Glamourous plant fashions, natural lawns and organic vegetable farmers

March 20, 2011

LIghts! Fashion! Glamour! Leaves! Stems! Hot glue guns!

Um…where did I go off the rails? Seriously, folks, those words all come together at the third annual FLEUROTICA (and they seem to insist on capital letters) fashion show at the Garfield Park Conservatory on Friday, March 25, 2011. If you like flowers (and who doesn’t?), this seems like a great way to combine, horticulture, fashion and show biz.

Some of Chicago’s fanciest floral designers are probably furiously sewing and taping and hot-gluing plant material even as you read this.( See?, I’m not completely clueless. I’ve watched Project Runway.) Stacey Bal, AIFD (American Institute of Floral Designers) is a floral specialist at Whole Foods Market South Loop. She is an award-winning designer who teaches floral design workshops at WFM. She stops by this morning to discuss the perils and rewards of designing with plant material.

Garfield Park Coservatory Alliance board member Perri Knight says that In addition to the runway action, guests can always duck out to see LIVE plants in their full glory in the Garfield Park Conservatory, truly one of Chicago’s gems. There’s also a live-auction, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.The doors open at 6:30 pm and the runway show starts at 7:30

Does your lawn need an intervention to get it off of drugs?

You might think I’m kidding but, truly, when you’re using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn, your lawn is a junkie and you are the junkie dealer. Your turf depends on you to provide it with chemical nutrients and poisons, completely by-passing–and even destroying–the biology in the soil that would normally supply nutrients in a gentle way to your plants, whether they’re grasses or perennials or trees or shrubs.

This method of “lawn care” is not “care” at all, but true insanity. Not only does it destroy nature’s balance, it puts your family, your pets and you at risk from proven carcinogens and endocrine disrupters.

There is another–and better–way. The Illinois Landscape Contractors Association (ILCA), Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association (MELA), Safer Pest Control Project (SPCP), Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), Sea Grant Great Lakes Network, and the University of Illinois Extension have teamed to present a Natural Lawn Care Workshop this Wednesday at Oakton College in Des Plaines.

To be sure, it’s not aimed at the average home owner. Rather, this is a workshop for landscape companies, turf managers, homeowner associations and public employees. If you listen to my show or visit this website and you belong to any of the above categories, I urge you to consider attending this conference. Especially you folks in homeowner associations. I can’t tell you how many times I hear from people who would like to stop the spreading of chemicals on the lawns surrounding their townhouses or condos but are thwarted by the “condo association.” Our nation desperately needs to break free of the idea that we can bend nature to our will in the service of a “perfect lawn.” Lord, help us all. How about a serviceable, healthy lawn that you’re not afraid to have your kids play on?

The rock star of this conference is Chip Osborne of Osborne Organics, who I’ve seen speak before. He knows his stuff–meaning science–and he will be leading a number of seminars at the conference.He bases his business on these tenets: the use of natural, organic products as dictated by soil testing; an understanding of the soil and its biomass; and sound cultural practices. When you visit his website, you see a child in a baseball uniform standing in a field of grass. For you parents out there, the next time you see your own son or daughter in a similar field, ask yourself this question: I wonder what they sprayed on that lawn and how long ago was that? If you can do that, you will never question natural lawn care practices again.

Join me next Saturday and Sunday at Naperville Home Showcase™

If you’re out Naperville way on either Saturday, March 26 or Sunday, March 27, head on out to Naperville Home Showcase on the campus of North Central College in the “New” Residential Hall/Recreation Center, 440 S. Brainard Street Naperville, IL. I’m not exactly sure why they call it the “New” Hall. Maybe it’s really old. Maybe it’s just an Inside joke. Who knows?

The point is that I will be speaking there on BOTH days at 1:00 p.m., which makes attendance MANDATORY. Dennis Carroll, who is with the Home Show Pros, stops by to talk about what you can expect at this suburban extravaganza…besides me, of course.

Good Growing: being organic before organic was cool

David Cleverdon of Kinnikinnick Farm in Caledonia, Illinois, told me a story the other day about what it was like to be an organic farmer in Illinois in 1994. He said when he would offer his vegetables at the Rockford Farmers market, people would see his sign, say something like ” He’s that organic guy,” and continue walking by.

My, how times have changed in less than two decades.

Well I can say that I’m proud to have a trail blazer on the show this morning. Kinnikinnick Farm is an established, cerified, organic farm that sells produce directly to Chicago chefs and farmers market customers. The farm grows a wide variety of greens, heirloom tomatoes, root crops, and seasonal vegetables starting with asparagus and snap peas in the Spring and ending with butternut squash and sun-chokes in the Fall.

They sell their produce every Wednesday in Chicago at the Green City Market in Lincoln Park and every Saturday at the Evanston Farmers Market, corner of University Place & Oak Ave.