By AARON GETTINGER
Thanks to the rapidly warming Arctic, cold air from the disintegrating polar vortex descended over North America and delayed the arrival of spring for the second year in a row. Nevertheless, tulips and daffodils rose weeks ago, and the Hyde Park Garden Fair arrives to herald the change in season.
The Garden Fair is held every year on the weekend after Mother’s Day — Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18, at the Hyde Park Shopping Center this year — when locals can buy plants for their pots and gardens without fear, hopefully, of late-season wintery weather, because May 15 is the last frost date for Chicagoland.
“It is colder than it typically is this time of year, but we always tell people to be careful,” said organizer Jane Ciacci, who said some plants will be fine sitting in a sheltered area before planting while others may have to be kept indoors.
This year, the Garden Fair celebrates its 60th anniversary: what started as a neighborhood plant exchange during the Eisenhower Administration has outlasted many of its suppliers across the region. Ciacci, however, says the organizers have found new suppliers to replace those who have retired.
“We go on trips across the Chicago area to get plants to sell,” she said, noting that things appear to be a little bit slower this year. At the Garden Fair, “We have 10 different sections and different people selling different types of plants, and they all know the proper things to do,” explaining that Garden Fair sellers will be more than capable of offering advice to shoppers.
The Garden Fair is presented by a committee of the Hyde Park–Kenwood Community Conference, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Earnings from the Fair will go towards supporting garden projects on the South Side, including the Growing Home farms in Englewood and Nichols Park’s formal garden and wildflower meadow. Ciacci said leftover plants may be donated as well.