About two weeks ago, I was so inspired reading accounts of the Macy's Flower Show from Garden Girl and Mr. Brown Thumb that I went ahead and booked tickets on megabus for a Chicago day trip for April 18. I issued an open invitation for any local bloggers to meet me there, and Garden Girl, Mr Brown Thumb, and On the Shores of Lake Chicago (Shores for short) met me around 11:20 outside Macy's.
That big flamingo isn't any of them, or even me, but one of my favorite floral displays. I realize pink flamingos aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I love them. They add a touch of whimsy and, yes I'll say it, class, to the garden. Or garden show.
But wait, here are Garden Girl and Shores posing (I made them do it!) along the main aisle, which had several okame cherry trees down the center and which was flanked on either side with flamingos. (Apparently, they swapped out the cherry trees into refrigerated trucks over night so the blooms would stay fresh longer.)
At Mr Brown Thumb's suggestion, we looked at the same aisle from one floor up...
...and from seven floors up. Cool perspective, huh?!
They also had floral arrangements on top of display shelves...
... and in the aisles. This was the "flower of the day" display, which was changed regularly. I took this shot because all those fuchsia hues just demanded to be photographed, but the display also incorporated a bunch of interesting "found" items along the bottom, such as a bowling ball, pull cart, a big purse, an old cash register, shoes, a hard hat, and a lunch box.
The fountain in the Walnut Room restaurant was also decked out. I was sorely tempted to sneak one of the plastic flamingos out in my purse, but I am happy to report that decency prevailed.
Aside from the flower displays, the Macy's building itself was very interesting. It's been a long time since I've been in a department store full stop (I'm not a big shopper), let alone one with more than two stories. Macy's is like a mini city! Even the elevators are cool.
And check out this magnificent mosaic ceiling by Louis Comfort Tiffany. I usually think of Tiffany in terms of stained glass, but the principles of stained glass and mosaic design are similar. The ceiling really sparkled and the photo doesn't do it justice. I didn't realize we could see it close up from a higher level, but I'll be in Chicago again soon enough!
After Macy's, Shores went home to clean out her pond and Garden Girl, Mr Brown Thumb, and I headed to the nearby Cultural Center. It used to be the main library branch and now houses galleries and rents rooms for meetings, weddings, etc. It has two Tiffany stained glass domes, whose color and detail were very hard to capture in photos, but which were stunning in person.
The walls also had extremely detailed mosaic work, which you can see a little bit here...
...and more close up here (Garden Girl took a better photo, I'm sure!).
The mosaic tiles weren't just near the dome, but extended into several rooms as well. One can only imagine how long that work took to complete. And I just loved the contrast of old and new, looking out the window of the Cultural Center to the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.
The second Tiffany dome was equally compelling.
And I'm always impressed how flowers and little garden spaces are tucked everywhere in the big, bustling, concrete downtown Chicago. This little garden patch was visible through a hallway window at the Cultural Center.
This planter somewhere along Randolph Street is all ready for spring.
This planter (I believe along Michigan Avenue) still had some of the red twig dogwood it had before the holidays, but with the addition of pansies and ornamental cabbages. (That's Shores taking a look while I'm taking the shot!)
And would you believe it? A potted larch, complete with baby cones. Awwwww....
After finishing at the Cultural Center, GG, MBT, and I headed over to Millennium Park. I love this shot of the Cloud Gate because due to the trees and angle, you don't see it immediately.
We then walked to the Lurie Garden, which was planted with spring bulbs. It gets more impressive in spring and summer as the perennials fill in and get tall. I love how there's another crazy plant person in the left of this photo, contorting to get that perfect shot.
There were cute clumps of species tulips, plus the other usual suspects of spring bulbs. Plus two herbaceous perennials that none of us could ID. And which weren't listed on the two signs. Honestly, I can't tell you how many times I've visited gardens with friends and, between us, we can ID about 95% of the plants, and those we don't know are inevitably the ones without signs! I've emailed the Lurie horticulturist asking for ID help, but of course I'm sure one (or more!) of my blogging friends will be quick to help me out, too. :) [Added later: The horticulturist, Colleen Lockovitch, just emailed me back and confirmed the plants as described below. Thanks, Colleen!]
This one looks so familiar to me; the flowers look like pasque flower, but I don't think the leaves are right. [Added later: Thank you, Mr. McGregor's Daughter, for IDing this as prairie smoke; I've only ever seen it in photos with its poofy pink seed heads, not the flowers or buds. I also imagined it taller. Even though we're theoretically in the right zone for it, it doesn't bloom too aggressively here, according to my local prairie-expert friend (everyone should have one!)]
And this one I'm completely clueless about (but aren't the buds just the coolest?!). [Added later: Bing bing bing! We have an ID, thanks to Shady Gardener. They're Virginia bluebells, whose blooms I can easily recognize, but I'd never seen the cool, "scrunched up" buds as I don't grow them in my own garden. I can see that needs to change.]
We then walked across the BP Bridge...
...and reached a little stand of magnolias, one of which had wishes tied to it.
The wishes appeared to be written by junior-high or high-school age kids. Most were what you might expect — wishes for fame, beauty, fortune, and love. Others were more poignant, like a wish to meet one's birth parents. But by far, my favorite wish was this one!
Aren't the blossoms gorgeous? I may have told GG that the magnolias back in Michigan weren't blooming yet, but I was wrong. I went to dinner last night at a friend's house and the magnolias were blooming!
We then headed to Grant Park, where we came across this lovely sea of tulips with pansies waving in the background. I love pansies!
Oh, yeah, and this fountain.
I was getting a bit light-headed from the previous four hours of non-stop walking/standing so we headed to Michigan Avenue to have a bite to eat. But first we saw this public planting and from a distance, we thought it looked like its border was made of lettuce. But we thought, no, it must be lime coral bells or something. Intrigued, we walked up closer to it, and it was indeed lettuce! Very, very cool. I should mention, at this point, that it was so lovely being with two other crazy gardeners who totally understood how exciting it was that the city has edged a bed with edibles! I'm getting all misty, humming Island of Misfit Toys to myself now... (but I don't want to imply anything about my blogging friends, only about me!)
We then ate at the Corner Bakery, a Panera-like restaurant that made a mean mixed-greens salad and an awesome tomato-basil soup. Renewed and replenished, it was time for me to head back to Union Station to catch my bus. Garden Girl headed back to her Metra stop and Mr Brown Thumb walked with me most of the way back to the station and got a glimpse of the bright blue bus I'd be taking home. (megabus is cheap and comfortable! Check it out!)
My feet hurt a little (from carrying me around!), but it was a most enjoyable day. Not only do I love Chicago and architecture and flowers, but it was so nice seeing Garden Girl again and meeting Mr Brown Thumb and On the Shores of Lake Chicago for the first time. I really enjoyed spending time with them. What can I say, gardeners are good people. (And smart and funny, too!) I'm so looking forward to Spring Fling and meeting more of my dear blogging friends!