Garden Bloggers Spring Fling 2009

One of my favorite photos. The Lurie Garden. I love the contrast of Piet Oudolf's prairie-style garden, with swaths of purple salvia, against the skyscrapers.

What a weekend. 5 a.m. wake-up time. Fly in. Train to afternoon in Chicago Botanic Garden. Train back & walk to Millennium Park's Lurie Gardens. Meeting about Fling 2010. Happy Hour. Dinner. That's day one.

My favorite garden of the weekend. Rick Bayless' urban garden–used for socializing and as a production garden for (mostly) greens for his restaurants. My garden has more in common with this one than others we visited. Lots of creative and strategic gardening ideas going on here. Some of this garden will DEFINITELY end up in mine.

Day two: bus ride to restaurateur, and Chicago media personality, Rick Bayless' garden; group Mediterranean lunch (delish); visit to blogger Carlyn Gail's garden; visit to Ginkgo Organic Gardens, a community garden owned by the non-profit Neighborspace; then off to Lincoln Park Conservancy/Caldwell Lily Pool Garden/Lincoln Park Zoo; quick trip back to Millennium Park to photograph the "bean" and the video fountain towers; dinner for 50 at a nearby restaurant; ad hoc blog blather till 11 p.m.

Day three: It was all I could do to drag myself out of bed for breakfast and walking along the waterfront by Millennium Park before heading back to the airport. I slept on the plane. I never sleep on planes.

Bought my daughter a gift of a package of Mentos in the airport (I'm cheap). Read a blurb in Esquire about inserting a Mentos into an almost-frozen ice cube and, once frozen, offered in a glass of Diet Coke to an unsuspecting friend. Then wait ten minutes. So, (Sandy), if you come to the house, and she's REALLY intent on offering you a cold, refreshing, glass of Diet Coke, play along, but drink it outside.

Looking more like a Dr. Suess garden, this area of the Chicago Botanic Garden featured plants of the same family (this case, Borages) planted together, It was a great way to show how plants in the same family are similar and how they differ.

The Chicago bloggers that organized the weekend did a smash-up, bang-up job. Everything went off without a hitch. No one got lost. No one went hungry. No one was poisoned by wicked plants. Everyone had a good time.

I'll get to posting more about the individual gardens we saw. There's a dearth of posts right now by Fling attendees–they're almost invasive. I really can't add too much more to their excellent posts, but I will post on the gardens we visited and see what ideas I'll be stealing from Chicago gardens.

And the 50-odd bloggers? Well, they're not so odd. It was a pleasure to meet the people behind the words & photos I've been reading for the last two years. Some looked like I thought they would. Some were completely different. It's hard to tell from the pinky-fingernail-sized photos that accompany most blogs. They're all friends now. I'd even serve them Diet Coke.

Elizabeth and I are already looking forward to hosting everyone here in Buffalo next year. Buffalo Fling '10? Flinging Buffalo '10? BuffaFling '10? BufFling '10?

Millennium Park's Crown Fountain by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. Awesome. Coolest piece of public art I've ever laid eyes on. The fountain consists of two, 50-foot (about four stories), glass-block towers, with water pouring off the tops of all sides, at each end of a shallow reflecting pool (we're talking less than two inches here). The towers project video images from a broad social spectrum of 1,000 Chicago citizens projected on LED screens and having water flow through a water outlet in the screen to give the illusion of water spouting from their mouths. The faces are mostly still, but every once in a while they'll blink or smile. It's hard not to be dazzled. And not to be impressed in how interactive this art piece is. Kids all over the place cooling off. Adults smiling all over the place. Hard not to appreciate how art interacts with life with this work of art. I want one for my yard. Maybe not so big.

Lincoln Park Conservatory. That's Layanee from Ledge and Gardens on the bench watching kids make out on blankets, or something.

The vegetable garden area at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Not a uni-planted, dirt-path-surrounded, mounded row anywhere here. A lettuce garden really looks like salad. What vegetable gardens could be like.

Chicago Botanic Garden again. You cannot walk by these poppies without taking a picture. Poppies were once used as emblems on tombstones to symbolize eternal sleep–sleep from the opium and death from the common blood-red color. Hence Dorothy's long sleep in the poppy fields in "The Wizard of Oz."

Not part of our tour–Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park on the waterfront. Built to be one of the largest fountains in the world. I assume the 1927 Chicagoans had some sort of complex going on. It's actually controlled by a computer in Atlanta, GA. This is the fountain from the TV show "Married with Children." I couldn't look at it without humming Frank Sinatra's "Love and Marriage."

Not part of our tour–but one of my favorite gardens in Chicago now–the gardens of the Art Institute of Chicago. They're literally right next door to the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. This garden probably feels like the red-headed stepchild because tens of thousands are next door oohing and ahhhing. But it has nothing of which to be ashamed. Here, the texture of tree canopy, vine-covered trunks, gravel, green ground covers and shadows made this garden look like an impressionist painting.


