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Big Blooms

Photo credits Chicago Flower & Garden Show

at Chicago Flower & Garden Show

by Tony Abruscato

Everything is coming up roses, azaleas, perennials, annuals and more when the annual Chicago Flower & Garden Show presented by 811 Chicago and Peoples Gas, ushers in spring from March 18 through 22 at Navy Pier. This year’s theme, “20/20 Focus on Flowers,” promises a fresh experience, with several new exhibits and activities staying true to a celebration of flowers.

Begin your garden walk with a 16-foot walled, spectacular, multi-sensory display of floral imagery, flowers and planters: an entrance fit for a new focus and a new decade, not to mention a great photo opportunity created by Kehoe Designs.

Continue your walk by taking in the majestic display of more than 20 unique garden exhibits featuring more than 700 plant varieties. Some that are certain to make you stop and smell the hyacinths are the “Focus on Spring” garden showcasing an all-new take on our annual tulip garden; the Spring Garden, featuring Flowers for Dreams Floral market offering a wonderful variety of fresh-cut floral stems and their talented designers on-site to help create Make-N-Take arrangements; and the “Pathways: Dreams, Explore, Discover” garden, featuring local female artists who are challenged each year to create a new fiber art project that shares their personal journey set in a new garden designed by In & Out Design.

And you won’t want to, or be able to miss the display of 39 floral-themed quilts created by members of the American Quilter’s Society. Suspended 30 feet above a 40-foot-by-40-foot quilt-patterned garden, this is a rare opportunity to see floral art in this form, and the first time the American Quilter’s Society has displayed its members’ creations of this magnitude outside its own events.

Flower power comes in all forms and continues with competitions, stunning floral fashions, photography, Tablescapes, window boxes and more. Being inspired will not be difficult at this year’s show!

An exciting return to the 2020 Show is the Best in Bloom florist competition. The competition helps kick off the 2020 Show on March 18 with eight of the region’s leading florists on-stage at 11 a.m. competing to create the best cut floral arrangement in 30 minutes. The winner receives the title of Chicago’s Top Floral Designer, along with other prizes. Arrive early to get a seat at this coveted event.

If you’ve missed it in the past, you’re in for a great visual delight this year with the Hort Couture dazzling floral fashion show, now a garden exhibit to be enjoyed by all attendees throughout the five-day event. The Wintrust Bank Hort Couture Garden will feature one-of-a-kind floral fashions displayed on mannequins by 12 local designers. Show-goers are invited to text-to-vote for their favorite design.

All those in the Chicagoland region with a talent to focus their lens on flowers will be featured in the Horticultural Photo Contest. Look for selected photos in the Green Gallery.

The popular Tablescapes and Window Box exhibits return this year, with regional interior designers, florists and gardening clubs creating splendid and innovative displays in dining room and window box vignettes.

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show has the world’s only Kids Activity Garden, supporting its mission to cultivate the next generation of gardeners. The Kids Activity Garden, sponsored by JULIE1Call, features numerous free activities, including a new butterfly encounter, bug zoo, paint your own bird house (for the first 300 children) and many more fun, green activities.

Also new to the Show is a rare look at a locktender wife’s garden with the interactive Illinois & Michigan Canal Corridor 1848 Garden, featuring plants and more from the era. Additionally, they will host an activity in the Kids Activity Garden for budding horticulture enthusiasts to learn about the Junior Ranger Program.

Continuing your walk through the show, also plan to check out the small spaces and parkway gardens; new technology exhibits that will “wow”, such as a rooftop garden that uses smart phones to turn on music, lighting and other outdoor features; and the presenting sponsors’ 811 Chicago and Peoples Gas Safety and Awareness Garden, providing messaging to call before you dig in your yard this spring, whether it be for a new garden, fence, mailbox or other project.

Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to tour Plant Truck Chicago. Introduced last summer as the city’s first mobile gardening boutique, its mission is to provide access to plant material to residents of urban and underserved communities. Starting in April, Plant Truck Chicago will make “food truck-style” appearances throughout Chicago. The pop-up boutique sells terrariums, succulents and other houseplants and small gardening products. All proceeds benefit The Get Growing Foundation, the Chicago Flower & Garden Show’s nonprofit umbrella organization.

Location: Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. Tickets are available online and at the event box office. For more information and advance ticket sales, visit

Tony Abruscato, “Mr. Green Chicago”, is president of Chicago-based Flower Show Productions, Inc. and founder of The Get Growing Foundation.