Stepping into the "rose room of your dreams" at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, presented by Mariano's March 14-22, may feel like stepping onto the Crawley family's country estate, popularized by the British television series, "Downton Abbey."
A highlight of the flower show's Classic Rose Garden will be Anna's Promise, the first in a series of garden roses from Weeks Roses, inspired by the Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning NBC-Universal program, airing on PBS. Anna's Promise, which makes its debut at the Navy Pier show, "praises the true heart and integrity of Anna, lady's maid to Lady Mary Crawley," according to its official description.
Chicago Flower & Garden ShowWhen: March 14-22
Where: Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
Cost: $17 weekdays and $19 weekends with a $2 discount for tickets purchased online prior to March 14; $5 children age 4-12
"We have our own 'Downton Abbey' fan club at Weeks, so when the network suggested a licensing opportunity for a series of garden roses, we jumped at the chance," says Karen Kemp Docksteader, marketing manager. The Anna's Promise beauties will be among 1,600 blooming roses in two rose gardens -- a first at the Chicago show in more than a decade -- and are among 22 featured gardens demonstrating how beauty can be functional and sustainable, as well as how gardeners and homeowners can "Do Green. Do Good."
"Anyone seeing the many ways that professionals incorporate these exceptional, hardy roses into our show gardens will be inspired to replicate those ideas at home," says Tony Abruscato, show director. "The gardens demystify the rose-growing process while delighting the senses during this snowy, bitter cold Chicago winter."
The Classic Rose Garden will be a "rose room" oasis.
"It will be awash in shrub, English and old-garden roses that fill the air with fragrance and the space with joy -- like a gorgeous retreat for weekend breakfasts or a glass of wine on a warm, summer evening," says Scott Mehaffey, the landscape architect who codesigned the garden, which American Gardens is building. Some of the featured roses will be 6 feet tall.
Star Roses and Plants/Conard-Pyle, which introduced the famous Knock Out and Drift families of roses, plans to provide several varieties of low-maintenance, brightly colored hybrid teas, including the tall Dee-Lish Rose, with its very strong fragrance of verbena and citrus. Pink Flamingo contains a hint of salmon color, boasts superior winter and disease tolerance, and is suitable for smaller gardens and containers. Apricot Candy sports ruffled-edge petals and soft green foliage.
The roses are especially well-suited to withstand the Chicago area's winters because they are grown on their own root systems, instead of being grafted to stock. "This means that in case of a severe winter, the root system will survive and the following year will give you the flower that you want, and not one from the understock," says Jacques Ferare, Star's rose program manager.
Additional blooms from Weeks include Cinco de Mayo, a floribunda rose in a mysterious shade of lavender-red that should mix well with any color in the garden, and sports super-glossy foliage. This is one of the Easy to Love series "that bloom with continuous color from spring to frost, and are landscape tough," Docksteader says.
Gethsemane Garden Center plans to provide rare varieties of disease-resistant antique roses, including bourbons, hybrid perpetuals, teas and hybrid musks, says Nathan Beckner, Gethsemane rosarian and garden co-designer.
The Miniature Rose Garden, a delightful mix of miniature and miniflora roses, will feature the debut of Brenna Bosch, a grayish-mauve offering from For Love of Roses. Others will include Dr. Gary Rankin, a 2-inch miniature with good form, brilliant orange color and drilled centers, and nearly impervious to disease. Kiss An Angel Good Morning is a showpiece in the garden, especially when planted close to darker-colored roses. Leading Lady is a white and perfectly formed exhibition rose that has a blush of light pink in the center of each bloom.
"Roses are not difficult to grow, and everyone can enjoy them, even those in apartments with small balconies or patios," says Richard Anthony of For Love of Roses. The miniatures and minifloras are perfect for containers, as visitors will see in the garden designed by Atrium Landscape.
"Among the two rose gardens, gardeners will find at least one rose variety to meet their need, desire or interest, whether it's landscaping with roses, rose photography, rose accessorizing, flower arranging or an extension of interior décor," says Susan Fox of Gaga's Garden, a recent American Rose Society award winner.
While the two rose gardens represent a first at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, there are other firsts, as well. For those with an interest in Irish lore and garden beauty -- and just in time for St. Patrick's Day on March 17 -- a new show offering is the Irish Heritage Garden. This "emerald isle" featuring Irish stone, backdrops and other elements creates an Irish countryside experience. Also new: a garden featuring the latest varieties from Proven Winners, which makes its selections from more than 60 plant breeders around the world.
With the healthful benefits of gardens in mind, a new garden replicates the rooftop garden at the Ronald McDonald House, the home away from home for families of children receiving medical treatment.
A Natural Gas Safety Garden will give visitors a new, interesting and unique view of underground pipelines crisscrossing a typical residential yard. The garden is designed to reinforce the message of "know what's below before you dig" and encourages visitors to call 811 in Chicago or the suburbs to get underground lines located.
A Monarch butterfly "sanctuary" garden makes its show debut, helping children learn about nature. When the show is finished, the garden will be transplanted to the property of El Valor, a facility that assists those with disabilities and the underserved in Chicago's Pilsen community.
A series of window boxes that local garden clubs designed demonstrates how small-space gardening can be big on beauty and style. Other gardens provide a lounge area among hyacinths, a sea of tulips, boulders, pavers, outdoor porcelain tiles, decking and other hardscape elements, all with a blend of sustainability and beauty.
To help gardeners with solutions to their unique garden issues, experts will present seminars and visitors can get hands-on training in the "How To Garden." A list of daily activities is available at www.chicagoflower.com/upcoming-events.
For information about the show's gardens and all its many experiences designed to educate, motivate and inspire, visit www.chicagoflower.com.