Garden show targets urban dwellers


CHICAGO (AP) – From his top-floor office, landscape architect Douglas Hoerr can see a panorama of balconies – some blooming with pots of herbs and flowers, others settling for just a grill and a chair.

“And there’s some where people don’t have a clue and there’s just one tiny pot with a little evergreen stuck in it,” Hoerr says, laughing.

Chicago – whose Latin motto translates to “City in a Garden” – will host “Garden in a City” this weekend through May 21 in Grant Park. It’s billed as the country’s first garden and landscape design show focused on urban horticulture.

Visitors can learn how to construct a rooftop garden on their garage, create a container garden on their balcony, even build a Mediterranean-style sunroom on a typical city lot.

“People in the city in small spaces want the same things other people want – they just have to figure out how to make their space provide it for them,” said Hoerr, the show’s design chairman.

The city helped organize the show. Mayor Richard M. Daley has been a proponent of the urban greening movement since the early 1990s, pushing a beautification plan that includes new trees and massive flower containers. The city has built schools, libraries, police and fire stations in a “green” manner and has awarded $5,000 grants for the installation of green roofs.

The exhibit is being staged under two tents, both the size of football fields. There are more than 40 exhibits, created by landscape architects, contractors and nurseries, and they have envisioned designs for balconies, terraces, community gardens, rooftops – even a city bus shelter.

Beige backdrops, with the outline of a typical brick house imprinted on them, are hung down the center of the tents to help visitors envision how the garden would look in a real back yard. In one space, the landscapers have designed a “family yard” — complete with playground equipment.

, a potting bench with a step stool for little ones who want to help out, plants that are low-maintenance and nonpoisonous, and a conversation area for the adults.

The Asian-inspired tea garden includes a running stream and rectangular wooden shelter. In another exhibit, a large brick fireplace is the centerpiece for a theme the designers call an “urban oasis.”

“I hope visitors go home and say, “Boy, I can really do that,’ and go home with some real ideas,” said Laura Foxgrover, director of development for the Chicago Park District.

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AP-ES-05-13-06 1414EDT