The IGC Show Chicago tour buses departed right on schedule Monday morning for our trip to four Chicago-area garden centers and The Gardens at Ball. The first stop was to a garden center that survived a fire and a Menards right next door. Knupper Nursery in Palatine, Ill., operated out of a trailer in the parking lot for two years after the fire, recalled Sue Heaton, who owns the store with her husband, John. The fire destroyed everything on Dec. 23, 1990, but just two years later, after selling part of their property to Menards, they were able to rebuild and start fresh.
Four or five years ago, Knupper went through more tough times, but 2014 has been a good year, Heaton says.
“May, June and July were fabulous. We were 20 percent over our goal in July,” she says. “People are back shopping again.”
Some of the highlights at the garden center, founded in 1932, included a tall Ferris wheel planter that Heaton installed at the store in July and a vegetable garden where customers can read what’s being planted and harvested. The bounty is donated to a local food bank.
The garden center was bought by the Heatons in the 1960s and rests on 118,900 square feet, according to the IGC Show tour book.
Our next stop was to Platt Hill Nursery in Carpentersville, Ill., one of two locations, which was founded in 1980. The garden center is approximately 122,000 square feet, according to the IGC Show booklet, and grows a portion of their plants. Though the store is large, paths guided customers to the various indoor and outdoor sections. Some of the features included hoop houses designated for specific items, such as herbs, tomatoes, roses and more, and a DIY terrarium section where customers can find everything they need – plants, directions, soil, charcoal and containers.
For lunch we dined at the beautiful Gardens at Ball and had the opportunity to explore the trial and display gardens located at the Ball Horticultural Company Headquarters. Each year the gardens offer something new, and this year they featured a succulent garden and the new PanAmerican Seed Kabloom series, the first seed calibrachoa. A robotic lawn mower roamed the grounds as well and was an unexpected attraction for attendees. The technology isn’t perfect, though: the football-sized bot can’t mow in straight lines.
The day concluded with a stop at Wannamaker’s Home and Garden in Downers Grove, Ill., which specializes in patio furniture and had an array of cushion and pillow options so customers can mix and match. The final stop was City Escape Garden Center & Design Studio, a true oasis in Chicago. The 10-year-old urban garden center has more home items than traditional IGCs, and carried massive tropical plants that caught everyone’s attention. Rustic, antique furniture and unique pottery and glassware filled the greenhouse space, and people noted its “Parisian” feel.
Look for more highlights from the show and a product roundup soon.