Crafts which isn’t even located in Porter County was ranked first, followed
by Johnson’s on U.S. 30.
Local master gardener Elta Cloud recently related a story about how hopeful
she is to see if her special rhubarb will return this year.
According to Elta, “When my plants start to peek through the soil in the
early spring, I usually greet them with a cheerful hello and tell them I’m
glad to have them come back this year.” Last spring, Elta believes, her
clumps of rhubarb given to her by the late Herb Radtke over 20 years ago
were trying to tell her something, but she didn’t realize it.
”Mid-September I went to dig up a clump for Carol Brenn and to my horror the
roots were black mush!” said Elta. “No doubt a fungi infection had found my
prize rhubarb.” Ever the optimist, Elta dug up the mushy roots and destroyed
them finding one little root that appeared healthy. She soaked it in a weak
bleach solution and replanted it at the edge of her son Chris’ large yard.
If the root does make it, it will take several years to reach the size when
rhubarb can be harvested, by which time the bleach will have been long gone,
Looking for a fun one-day getaway? Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids,
Mich. is hosting its annual Foremost’s Butterflies are Blooming now through
April 30. The event draws good crowds and you walk among gorgeous
butterflies winging free in the large indoor conservatory. Visitors are
checked when leaving to be sure no hitchhiking butterflies try to make a
break for it.
June 20 is the grand opening of Meijer’s new Children’s Garden under
construction the last time I visited. The annual plant sale is May 7-8 and
plant exhibition shows are slated for seven weekends this year. For more
info, visit www.meijergardens.org
Closer to home, April 3 is the Friends of Indiana Dunes 8th annual native
plant sale at the Indiana Dunes State Park pavilion from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Two free lectures are slated in the park’s nature center, and 124 varieties
of plants native to northwest Indiana will be for sale. Additional surprise
plants also will be available.
The Duneland Garden Club is looking for local gardens to feature on its June
26 public garden walk. If you think your garden is special and would enjoy
showing its beauty to others, please contact Donna at 477-4995.
Elta’s rhubarb she was digging for Carol was originally given to Herb by a
friend on U.S. 20. It’s the perfect example of what Felder Rushing calls
“passalong plants.” When he signed his wonderful book of the same name
(co-written with Steve Bender) for me in 2002, his inscription read, “To
Polly, Have fun. Pass it along!”