I'm a sucker for anything coming (or is it "going") full circle so my favorite display gardens at the 2009 Chicagoland Flower & Garden Show tended to be those that showed a nice transition from one thing to another. Like before and afters gone wild!
In my opinion the Chicago Park District stole the show with their 4 season display garden called Greening Up. For one, this thing was so huge! (Does anybody know how the space for the show is allocated? Do you pay by size or do they just give you what they think you ought to have or what?) The park district display garden was predictably divided into four sections representing the four seasons and not only were every one of them just beautiful, they were informal gardens which I love because it makes me feel like it's something I could actually attempt myself.
Winter garden: One word - Enchanted. Notice how the Chicago skyline is depicted atop the roof on this display. It is visible from every side and was a wonderful surprise.
Summer garden: my favorite of the four. I loved that they used the slices of tree trunks to form the steps through this garden and the surprise tomato planted right up next to the compost bin which you really can't see in this picture (bad photographer!). And seeing Rhubarb planted here has finally convinced me to plant some in my own garden this year. Hell, I may even plant it right in the front yard - the leaves are just beautiful!
Fall garden: I loved the big blue rain barrel in this garden! I'm so tired of feeling like I'm supposed to be ashamed of my rain barrel and hide it away rather than proudly displaying it. This one was covered with some kind of metal screen material and from a distance the barrel looked like it was made of tiny blue tiles. The screen around it also provides sort of a trellis to grow things on. I'm thinking of trying this myself.
These gardens were so realistic that I felt like I could climb over the barrier into any one of the four and be transported right into a storybook. I attribute a lot of this to the lighting which was just perfect.
Paradise in the Parking Lot was another garden I liked with a different sort of transformation. This garden was sponsored by again by those geniuses over at Chicago Park District, specifically a group of community gardeners. If you didn't know, Chicago has a fantastic community garden program and there are many of them throughout the city.
What I didn't like about this garden was the signage for the "before" photo. I have a very short attention span and I really need to get something right off the bat to fully appreciate it. So, being forced to read that sign irritated me and I did not feel that it did a very good job of telling me what was going on in the garden. Like I'm OK if the sign just says "here's an example of a parking lot that our group would transform into a beautiful garden which you can see if you walk around to the other side." Instead, it started out about an "architectural dig site" and I quickly lost interest. I realize that most people wouldn't be bothered by this kind of thing and that it is the reason I don't really enjoy cool inspiring stuff like poetry and abstract art - because I have to think too much.
This garden also had a flower/color combination that really caught my attention. Peach colored tulips against a backdrop of the silvery foliage of Dusty Miller. I'm not even sure that plant combination is possible considering how early tulips bloom, but it sure was pretty. I debated about not including this picture because it's so blurry, but I just needed you to see these colors together.
Mr Brown Thumb has a good video of this garden (he's on a video rampage this week so check out his site if you're into that sorta thing) over at his blog if you are interested in seeing more Paradise in the Parking Lot.
In addition to Mr Brown Thumb, just about all the Chicago area garden blogs are sporting Chicagoland Flower & Garden Show posts this week so be sure to visit them for more great pictures and commentary on these great display gardens.