  1. Really nice pictures.
    I really liked the ones of the water fountain and the poppies.

  2. Hi Jim, as one of the late night blatherers, that was the time I got to get to know you better. You are a brave man to wade in to the sea of womanhood with a few intrepid males for support. (I read your comment on Christopher's blog about hormone imbalances.) Will also turn down the diet coke when there.

    I vote for Buf-fling '10.


  3. I'm with Frances, no diet Coke for me!

    Great summary of a long weekend that seems all too short in hindsight. I'm really looking forward to the next meet up in Buffalo in 2010, no matter what you decide to call it! Buffa10 works for me...

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  4. Laurie & Joshua,
    Thank you. The water fountain (both of them) were incredible. I wish I'd taken more shots of the poppies. I have more, but there's a bunch of garden bloggers in front of them. And they just make them way too colorful.

    WE blathered that night until I was a blithering idiot. There were just enough dude bloggers and husbands there to alleviate any fears I had. But I may still do a guy campaign to get even more testosterone here next year.

    Hey - Buffa10 works for me! Good to meet you in person. It was short in retrospect. I probably could have doe the impromptu architectural boat tour on Sunday, but erred on the side of caution with getting through the airport. Next year will be easier when you all come to me.

  5. Buffaling10? I'm glad I got to meet you, even though we didn't have time to chat. The Mentos thing works. I saw the effects of Mentos in a pop bottle on Myth Busters. Very fun, very messy.

  6. Sounds like it was a lot of fun. It's been great reading and seeing everyone's posts about it.
    I don't think I'll mention the mentos and diet coke to my 10 year old daughter, she would probably try it out on me!

  7. Jim--I love reading your blog because of your twin passions for gardens and architecture. Evident here in your photos and comments--even though it's not really the subject matter.

  8. Mr. McGregor's Daughter,
    I'm thinking maybe, "A Fling in the Buff." Nice to meet you, however briefly. I'll let you know how the Mentos thing works out.

    My daughter just turned 11. Snag in our plan though. We have an ice-maker in the fridge. We haven't had an ice tray in the last two houses. Looks like a trip to the dollar store. This is getting to be more work than I planned on.

    Even our big garden tour here in Buffalo, though we push gardens, the architecture and appreciation of it is inescapable. I wanted to be an architect. Should've gone down that road. Next weekend - my first trip to Fallingwater!

  9. Great post Jim. It wraps up the weekend nicely. I did think you were a brave one amongst all us chattering women but I'm glad you hung in there. I hope I can make the Buffling10 or whatever you decide to call it!

  10. Great pictures- wish I had been there. I love the interactive fountain art too!

  11. I missed the fountain in Grant Park! As for being a voyeur....I made the comment to Robin who was sitting with me 'Young love' but when the couple parted I saw they were middle aged! Who knew?! Great pics and yes, you are one brave man!

  12. Forgot to mention that I am off to buy mentos and diet coke...I have the water and will enroll in exercise glass for next year's Spring Fling...Fling in the Buff! Like it.

  13. so fun! great great pics, excellent post. what if someone was a diet pepsi person? ;)

  14. I don't understand the mentos/coke. Does it explode? Hmm. Like I said, I'm glad you came to Fling, but sorry it tired you out. Imagine if you had to drive 8 hours and had overdone it on the coffee the evening before and therefore did not sleep enough!

    I see lots of requests for more blogger blathering so we'll have to make sure that happens. I like an earlier time for it though.

  15. Great photos - glad you wandered over to the Art Institute garden. . . who wouldn't! It's a little too peaceful for 50 or so very talkative garden bloggers, but it's wonderful enjoyed solo or in small groups. It's one of my favorites too - been around alot longer than the Lurie, and I love how peaceful it is - a nice little retreat from the crowds, cool, breezy, shady. . . love it!

    It was great meeting you. You guys will be great in Buffalo - you've got such a running start with two SF's behind you and all that garden walk organizing experience, the luxury of time, and seeing what went well and what could be improved upon from previous flings. Buffalo SF will rock.

  16. Delightful photos/script of your fun-filled weekend. My 'old' head was there but gardening body elsewhere. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Aw, now I'm really jealous! I've read Frances' account and will look for others' too. It's been fun for me to meet the Seattle-area folks but I hope to broaden out someday if this keeps happening as a yearly thing. Not sure we're up to following Buf-fling10 or whatever you decide to call it, maybe we'll have to go for '12 or '13 just to be safe.

  18. Jim it was a pleasure to meet you. If someone had said there was going to be blogger blather after the pizza dinner I would have stayed with and upped the testosterone. Oh well. It is interesting how many people saw and did slightly different things on such an rganized and tight schedule.

    "Fling in the Buff 10" is good. I'll offer another, "Buffalo Shuf-Fling 2010"

  19. This looks like an incredible weekend! I don't know of anything like it in California.

    -Kate Wiseman

  20. I can hardly believe that some of these pictures came from Chicago. Beautiful.

  21. Lurie is impressive but it's the Art Institute gardens that I would want to live in. What a calm retreat from urban chaos the minute you cross the threshold.


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