Planting this weekend? Remember these tips.

We’ve officially reached planting season, and it is now safe to put in warm-season flowering annuals, vines, herbs, and vegetables. Horticulturists at the Chicago Botanic Garden do recommend waiting until Memorial Day for cold-sensitive plants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and squash. Happy planting!

Summer plantings await in the Production Greenhouses.
Summer plantings await in the production greenhouses.

Looking for a challenge? Try these techniques from our blog and the Smart Gardener:

Diascia Barberae 'Flirtation Pink'.
Diascia barberae ‘Flirtation Pink’

Get the best performance from your plants with these tips from the Garden’s Plant Information Service:

  • Pinch back one-third of new growth to encourage stocky habit (except vines).
  • Be sure newly purchased annuals have been hardened off properly before planting them outside. That means moving plants outdoors for a portion of the day to gradually introduce them to the direct sunlight, dry air, and cold nights.
  • Avoid fertilizing newly planted annuals for two weeks.
  • Continue to plant new perennials, ornamental grasses, and roses in containers. If plant roots are root-bound (encircling the pot), make four cuts into the bottom of the root ball with a sharp tool, and flare the sections outward when planting.
  • Stake tall perennials before they reach 6 inches. Begin to regularly pinch back fall-blooming perennials such as chrysanthemums, asters, and tall sedums. Pinch once a week until the middle of July. This promotes stocky growth.
  • Continue to direct the growth of perennial vines on their supports. Climbing roses should be encouraged to develop lateral, flower-bearing canes.
  • Let spring bulb foliage yellow and wither before removing it. The leaves manufacture food that is stored in the bulb for next year’s growth. Even braiding the foliage of daffodils can reduce the food production of the leaves.

Our monthly checklists and Plant Information Service have a host of other gardening tips—including care for lawns, shrubs, and roses.

Photos by Bill Bishoff
©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and

Look, learn, and listen at the Antiques, Garden & Design Show

What makes the Antiques, Garden & Design Show unique? “It’s a feast for all of the senses, and spring is the perfect time of year to experience this mood,” said Lee Thinnes, one the 90 exhibitors at the Show, coming April 15 ­–17 to the Chicago Botanic Garden. “It is truly special because it’s at the Garden during this splendid time of year.”

PHOTO: Garden gates and ornaments from the 2015 Antiques, Garden & Design Show preview party.
Garden gates and ornaments from the 2015 Antiques, Garden & Design Show preview party

The Show features antiques to midcentury design, a garden gallery, a design row, and two market courtyards. Find gifts, garden tools, and botanical merchandise as well as vintage décor and antiques and garden furniture.

Speaking of senses, look, learn, and listen to get the best experience at the Show.


PHOTO: 1960-70s French Pierre Cardin red console table.
1960-70s French Pierre Cardin red console table

Find items that make a difference: Even one item can make a statement. Thinnes, owner of Lee’s Antiques, is bringing a 1960s snowflake-shape chandelier of Italian Murano glass with a chrome and silver-plate canopy and a 1960–70s French Pierre Cardin red console table.

Milne Inc Antiques and Gallery will feature decorative items for the garden, including colorful nineteenth-century weathervanes and a unique deco planter from Surrey, England. “The wonderful shapes and colors provide visual interest, especially in the long winter months when the garden is devoid of color,” said exhibitors Judith and James Milne.

Bring the garden to your walls: A collection of photographs by Laurie Tennent captures the dramatic color and texture of botanical subjects. “By exaggerating the inner architecture of plant life, I offer the viewer a chance to at once become confronted by and immersed in nature,” Tennent said. Botanicals: Intimate Portraits will be on display in the Krehbiel Gallery.

PHOTO: Echeveria 'Red velvet' photographed by Laurie Tennent.
Echeveria ‘Red velvet’ photographed by Laurie Tennent
PHOTO: Ranunculus repens photographed by Laurie Tennent.
Ranunculus repens photographed by Laurie Tennent

Buy what you like: “If it speaks to you, buy it.…If you love it, usually you can find a place to work it in,” said New York-based interior designer Timothy Whealon, author of In Pursuit of Beauty (Rizzoli) and a lecturer at the Show.

PHOTO: Delicately detailed porcelain light shades.
Don’t miss an opportunity to buy the perfect piece.


Do your homework: If you are looking for a particular item or style, do your research before you go so you can ask the right questions. Take any measurements you might need, and bring a tape measure on the day of your visit.

