Better Luck Next Year, Charlie Brown...

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And when I say "Charlie Brown" that's code for "Chicago Flower and Garden Show"...

Bad to the phloem!

My goal here is not to dissuade anyone from going to the show, because it's a real pickle, if less people go will the show get even suckier next year? As my Magic 8 Ball says, "Signs point to yes".

I don't want that. I LOVE my town. Why can't a world-class city like Chicago have a world-class show?

Well, some would say- "It's the economy, stupid" and that'ssomewhat right. But I've been going to this show for about 10 years now and I've been underwhelmed the whole time. There's some amazing stuff but... there's always a shocking "high school variety show" quality to some of the gardens that just bring the whole thing down.

Here's a slide show from last year, which had some weird parts, but was overall buckets and buckets better...

And all that being said? What's the incentive for someone to enter the show at all? I don't know. Does a display garden bring new customers around to landscaping companies and local garden centers? Do people do it just to bring awareness to a cause or idea, like green roofs or recycling? It's brave of them to put it all out there like that. Or dumb. Hard to say.

I know I could build a kick ass display garden if someone gave me $100,000 to do it with... And I'd probably not even dip my toe in the water for less. You don't build a garden to take up space, it's got to be something people want to photograph, take inspiration from and talk about. It should be a source of pride for the creator and for the event.

There were a lot whole lot less gardens this year, with a big gaping hole where the Chicago Botanic Gardens used to have massive display gardens. And oddly, there used to be a bazillion floral displays, hence the "flower AND garden" part of the name. For years I'd complain about how many there were- bouquets, tablescapes and random avant garde weirdness... but recently I've really gotten inspired by them. There were less than a handful this year. In their place was a bizarre display of handmade, fiber-art hats that had nothing to do with anything (even though I liked them, sorta).

"Vertical Gardening?" I see 1 gallon cans strapped to a grid....

"Vertical Gardening?" I see 1 gallon cans strapped to a grid....

Perhaps it was the sucky theme? "The Sport of Gardening" brought a hockey themed garden, several boats, an over sized croquet set and a Buddha from the company that was smart enough to ignore the objective. Word on the street is that next year's theme is "Hort Couture" which should be a TON of fun and I'm really hoping they run with it...

So, go to the show, but don't have any expectations. And think twice if you're coming in from, say, more that 80 miles away. It sucks that it's so expensive but at least you'll get to see the rockin' Smith and Hawken at Target booth. Maybe with some support it'll get better.

And hey, it does help to know that the Los Angeles show is even worse...