The Styled Ramblings of Heavy Petal's Bruce Bailey

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The Place to Bee in Chicago—Lurie Garden


Prairie plants such as
Echinaceas and grasses dominate at Lurie Garden.

Bees are busy and hard at work at one of the best kept
secrets in Chicago. Hidden away in Millennium Park is a quiet
oasis–Lurie Garden. Consisting of 5 acres and tended by one paid
staff person I was impressed by how natural the setting was.
Another great thing about Lurie Garden is that it rests atop the
Millennium Garden parking structure. Yeah, it is also a rooftop
garden! Is that making the most of your space and hiding an eyesore
all at once?

 I met garden writer Helen
Yoest ( and garden photographer
Christopher Tidrick ( at the
symbolic  “Cloud Gate” (Anish Kapoor, 2006).
With its mirror like finish, this  giant sculpture
lays between the vertical and the horizontal; the organic
omphalos refered to by citizens as the “Bean”. On this
glorious August morning, sun shining bright, the mood of
the trio was festive and we were hungry to bite into what Chicago
had to offer. Helen looked forward to seeing this piece as she had
never been to chicago and has a penchant for gazing balls. The
‘Bean’ is one big gazing ball that’s for sure. A few pictures
snapped and off we went to the one garden the three of us
wanted to see. What made that sharing more of an event is the
company I got to share it with.

Christopher Tidrick is
always on the lookout for a great garden shot. Screens or
scrims of grass create great layers and afford the photographer
endless possibilities.

Yoest- Spendor in the grasses. Textures of stone, plants, wood and
water were awaiting our discovery. This is one garden Helen did not
want to miss in Chicago.

entering through the armatured hedge the three of us were
amazed at the insular world before us. Textures of stone,
plants, wood and water were awaiting our discovery as we walked
through the small hedge opening, a snicket almost, but I could
be mistaken. Through the hedge we went and momentarily I felt that
we had stepped through the looking-glass. As a big fan of
the natural garden, I could easily glide through meadows and along
the shorelines taking it all in. Lurie Garden is right up my alley
that’s for sure.  Prairie perennials, grasses and great
textural plants from the plains mix well with other plants. OK,

I am describing it as a
jumble, but its more like a series of rolls. Screens or scrims
of grass created great layers while Echinaceas,
Hemerocallis ‘Chicago Apache’
Veronicastrum virginicum and
Eupatorium maculatus
stood tall and proud showing the world their
colors. Calamintha,
Pycnanthemum muticum,
Eryngium yuccifolium,
Amsonia hubrichtii
providing contrast and
interest. Layers and screens, screens and layers. More movement
seems to happen while everything is standing still in this

Just one
August morning is not enough for this garden. It must be visited
several times throughout the seasons. This is a great garden to
study in, have lunch, meet a friend for intimate conversation.
There is an other-worldliness about it. NO place in Chicago feels
like this.

A visitor to Lurie Garden will be
treated to not only a slow quiet pace, but a feast. The bees
certainly are. The bees in Lurie Garden don’t pay visitors any
attention. They are far too busy gleaning what they can and
collecting up what they need to survive the winter. Busy, busy,
busy bees. This is sort of ironic to me. The bees are much like the
humans who work around or outside the garden. I am not talking
the park employees, but those working in downtown Chicago. Outside
the shouldering hedges is a busy area of downtown. Thousands of
people are working and doing their thing so they can survive as


Triple Threat Garlic Bread

As some of my friends know I am quite the force in the kitchen at times.

When it comes to cooking I learned more from my father than I did my mother–she is no cook.
My folks were born and raised in California–my father was born in Santa Maria and grew up in a strange fashion attending high school in the Santa Ynez Valley and college at Cal Poly, SLO.
His love of California rustic cuisine is still present in the amount of garlic, green onions, and overall flavor he enjoys on or with his food.

So onto the bread!

This recipe is not for those with low cholesterol diets. The butter will he running from the corners of your mouth or dripping from your chin.
You have been warned.

I start with slicing the loaf of bread length wise.

Pre-heat the oven to 425F and put the bread on a cookie20110906-051248.jpg sheet face down.
Let cook till outside is hard and at the crunchy state.

In a sauce pan-20110906-051341.jpg
Use 3/4 to one pound butter and melt it in the sauce pan adding 2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic–fresh or from a jar. I like to use roasted minced garlic as the flavor is full and rich. Let it melt on low heat- we are not browning the butter but fusing the flavor of the garlic to the golden substance.20110906-051638.jpg(Butter has this magical quality to it. The fats absorb or take on flavors, organic compounds and chemical compounds.)20110906-051356.jpgAfter 10 or 12 minutes bring bread out of oven and turn cut side up. It, too, should be crispy and very light in color.

At this point turn the oven on broil and toast the cut side to desired shade.20110906-051539.jpg20110906-051426.jpg20110906-051440.jpg

Pull out of oven and ladle half the butter on the two halved of the bread. Place back under the broiler and let it come to a bubble and remove.

