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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Pollinator-Friendly Plants and Gardens are a Hot Topic at the : Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Feb 26, 2018 09:16AM ● By Lynn Petrak

Tony Abruscato

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show will kick off springtime in the Chicago area from March 14 through 18 at Navy Pier with the theme of FLOWERTALES: Every Garden Has a Story to Tell. The show features more than 20 walkable gardens, daily Get Growing presentations and seminars on a variety of topics. Director Tony Abruscato, who took over in 2011, reports that as people have become more interested in creating outdoor surroundings that are both beautiful and sustainable in recent years, the show has added garden features, how-to sessions and hands-on activities on planting and enjoying pollinator gardens. Abruscato says it’s his mission to inspire, educate and motivate many generations of gardeners.

Based on your experience with the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, how would you describe interest in pollinator-friendly gardens among today’s gardeners and homeowners?

We are definitely seeing more people interested in learning about the types of plants they can put in their yards and home spaces that will help the pollinator population. At the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, we added a butterfly education garden and had a great response to that last year. The butterfly garden is back in 2018, and we’re planning to have more and different types of butterflies.

Do you find adults enjoy butterflies as much as kids do and like the idea of having their yards as habitats?

I’ve seen it cross generations. It’s also a great way for generations to interact with one another for a common cause. Adding plants that attract butterflies and pollinators is something that is simple for everyone to understand and get involved with. There used to be more butterflies and honeybees, and now there are fewer of them.

        It’s interesting; back in the day, many people considered milkweed a weed, and now it’s being planted in gardens everywhere. In that sense, we are seeing the evolution of plants and what people are growing. What used to be considered a weed is now an essential plant.

Can people that attend the show learn how to plant pollinator-attracting varieties virtually anywhere in their outdoor surroundings?

A pollinator garden can be in a container in your balcony or planted in your yard. We’ve worked with nonprofit organizations over the last few years, too, to help them plant pollinator gardens on the grounds of their facilities. The butterfly-shaped garden at the nonprofit community group El Valor is one example.

How can visitors to the Chicago Flower & Garden Show learn more about pollinator-friendly plants and practices?

In addition to the educational butterfly exhibit, our Get Growing educational series includes several presentations on the subject. Melinda Myers will kick off our seminar program on March 14 with a session on Designing a Pollinator Garden: Create the Scene and Attract the Characters, for this Flower Garden Tale’s Happy Ending. Later that day, butterfly expert Kay MacNeil will talk about Monarch Stuff and How to Be a Caterpillar Mom, and Kyle Lambert will speak on The Wind in the Coneflowers: Creating a Pollinator Paradise.

        On March 15, Monica Buckley and Charlotte Adelman will present Garden in the Shade with Native Flowers, Shrubs and Trees, and Attract Butterflies, Bees and Birds. David Mizejewski will share his thoughts on Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife. He will do another seminar on March 18, Saving Pollinators One Garden at a Time.

        In addition to those seminars, experts will share their advice on the Gardening Live stage. On March 14, for example, Laura Ekasetya and Karen Taira, of Lurie Garden, in Chicago’s Millennium Park, will give their tips on Making Your Own Bee Houses. Our daily make-and-take potting parties will include tips on how to add pollinator-friendly plants to containers, and the Kids’ Activity Garden will feature crafts focused on creating gardens and habitats.

Do people come back the following year and tell you that they planted a pollinator garden after learning about it during the Chicago Flower & Garden Show?

People love to share their success stories with us, and we love to hear about what they have planted and what they learned from attending the show. Our goal is to inspire, educate and motivate people, and it’s rewarding to hear the many ways that people are inspired to get growing to help the circle of life.

Lynn Petrak is a writer and content specialist at GreenMark Media, specializing in green spaces, places and people.

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