The 'Classic Rose Garden' at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein

Rose Garden In Bloom | Miracle On The Pier

Weeks Roses in Bloom

They said it couldn’t be done. Almost convinced myself that we weren’t going to have a blooming rose garden at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show – in March – at Navy Pier in Chicago, Show Director, Tony Abruscato and I never gave up. We scheduled a meeting with Weeks Roses Sales Manager at the time, Karen Kemp-Docksteader at the Independent Garden Show August of 2013.

Tony Abruscato | Susan Fox in the Rose Garden

Tony Abruscato | Susan Fox in the Rose Garden

Then Karen and Tim Wood of Star Roses formed an unbeatable partnership working together that got these roses forced into bloom in Michigan and shipped to Chicago! Dr. Keith Zary sent me the white paper on forcing roses into bloom in a green house that is an entire white paper.  A story for another day.


Then Star Roses and Plants, Vice President License and New Business Development, Jacque Ferare and his team that include Tim Wood and Kyle McKean said that their company would also provide Star Roses and force all of the roses into bloom at their greenhouses in Michigan. The next thing you know Tony had brilliant Landscape Architect, Scott A Mehaffey with a design for the garden. Sprinkle in some magic dust from folks like Matthias Meilland from the most distinguished, oldest family of roses in the world and things begin to bloom.

Landscape Architect, Scott Mehaffey, Designer, Rosarian Nathan Beckner

Landscape Architect, Scott Mehaffey, Designer, Rosarian Nathan Beckner

Scott requested that creative rosarian genius Nathan Beckner of Gethsemane Gardens take a leading role with this project. This man talks to roses and they obey. I know this to be true. Nathan engaged Ted’s Greenhouse to force his roses that include some of the most beautiful David Austin Roses. Nathan’s David Austin ‘Shropshire Lad’ captured everyone’s heart as it swept over the arbor, a magical sight for Illinoisans winter weary eyes. Nathan Beckner worked almost every hour of the show as a docent and kept the roses at their peak while we deadheaded and watered them along with our volunteers from the American Rose Society.

‘Shropshire Lad’ by David Austin Roses, Nathan Beckner’s Rose at The Chicago Flower & Garden Show in bloom in March

'Shropshire Lad' by David Austin Roses, Nathan Beckner's Rose at The Chicago Flower & Garden Show in bloom in March

Nathan was at the show before it opened, watering and dead-heading the plants, staying as a docent, pruning roses and then he went to his full-time job. If you live near Gethsemene Garden Center you have one of the nation’s leading rosarians, Nathan Beckner as a consultant. If you love roses and gardens at flower shows then we owe these companies a tremendous debt, paid in gratitude, respect and our business. A way to honor these folks and be sure we have future rose gardens at The Chicago Flower & Garden Show  is to give them your business because many of them worked at the show on their own time as volunteers.

Steve Sanger, Renowned Rose Hybridizer working with Laura Seabaugh at the ARS Table

Steve Sanger, Renowned Rose Hybridizer with Laura Seabaugh at the ARS Table

Landscape Architect and Founder of American Gardens, Jerry Milewski built the garden and was there almost every day working as a volunteer answering questions from very gracious and grateful visitors. Even the Chicago Botanic Garden Master Horticulturist, Tom Soulsby (who I interviewed for the 2014 American Rose Society Annual for the article I wrote on the Krasburg Rose Garden) volunteered for a day and worked at the rose garden. John Beaty of Mills Magic was there opening night. We are so proud to have him as our organic fertilizer sponsor. And just think about the amount of organic soil that Mark Highland, of Organic Mechanics had to bring in for gardens like this. And yes I use his soil and I love it.