Ladle second half of butter/garlic on bread. Yes! More butter, more garlic.

Repeat steps again with broiler and remove.

Fold buttered faces of bread back onto each other and slice bread into small one inch thick, or thicker, slices.


Serve hot!

The New Southern Casual

The Park Hill Collection just keeps catching my eye. Yes, I have to walk by it. Yes, it draws me in.


Elegant reclaimed wood pieces, stylish and paired down mixed with vintage feeling prints, rustic metals and those dang sheep I got to have.

Truly, these are great! They are cast from molds of old/vintage pieces in a nice featherstone and given a weathered finish–just awesome.

Lanterns, framed mirrors, and other accessories that blend equally from the outside to the inside. All compliment a savvy sense of finish and presentation that can hit a wide rang of price-points.

Helen Yoest, garden writer and Raleigh, North Carolina resident commented to me, “A combination of contemporary south and old plantation before the days that were gone with the wind.”

I would have to agree with Helen that southern style has never looked better.

The New Indie Garden Center Owner

Today was very enlightening. Walking around the trade show floor one just never knows what could catch an eye. She was seen. What I had hoped to find and don’t seem to at trade shows.
This girl is an edgy, goth/alternative type, but right on track. Girl? She just turned twenty-nine and today was her birthday.

Approaching her I asked if I could talk to her for a minute and see how she was enjoying the show and what she was looking at.

The conversation was very relaxed- footing was equal and she appreciated my candid and direct questions as much as enjoyed her esprit decor.
Much was learned quickly–she was here with her mother, a veteran of the garden center trade who had worked for someone else the past 20 years. The mother, with her daughters, had decided it was time to take a risk on something they could call their own. Risky indeed in this economy, but a risk worth taking.

Organics, sustainable, natural were words that came from both these women’s lips. They plan to raise and sell their own eggs- the young woman herself was a bee keeper and planned on having honey as something that was sold at the nursery. Chickens were also part of the package…an odd, but very thought out plan was being related to me and how they would do this in a town with a base population of thirty thousand people.

I feel at times very alternative, very not fitting in with the nursery crowd–too indie. I sell plants to people like this bright young woman when I go to shows and lectures in Spokane, Seattle, and Portland. There is an untapped market of brilliant younger people–couple, singles, families–that are educating themselves online. They are becoming the new plant geeks in the garden sphere.
Nothing like meeting a 22 year old peony collector who is plopping down a hundred dollars on an Itoh peony you have at your show booth. You read that correctly, too sweet to make that kind of stuff up.

Be aware of your customer base–it’s not all ladies 45-60. The base is becoming younger, way hipper, and highly savvy. Just because you have read the cover of a book seldom do you know the story at all.

American Beauties

Adaptation is a rule, and a lesson, that almost every gardener must learn. Where to plant, what to plant there, zoning, and watering are all thing that a gardener must keep in mind when purchasing a plant.

Native plants–native to your area or to the North American continent– can be so rewarding with minimal effort. The same holds even more true with plants that are native to the plain states.

European garden designer Piet Oudolf capitalizes on just those qualities that are so natural to the plant.

American gardeners, always in search of value and savings=maximum bang for the dollar, are discovering the qualities of native plants.
Rewarding the gardener with growth and blossom native flowers such as monarda, eupatorium, echinaceas, rudbeckias, and asters add color and texture to any landscape. Even my favorite hibiscus moscheutos are great, showy native plants. These flowers can be easily complimented with native shrubs such as hydrangea quercifolia, viburnum trilobum, and physocarpus.

Producers such as American Beauties really help a small retailer like myself locate and source a lot of the native plants.
I don’t know about you, but I am learning what my time is worth. North Creek Nurseries and American Beauties help me to find plant that my customers love.


Thinking small at IGC

Don’t assume I am telling you to cut down on your spending–I am not!
I am suggesting you think about miniature and fairy gardening.

I am loving the miniature garden format. Seeing this in England six years ago I was wondering what the deal is? Gosh, who would want to do this?

The answer is you do.

This is a great idea! Janit Calvo with Two Green Thumbs turned me on to this. Containerized, gardening within a window-box, what have you– it’s all good.

People, if you live in apartment, a condo, or maybe you have limited space–miniature gardening just might be for you.

Retailers, be forewarned, this is a trend, not even new, but it’s on fire.


Re-thinking signs around the nursery- qurify!

I have been thinking about this for a while now. I have these signs about plants that people can read but they still want printed information on them. I am not a fan of loads of paper fliers that get faded in the sun or too easily wet when watered.

Along comes a spider–or at least something new in the technology realm. QR codes.

You have seen them popping up on product tags like some jumbled bar code but they hold more information than just a price code.

I am now on a quest. Clients, customers, visitors be warned. BE aware is more like it! I am qurifying all my signs. You will have to use a smart phone if you want to know the price, what the plant is and any other info I have put on the sign. Zone, watering, where to plant–it can all go on there.