Last week I went on a press tour of Chalet Nursery and Garden Center in Wilmette. I’ve heard about the garden center for years, but I never would have made the trip myself had I not been invited to tour the garden and their tree farm in Wisconsin.
As part of the tour we also visited three gardens the landscape architects for Chalet designed in the North Shore. I have mentioned here before how disappointed I feel after visiting the gardens of some of Chicago’s most expensive homes.
Over the years I’ve known lots of gardeners that don’t have a lot of respect for gardens that are designed and maintained by firms where the homeowner is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the garden. My disappointment in visiting some rich people’s gardens has never been about that.
It has been in seeing jaw-dropping architecture and interior design only to walk out back and be disappointed by how little thought went into the garden. Gardens are an extension of the home and the homeowner, but are often giving little attention by many that can afford to put on a show with their garden.
I have often felt like, “This is it? I can do this with a bunch of Home Depot plants.” Touring the gardens of Chalet’s customers was completely different. For the first time I walked behind an expensive home and thought, “OK, wow, I wish I could have this.” And it wasn’t even all about the views of the lake and private beaches, but in the careful design and plant selection. I have now seen what is possible when a garden is design by skilled landscape architects and the customer has the money to achieve a vision, and it’s awesome! When I win the lottery I know who I’m calling to design my garden.
The tour to the tree farm was also pretty cool. I was on the tour with Carolyn Ulrich and Nina Nina Koziol of Chicagoland Gardening magazine. We got personal tours of the 183 acre farm where they have 150, 000 plants in production in 156,000 sq. feet of poly houses. At the lunch, which Chalet provided for us, we learned that 14% of Chalet’s green products are grown at the farm.
Since the North Shore is populated with such mature tree canopy, they grow over 100 varieties of hostas that their customers can choose from. If you are a shady gardener in Chicago it would be worth a trip to Wilmette to check out the options you have available. Their hostas are container grown for an extra year so you’re buying more mature and fuller plants at the same price as other places. We also saw some special Poukhanense azaleas and Japanese maples at the farm that will be available at their garden center in the next few years.
I wish I had spent more time walking through the garden center itself, but I had to catch the Metra back into the City. What I did manage to see myself really impressed me. If you like Gethsemane on the north side, you’ll like Chalet’s garden center too. Chalet also has that “special” garden center feel to it that you can’t experience at a big box garden center. I was too busy checking out the indoor plants and pumpkins to check on the price of the outdoor plants, but if the price of the indoors plants is any indication--the perennials and annuals are also reasonably priced. The little topiaries I was lusting after were only $15.00. I have seen the same plants going for $30-$50 bucks in Chicago.
Overall I was highly impressed with everything I saw and learned about Chalet. If you’re looking for a garden center in Chicago’s northern suburbs, I recommend checking out Chalet.
Update: If you're a garden center coming here from the article on Today's Garden Center, check out this article on connecting with garden bloggers I wrote about for Lawn & Garden Retailer a couple of years ago. If you have any questions on how to make connections with garden bloggers I'm happy to brainstorm with you. Leave me a message in the 'About' page of the http://mrbrownthumb.blogspot.com garden blog.