When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name."
~ Ricky Nelson
What a feeling, walking into a room full of friends you've never met. Mom and I were there at the reception for the Spring Fling bloggers at Elephant and Castle restaurant, and it took a second to confirm that I did indeed know this person standing in front of me. Some garden bloggers are shy on their blogs and I'd never seen their faces, but the name tag rescued me by stating the first name and that of their blog. I felt like someone who has ADD as the night went on, and one by one, familiar names and faces showed themselves. There was lots of hugging and smiles all around as we all worked our way around the room.
There were several special guests at our dinner:
- Dr. Jane Smith - author of The Garden of Invention, the story of Luther Burbank. Jane brought a complimentary copy of her book for each blogger. Thanks, Jane! (Jane was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Patenting the Sun: Polio and the Salk Vaccine and I got to sit beside her at lunch on Saturday!)
- Barbara Hastings - representative from Troy-Bilt, who presented each blogger with a garden journal. Troy-Bilt also donated a tiller worth over $600, which was won by one lucky blogger! Barbara and Troy-Bilt picked up the tab for some extra expenses at Saturday evening's meal, too. Thank you, Troy-Bilt, and it was fun hanging out with you, Barbara!
- Anneliese Valdes from CobraHead®, who donated several CobraHead® weeders, which were won by lucky bloggers. (Not me - Boo hoo!)
- Lainey and Fallon from Edelman Public Relations, representing Scotts Miracle Gro - both women spoke to us a bit about Scotts Miracle Gro GroGood campaign, which is helping to raise awareness of growing food for the hungry. Scotts Miracle Gro was one of the sponsors of Spring Fling.
- Beth Botts - Beth has written for over 20 years for the Chicago Tribune and is now freelancing. She shared freely of her knowledge of Chicago and gardening and Mom and I were fortunate to get to spend some one-on-one time with her at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Then, of course, there were the bloggers - the reason we all were gathered there in Chicago. I couldn't believe it - all of us in the same room - the faces behind the blogs we like to read and have learned so much from.
First, I recognized Shawna Coronado. Shawna has that kind of personality you're naturally drawn to, both in person and on Twitter, where I'd first "met" her. She welcomed me warmly with a hug and we immediately began talking about ... hmmm ... what was it now? Oh yes - everything. I have a feeling if Shawna and I were in a room by ourselves, they could lock the doors for 24 hours and at the end of that time, they'e come back to let us out and we'd still be chatting away.
Shawna is especially interesting to me because she has made a complete turnaround in her life regarding her health. She had extensive health problems and became healthier by getting outside and in the garden. Her book, Gardening Nude, is a chronicle of that experience and she gave me a copy, which I'm looking forward to reading. Shawna lives in Chicago and also writes The Casual Gardener blog.
Nearby was Robin Wedewer, who was easily recognizable from her photo on her blog, A Bumblebee Garden. Then there was Elizabeth Licata and Susan Harris, both writing at Garden Rant and their own blogs, Gardening While Intoxicated (Eliz) and Sustainable Gardening Blog (Susan).
At that moment, Layanee from Ledge and Gardens in Rhode Island came up behind me and introduced herself. I've enjoyed Layanee's blog for quite some time and was so happy to finally meet her. She ate dinner at our table and we all enjoyed her company and wit!
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Lisa from Greenbow and her sister, Tena. I'd met Lisa and her husband a couple of weeks ago when they stopped for a visit on their way home to southern Indiana from a vacation in Michigan. Lisa feels like an old friend and there were warm hugs when we greeted each other again.
Next, Gail from Clay and Limestone and Frances from FaireGarden introduced themselves and there were squeals of delight as we finally got to meet each other. Both were just as charming and warm as they are in their blogs and I was so glad they traveled up from Tennessee. I regret that we weren't able to spend much time together throughout the weekend. I'm not sure how that happened, because they are both a couple of my favorite bloggers, but it did. Next Spring Fling, we'll remedy that!
I recognized Carol of May Dreams Gardens right away and introduced myself. She generously offered a cutting from her famous Night Blooming Cereus and I was happy to take it off her hands. It is now sitting in a corner of the front porch, where it will be dutifully ignored, as recommended by both you and Chris from Outside Clyde. Thank you, Carol!
We were let into the reception dining room and we took seats at round tables. While we were waiting to get in line for our food, a dark and mysterious man was seen hanging out by our table. I looked at his name tag and OMG, it was MrBrownThumb!
