Garfield Park Conservatory: Age of Azaleas

January 28, 2008 4:44:44 PM PST
It feels like a touch of spring out there, however Old Man Winter will soon return. But, have no fear because spring is in full bloom this weekend at the Garfield Park Conservatory. This weekend the Annual Spring Flower Show opens and once again the beauty and the aromas of the perfect spring day are upon us -- at least in this little piece of paradise in Garfield Park.

"It's our spring flower show, The Age Of Azaleas, and the show house right now is about 65- percent azaleas. It's about fifty five degrees and it's like a spring day. You come inside from the bitter cold of Chicago and you're surrounded by a room full of blooms," said Matthew Barrett, Garfield Park Conservatory foreman.

The Garfield Park Conservatory is one hundred years old this year and this azalea show is really the first event in this celebration. And here's something interesting about these azaleas-- some of them, in a sense, are older than a century.

"Some of these azaleas are believed to be descendents of some of the azaleas that were seen at the 1893 Columbian Exposition," said Barrett. "As those azaleas grew on and were propagated some of them ended up here at the conservatory."

Azaleas are the flowers that mean springtime. They will bloom for a few weeks and then wind and rain knocks off all the flowers. But, that's not the case with these indoor azaleas. They have to be picked off by hand.

"That's right each bloom has to be taken off so next year's blooms can regenerate," said Barrett. "Handpicked every single one. Even millions."

Garfield Park's Age Of Azaleas opens Saturday and runs through Mother's Day.