Nina Mariano explains why she’s greening for the good of Chicago

Written By By NINA MARIANO Posted: 03/06/2014, 11:02am
Array Tulips from the 2013 Chicago Flower and Garden Show photo courtesy of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show

My love affair with food, fashion and flowers has been at the core of my existence for as long as I can remember. When I met my husband, Bob, he was struck by how well I ate, dressed and decorated my home with flowers while living on a working single mom’s budget. To me, these elements were non-negotiable in my life.

Flowers are the easiest and least expensive way to make someone’s day — they enhance your surroundings and elevate your mood because you’re actually investing yourself in the process of picking and arranging them. What colors and varieties will feed your mood today? Will you separate your find into several vases or hoard them all in one? Will you keep them long or cut them short? I’ve actually called friends over for impromptu dinner parties after a good floral score.

When Bob and I married and purchased our home in the northwest suburbs, I was just as obsessed with designing our gardens as I was with the interior renovations. Having never lived in an actual “house” with outdoor space to boot, I was like a kid in a candy store. I conveyed my dream of bringing the outside in, with year-round vignettes that would change from winter to spring and summer to fall. I assure you that our winter was made better by red twig dogwoods, evergreens, boxwoods and blue spruces visible from any seat in the house. (Thank God this was accomplished at the beginning of our marriage, when Bob was more amenable to my sizable visions.)

To this day, when Bob and I make time to travel, we find ourselves seeking out beautiful gardens as diligently as we do restaurants that celebrate the culture of the places we’re visiting. Food and flowers speak an international language, ground us, give us inspiration and tie us to wherever we are.

If traveling is out of the question, a trip to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show is the best day trip ever! That’s why we are not only hosting the opening night preview, but also sponsoring the entire run of the show.

The show will feature 25 lush gardens created by local landscape designers and a European-style flower market that will serve as motivation for anyone with a yard, a balcony, a shelf or a vase. The opening night preview, Evening in Bloom, benefits five worthy organizations — including four dedicated to greening — that help lift the spirits of all Chicagoans: Chicago Gateway Green, Garden Gallery & Studio, The Peterson Garden Project, Urban Alliance and the Union League Club Boys & Girls Clubs.

I think the show will be Chicago’s desperately needed “hail to spring,” giving everyone an opportunity to get lost in displays of spring flowers, herb gardens and trees while enjoying the calming sounds of water features. No matter your gardening budget, an afternoon at the garden show will stir your soul.

The Chicago Flower and Garden Show is March 15-23 at Navy Pier. Tickets ($5-$19; $125 for the “Evening in Bloom” opening preview March 14) are available at

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