Some of the lushest landscapes in a parched Lake County have been assembled piece by piece and will be gone without a trace by the end of the weekend.
But three theme gardens/outdoor living areas open for strolling at the Lake County Fair represent a new direction for the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. For the fair, it's an effort to expand the attractions by blending horticulture with agriculture.
"Inspire, educate and motivate people about gardening, greening and landscaping," explained Tony Abruscato, owner of Flower Show Productions, which every spring presents its signature indoor show at Navy Pier.
"It's an opportunity to take an 84-year-old event and keep it relevant and current," Abruscato said of staging a garden show within the fair, which runs through Sunday at the fairgrounds at Peterson and Midlothian roads in Grayslake.
Visitors enter a wood chip path flanked by fresh sod and pass beneath a pergola to experience this version, spread out next to the goat barn on the west end of the fairgrounds. It is about one-tenth the size of that at Navy Pier, which features 30 garden areas and 150 vendors but likely will be expanded in coming years.
This inaugural showing at the Lake County Fair also offers advice, demonstrations and products. This is the first time the show has been held outdoors and also the first time it has been held during summer.
"It's really nice and unexpected at the county fair," Janet Burt of Lake Forest said while toting her kids, Sophia, 9, and Hudson, 6. "I'm always looking for good ideas."
The plantings are typical Midwestern varieties of flowers, grasses, trees and other vegetation arranged by area designers and builders for maximum effect in and around patios, water features and other allures. Creature comforts, such as a custom-built, Neopolitan-style outdoor pizza oven situated near a raised garden in the "A Family Night Out" themed area are plentiful.
"The idea is you can grow your own herbs on your garden table and take what you like and put that on your pizza," Abruscato said.
At the "East Meets West" garden, the design is simple and geometric. Basalt columns and large stones flank a pea gravel patio with comfortable seating.
The "Ultimate Staycation" garden is dominated by a cedar gazebo bordered by spruce trees. It features a built-in barbecue and rain collection system.
"It's a good way to show people what we can do," said Phil Schleifer of Advantage 1, a landscape and exteriors firm based in Garden Prairie.
Chuck Scordato, proprietor of EZ Clean Coops, shares the space with his custom-made chicken coops and enclosures.
"Over the past few years, it's been getting quite popular," he said of a practice that has been debated in several communities. His coop-and-pen combos range from about $1,000 to $1,500 but as with any custom product can be thousands more depending on the request.
And among the landscapers and designers, three master gardeners from the University of Illinois Extension are available to answer questions and give advice. Lately, there have been lots of drought questions, said Mary Ryan, one of the trio of master gardeners on duty Wednesday morning.
"We pretty much tell them to forget their lawns," she said.