Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Eight Garden Trends Spotted on Navy Pier

By Teresa Woodard

At the Chicago Flower and Garden Show this week at Navy Pier, visitors are gaining a sneak peek at upcoming trends for the Midwest’s 2016 gardening season. Running March 12-20, the show began in 1847 as the Chicago Fruit and Flower Show and was one of the first consumer shows to be held at Navy Pier. Though its name has changed, the show continues to strive to educate, motivate and inspire its 40,000 visitors each year. Today, the show features 17 display gardens, seminars, cooking demonstrations, kids’ activities and a marketplace. Check out these trends we spotted.

butterfly at Chicago flower show

#1: Pollinators rule as illustrated with this over-sized floral butterfly in the Brookfield Zoo’s display garden. Growers are taking the National Pollinator Challenge to heart as they offer a host of pollinator-friendly plants. Just look for the bee icon when shopping this season at garden centers.

#2: Pantone 2016 Colors of the Year — Rose Quartz and Serenity — are popping up in many bloom colors including these Easy Wave Petunias in Pink Passion and Silver.

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#3: Ornamental edibles (like this colorful kale) continue to jump the vegetable garden fence into perennial beds, container displays and even cut flower gardens.

#4: Tropicals remain strong, even in northern climates, for their colorful blooms and bold foliage. Medinillas (left) are making quite a stir with their large, long-lasting blooms.


Helleborus Gold Collection ‘Pink Frost’

#5: New varieties of these ever-popular hellebores feature stronger stems and more upright blooms, adding to their appeal as a bridal bouquet flower. 20160312_082215

#6: Succulents remain strong in 2016. Look for them in green walls, green roofs, table centerpieces, dish gardens, bridal bouquets, groundcovers and more!

#7: Creativity abounds among today’s water features with a full spectrum of sizes from big spilling displays to smaller bubbling urn fountains. This impressive five-part display was designed by Aquascape who also sells these faux stacked slate fountain urns of resin).

#8: The Magnificent Mile’s impressive tulip displays have generated a lot of tulip fans in the Windy City. And today’s options are unlimited from two-tone singles (center) to peony-like doubles (left and right).

Favorite Edibles: Wild Ginger

Dreaming of a Mid-Summer Bounty of Home-grown Immature Ginger
wild ginger

Young ginger photo courtesy of Joseph Swain

By Debra Knapke

Two years ago I purchased “baby” ginger at the Worthington Farmers Market (Worthington, Ohio) from Swainway Urban Farm. The immature rhizomes were pearly white with rose accents. The characteristic papery covering and the interior fibers had not developed, and the flavor was sweet and subtle with the lightest of bites.
Along with the flavor comes a bounty of health benefits. I’ve used ginger for years as a digestive aid. Many use it to relieve nausea and queasiness due to motion sickness, pregnancy and chemotherapy. Ginger has been found to reduce inflammation which makes it an option for the relief of headaches and different forms of arthritis. And it has been found to inhibit rhinoviruses which cause the common cold. But, some find mature ginger to be too strong, and this is where immature ginger is valuable. Its gentler scent and taste are tolerated by more people.
Could I grow immature ginger? Off I went to the grocery store to purchase ginger rhizomes. I planted them, watched them grow, and then moved the pot into my greenhouse in the fall. What I achieved was growing bigger, mature rhizomes that were nothing like the baby ginger. I missed something here.
Enter the solution – Joseph Swain was offering a workshop on growing immature ginger on a Sunday afternoon. This was an opportunity that was too good to miss.
Here are some of the major take-home notes from two and a half hours of time-well-spent:
• Start with organic ginger rhizomes. You might be able to find organic ginger at the grocery store, but much of it is not grown organically.
• When you cut your “seed” ginger, make sure you are working in a clean environment and are using a sharp knife.

ginger workshop prepping ginger 3-6-16 crop

Required tools for preparing your ginger seed

• Use a well-draining, organic soilless mix.
ginger workshop group planting 3-6-16 crop

Joseph Swain, in black t-shirt, offering sage advice

• Do not let your ginger seed touch.

ginger workshop arrangement 3-6-16 resize

Placement of ginger

• Completely cover the ginger rhizomes and water them well.
• Do not let the ginger get too hot (over 80°) or too cold (under 65°)
• Monitor the moisture of the media and let the mix dry out, mostly, before you water again. Ginger rhizomes are prone to rot in overly moist soils.

ginger workshop planting 2 3-6-16 crop

Almost done; just add water and vigilance.

I am hoping that I will be able to show you a bountiful harvest sometime in July. Maybe there will be enough to share…

The Kiss of the Sun for Pardon

Magnolia buds

Buds on a star magnolia offer promises of brighter, warmer days ahead.


By Michael Leach

Winter brings special magic to the garden. Visions of snowy branches, frosty twigs and bluish moon shadows on clear frigid nights come to mind. But sunshine is part of the potion.

Sea oats

Seeds of northern sea oats glow in morning light.


In this part of the Midwest, winter sunlight can be a rare and fleeting phenomenon. Weeks of gray skies are not unusual. So there is delight when the sun makes an appearance. When those welcome rays appear in early morning and late afternoon,  the garden glows softly with the burnishing effects from the sun low on the horizon.

ornamental grass

Plumes of ornamental grasses stand out against the somber backdrop of evergreens.

The poem on a garden plaque I keep meaning to buy starts, “The kiss of the sun for pardon … .” That kiss in winter, no matter how brief and infrequent,  warms my heart regardless of the temperature.



Sycamore branches are tinted with the first rays of a February day.

In recent weeks I collected images of this warming touch. Perhaps they will inspire you to go forth in the remaining days of winter to look for special effects and golden vignettes before becoming overwhelmed with all the work that lies ahead.

Prairie dock leaf

The withered giant leaf of a prairie dock wears the gilt of sunshine on a winter morn.



Love ’em or hate ’em, yuccas seem magical at dawn on a clear winter day.


A walk in the woods in late afternoon brings enchantment and the voice of the woodland.



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