Susan Fox | John Beaty | Laura Seabaugh

Susan Fox | John Beaty | Laura Seabaugh

The American Rose Society (ARS) worked with me at record speeds, accomplishing coverage of volunteer Consulting Rosarians for the entire show to answer any questions the public might have about roses. Analytic Director for Mesa Boogie, Michael Fox provided me with the solution for tracking our volunteers. Thank-you Michael. And we have to thank Jolene Adams, Pat Shanley and Jeffrey Ware of the American Rose Society for providing material and sending Laura Seabaugh and her close friend Yvonne Matherne who worked at the show right beside me as crowds filled our rose garden throughout the show. ARS President, Jolene Adams was the first person I asked if she thought this project was feasible. She was my behind the scenes coach and a cheerleader every step of the way. ARS, Vice President Pat Shanley is the most generous, fast acting, get things done person I’ve ever seen working through and with Jeffry Ware and Laura Seabaugh to make things happen.

Julia Child in Bloom
Julia Child in Bloom

So you see roses bloomed in Chicago thanks to all these wonderful folks for the first time in over ten years.

Gardeners attending the show saw that roses are easy to grow, require minimal care, are long living, and resilient. The American Rose Society (ARS) Director of Membership, Laura Seabaugh assisted as we coordinated ARS volunteer docents Consulting Rosarians available throughout the show at the rose gardens to answer questions about rose growing any attendees may have.

‘Apricot Candy’ Glowing as it springs into bloom

Pictures are truly worth a thousand words. Here are the Star and Weeks Roses that we had at the show.

Star Roses on Parade
Star Roses on Parade

Star Roses and Plants


Pink Flamingo

Eternal Flame

Apricot Candy

Sunshine Daydream

Greenmark PR President, Sue Markgraf
Greenmark PR President, Sue Markgraf next to David Austin climbing rose in bloom

Weeks Roses

Anna’s Promise

Cinco De Mayo

Julia Child

Jump for Joy

Koko Loko

Oh My!

Fairy Garden That Delighted Everyone Young and Old
Fairy Garden That Delighted Everyone Young and Old

The Fairy Garden

Garden Wise Living designed the Fairy Garden.  We had miniature roses within the design to delight gardeners and children alike. The Fairy Garden was so popular with young and old alike. twitter ID is @greenblessings.

A Thought to Leave You With

The CEO of  Tom’s Shoes, Tom Mycoskie, Founder of One for One said he didn’t “wake up one day knowing he could change the world.” (paraphrased) But he is changing the world providing shoes for people all over the world one pair of shoes at a time. Read his story folks and if you don’t think Mom wants a rose bush for Mother’s Day buy her a pair of Tom’s shoes and know you just put a pair of shoes on the feet of people who may never have had a pair of shoes, or maybe buy her a rose bush and a pair of Tom’s Shoes*

David Austin Roses
David Austin Roses

Special thanks to Certified Roses, Mills Magic and Sue Markgraf and Gina Tedesco of Greenmark PR who were absolutely amazing through this show. Sue Markgraf is world class.

disclaimer: I don’t own a pair of Tom’s shoes. Tom doesn’t know me, my Web site nor has he ever heard of me.  My granddaughter has a pair. I read his story this week when @MargieClayman posted his blog and I think he is a great man with a wonderful mission.

Anna's Promise in Bloom at The Chicago Flower & Garden Show
Anna’s Promise in Bloom at The Chicago Flower & Garden Show

More Pictures

Nathan Beckner on the far right with docent and show attendees
Nathan Beckner on the far right with docent and show attendees

And The Hat

The Hat my darling daughter-in-law picked out for me sight un-seen of the color of my jacket and it was perfect!
And the Hat for the ‘Evening In Bloom’ Fund Raiser

3 thoughts on “Miracle on the Pier”

    1. Hi,
      Roses don’t bloom naturally in Chicago until about Father’s Day in early June or late May if its a warm season. It’s can be cold and even snow and ice in March in this zone so we had to plant the bare root roses in a greenhouse around Christmas and create light and warmth conditions suitable to be sure the roses would bloom 3 months earlier than they would normally bloom.
      Susan Fox

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