More vibrant colors, more unique plant varieties, more choices, more amenities and more extensive marketing – these are more than a few reasons why garden builders are lining up to showcase their work at the 2012 Chicago Flower & Garden Show, March 10-18, at Navy Pier.

“Every year, the demographics of the people they draw match our clientele, so for us the decision to exhibit is simple: we get jobs from it,” says Brian Helfrich, construction manager at Aquascapes, which specializes in ponds and water gardens.

Phil Schleifer, president and landscape architect at Advantage 1, Inc., a landscape design and construction company, calls the show “an awesome opportunity to showcase your company.”

Garden builders can expect “a more stylized event in 2012, in keeping with the Chicago Flower & Garden Show’s theme, ‘Hort Couture,’” says Tony Abruscato, president, Flower Show Productions, Inc., which presents the show annually at Chicago’s Navy Pier.

The 2012 show will spotlight plant varieties outside of the setting of the gardens. Growers from around the country will be contributing plant material in an effort to educate consumers on what’s available to them. The goal is to “inspire, educate and motivate” attendees about horticulture and gardening, Abruscato says, in an atmosphere of support that enables them to dress their gardens to the nines.

Flower Show Productions is making several service improvements, including offering free material – starting with 2,200 tons of sand and soil at no charge – to garden builders participating in the show. The company also does not charge the builders for the floor space or for the union labor utilized to create their gardens. Garden builders have more choices for their garden size as well, starting with a space as little as 12 feet in diameter.

“We dropped the requirement that builders must put in a 60-foot-long garden, allowing a greater diversity in builders who can participate,” Abruscato says.

Other advantages include more extensive marketing to include social media, in addition to traditional media outreach. Already, show partners are reaping benefits from pre-show marketing, meaning the sooner a partner signs up the greater the return on investment. The show has solidified relationships with Global Experience Specialists and the various labor unions, and will schedule installations according to floor plan location to streamline garden builders’ time moving in and out of the show floor.

As a sign of his deep commitment to Chicago and greening the city, Abruscato, who also is board chairman of Chicago Gateway Green, has formalized a system for donating plants post-show to worthy recipients, including the Chicago Public Schools, greening charities and other nonprofits. 

“Our mission at Flower Show Productions is year-round and that includes giving back season after season to the city we call home,” he says. “Plants from the Chicago Flower & Garden Show will help give areas of our city a make-over, extending their life in a way that beautifies our hometown.”

The Chicago Flower & Garden show dates back to 1847 and is the second-oldest flower and garden show in existence. The first flower show at Navy Pier dates back to 1927, where it now welcomes tens of thousands of visitors annually. For more information, including tickets, a schedule of events, parking information and directions, please visit

For information about participating as a garden builder or sponsor, please call 312-595-5400 or send an email to