Get the latest: Find inspiration at lectures featuring top design and garden experts. Learn the latest trends from designers Whealon and Martyn Lawrence Bullard, garden between the rows with Jeff Ross of Blackberry Farm, and visualize your dream landscape with Mario Nievera. All lecture tickets include a three-day pass to the Show.


Consult the experts: This is a vetted show, which means the items have undergone a peer review. The exhibitors know their pieces, and their field, so ask them questions, including what makes an item an antique and, therefore, valuable. The Milnes recommend getting an invoice noting the history of the piece and its provenance.

PHOTO: Vendor booth from the 2015 Antiques, Garden & Design Show.
Vendor booth from the 2015 Antiques, Garden & Design Show

Get ready to engage your senses and find treasures at the Antiques, Garden & Design Show, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Sunday, April 15 to 17. Tickets are on sale now for spring’s most anticipated event.

Make the Farm-to-Table Connection

The garden and the kitchen are “dancing partners,” according to a cookbook from the team behind Blackberry Farm, the luxurious farm and inn in Tennessee. Jeff Ross, farmstead educator and artisan chef at Blackberry Farm, brought that farm-to-table spirit to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

PHOTO: Jeff Ross at Blackberry Farm.
Jeff Ross at Blackberry Farm

Ross showed how easy it is to incorporate fresh produce and gardening into your life in his lecture, “Eating Between the Rows.” “I want to open people’s eyes to the edible food all around them,” Ross said.

Ross targets 30 to 40 items and encourages gardeners to think beyond the obvious to things like the florets of collard greens or other ways to use coriander. “These plants were historically grown as edibles, but that knowledge has been lost,” Ross said.

It’s not just edibles. Ross looks to the garden for home décor ideas, such as using okra pods in creative ways, and as an unexpected source of inspiration. “A garden shed can be very beautiful, and it changes nearly every day throughout the season.”

In addition to being a well-known restaurant and inn, Blackberry Farms is a fully working farm. Ross spent nearly ten years managing the gardens at Blackberry; now he helps chefs get more involved in the garden.

PHOTO: Morning at Blackberry Farm.
Morning at Blackberry Farm

Even though the farm is a large operation, the lessons learned there can be easily adapted in containers or raised gardens of just a few feet, according to The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry cookbook. It’s a matter of scale. So, grow smaller vegetables and pick them young. Choose the right plants—such as cherry tomatoes instead of beefsteak for an urban container, or squash blossoms and pick the squash when it is young.

PHOTO: Barn at Blackberry Farm.
The barn on Blackberry Farm

The cookbook includes a photo of Ross, in his work overalls, holding a handful of beans. Bush, shell, soup, green—Ross loves them all. “I want that to be my last meal.” It’s further proof that the farm-to-table connection is personal and powerful.

Try the marbled potato salad recipe below from The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm.

Marbled Potato Salad with Arugula Pesto

Tips: Use the smallest potatoes you can find. The leftover pesto keeps up to a week or more in the refrigerator; use on roasted vegetables or grilled steak.

For the potato salad:

  • 10 ounces, small purple Peruvian potatoes (about 20)
  • 10 ounces, small yellow creamer potatoes (about 20)
  • 10 ounces, small red bliss potatoes (about 20)
  • 9 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil or bacon fat, plus more for drizzling
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
  • 3 3-inch fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 3 3-inch fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 cup lightly packed arugula
  • 1 cup pickled red onions, drained (optional)

For arugula pesto:

  • ¼ cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1½ lemons (about 3 tablespoons)
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 4 cups loosely packed baby arugula, stems removed
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely shredded pecorino cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Transfer potatoes to large baking dish or roasting pan. Tuck the rosemary and thyme around potatoes. Cover the dish tightly and roast until potatoes are tender, about 1 hour. Uncover; let potatoes cool to room temperature. Discard rosemary and thyme sprigs.

Meanwhile, prepare the arugula pesto. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, place sunflower seeds and garlic; pulse to finely chop. Add lemon zest and juice; pulse to combine. Add the parsley, half the arugula; pulse to combine. With machine running, add half the oil in a slow, steady stream. Add the rest of the arugula; pulse to combine. With machine running, add the rest of the oil in a slow, steady stream. Add cheese, salt, and pepper; process until smooth. You will have about 1¾ cups. Transfer to airtight container.

To assemble: Cut the potatoes in half and divide among 6 serving plates. Tuck in arugula among the potatoes. Scatter the pickled onions, if using. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the pesto over each salad; drizzle with olive oil or bacon fat. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6.

Photos © beall + thomas photography.
©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and