Once I got over the shock of seeing that he was not in his 50s as I'd somehow pictured him, I immediately got up and gave this wonderful man a big hug. I have always enjoyed MBT's blog and have been impressed with his horticultural knowledge, but I now have a deep respect for his generous nature and his quiet manner. I can't tell you how many times he went above and beyond the call of duty to try to make our weekend in Chicago an experience none of us would forget. He was more than successful in doing this and I will never forget how selfless he is. Thank you, Ramon! (And yes, I have a photo of him, but I took an oath not to share it online. Sorry!)
Following a fabulous buffet meal, which took me the longest of all those present to finish (because I couldn't talk and eat at the same time), special guests were introduced and giveaways were conducted. We all know that Shawna Coronado stuffed the entry box, because she won everything that was given away, but she generously gave up most of them. She kept the CobraHead long-handled weeder though, and I couldn't blame her. I was hoping to win that one, too!
Troy-Bilt gave away a tiller worth over $600 and Elizabeth Licata was the first winner of that fabulous prize. I say "first," because she declined when her name was drawn, due to her not having a garden where she can use a tiller of this size. The second winner was Jessica from Chicago, who had plans for its use in a community garden.
Other prizes given away were a ceramic compost jar from Gardener's Supply (won by Carol of May Dreams Garden), several $50 gift cards from GardenShoesOnline.com (I won one of these!), a collection of personal beauty products from Chicago Honey Co-op (won by Anneliese Valdes), a $25 gift card from Gardens Alive! , a shirt, book, and buttons from You Grow Girl, a set of books from Timber Press, and a few other things that I can't recall.
In addition to the prizes, each person in attendance was presented with a swag bag chock full of wonderful gardening goodies. Included in the reusable bags (from Miracle-Gro) were a copy of Dr. Jane Smith's book The Garden of Invention, several books from Sunset Books, seeds and a beautiful poppy mouse pad from Botanical Interests, seeds and a cookbook from Renee's Garden, a garden journal from Troy-Bilt, a certificate for free organic fertilizer from Garden Guys (procured by Layanee), a pair of garden gloves from Ethel Gloves, a copy of the book Waking Up in Eden by Lucinda Fleeson, lip balm from Chicago Honey Co-op, and a tote bag from The Houston Chronicle (courtesy of Cindy of My Corner of Katy in Texas, who also brought poppy seeds from her own garden for everyone).
Before we knew it, the evening had grown late and a bunch of tired gardeners started making their way back to the hotel rooms. MrBrownThumb and the other members of the Spring Fling team began gathering up the leftovers and found there were quite a few extra swag items. Those of us that were still there were offered some of the extras and I took a few for the express purpose of putting together a giveaway package for one lucky reader who wasn't able to attend Spring Fling with the rest of us.
Included in this giveaway are:
- Waking Up in Eden by Lucinda Fleeson
- The Garden of Invention by Dr. Jane Smith
- Four packets of seeds from Botanical Interests
- Certificate for free organic fertilizer from The Garden Guys
- A tote bag from Scotts Miracle-Gro
To qualify for this giveaway, you must leave a comment here, telling me where your garden is located and what your favorite flower is that's growing in your garden. (Just a hi won't do!) On Sunday evening, I'll choose a random winner from those that comment that were not able to attend Spring Fling in Chicago.
- Flatbush Gardener - NY
- My Corner of Katy - TX
- Garden Girl - IL
- Nancy's Garden Spot - TX
- Growing A Garden In Davis - CA
- Each Little World - WI
- Digging - TX
- Denise Corkery, Chicago Botanic Garden - IL
- Mr Brown Thumb - IL
- Garden Faerie's Musings - MI
- Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog - LA
- The Casual Gardener - IL
- May Dreams Gardens - IN
- Dragonfly Corner - IL
- Ledge and Garden - RI
- Gardening While Intoxicated - NY
- Clay and Limestone - TN
- Prairie Rose's Garden - IL
- Garden Punks - CA
- Mr. McGregor's Daughter - IL
- Idaho Gardener - ID
- Red Dirt Ramblings - OK
- Sharing Nature's Garden - TX
- Fairegarden - TN
- Our Little Acre - OH
- On the Shores of Lake Chicago - IL
- Bumblebee Blog - MD
- Greenbow - IN
- My Skinny Garden - IL
- Sweet Home and Garden Chicago - IL
- Beth Botts - IL
- Snappy Garden Blog now known as The Dig-It-Yourself Garden - IL
- Cobrahead Blog - WI
- Sustainable Gardening Blog - MD
- Professor Jane S. Smith - IL
- Ramble On Rose - IL
- The Garden Of Live Flowers - IL
- Art of Gardening - NY
- Outside Clyde - NC
- Oh Grow Up! - MO
A big, BIG thank you to all the sponsors and generous giving by so many of not only garden products, but for the time and effort that goes into putting on this kind of event. It couldn't have been nicer and we appreciate it all.