Thursday, June 4, 2009

Spring Fling Saturday - Rick Bayless Garden

A couple of years ago, just as I was starting my business, I was contacted by a potential client who wanted to re-create Rick Bayless' garden in her backyard. Aside from being uncomfortable with the idea of copying someone else's design, frankly, since I'd only seen the garden on TV, I was pretty intimidated by the idea. Taking on such an ambitious project so early after starting my business seemed a bit overwhelming. The client envisioned the project taking place over time, and was realistic in not expecting that everything would be done in one season. Still, I ultimately decided I was probably not the best fit for the project.

Gail from Clay and Limestone! What a joy it was to meet her.

The backyard garden of Chicago chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless and his wife Deann was the first stop of Spring Fling's very busy Saturday. We were treated to a tour of the garden by Bill and Lori Shores, the husband and wife team who take care of it. I was wowed by many elements of Mr. Bayless' garden, both the ornamental and food production aspects. The things that impressed me most were how accessible the materials used in the garden are, how creatively they were put together, and how 'real' the garden is.
Being a celebrity and all, I think Mr. Bayless could probably afford a hoity-toity back yard. This place was lovely, don't get me wrong, but it was also very 'normal.' It was rustic, warm, family-friendly, unique, wonderful for entertaining, and just so darned down-to-earth. It was a garden that had clearly developed over time, and continues to evolve, just like the gardens of most of us average, everyday people.

Small personal touches brought character into the space.

A conduit trellis supports an espaliered apple tree. Nothing fancy - this is something just about anyone could do. I loved the creative use of very ordinary, accessible materials.

Another accessible, affordable idea, a mister system cools and moistens the soil, aids in seed sprouting, and facilitates succession planting even in the hot, often dry summer months in Chicago.

Bill Shores showing and telling us all about the kitchen garden.

This is a serious production garden - organically-grown produce from this garden is used in Rick Bayless' two restaurants. The annual value of produce from this garden is estimated at $20,000. That's a lotta lettuce growing in a relatively small space.

Bill and Lori Shores, our hosts for this tour. They couldn't have been more warm and welcoming.

The tour of Mr. Bayless' garden was a highlight of Spring Fling Saturday - an inspiring and educational event. I came away with lots of ideas for my own tiny veggie bed, and some creative inspiration for the use of found objects and personal keepsakes. Thank you Rick and Deann Bayless for sharing your garden with us, and Bill and Lori Shores for the wonderful tour!


  1. I'm so glad you got a photo of the espaliered apple...I was trying to remember how it looked!

  2. I forgot to address the point about using items anyone can find or purchase. I really liked that too. yesterday I stopped by a construction site and hauled some big stones out of there they were sending to the dump. I felt inspired to collect them and save them because of the rough rectangle stones they used as steps that lead up to one of the raised sections of the garden. One day I'm totally going to copy that.

  3. I really enjoyed this post. I've seen him a lot on TV but never his garden. I like how "normal" it is too. How awesome that he can produce that much produce :) in his own backyard! I love the pond!

  4. Hi Linda, there were lots of lesson learned at that garden that we can use too. The succession planting of mustard greens along with the lettuce makes so much sense, yet never occurred to me. I especially liked the covered potting area along the back for seed and cutting propagation.

  5. Linda - good point about his garden using things regular ole people like me have access to. On a totally different subject, have you noticed how great everybodies pictures are of Rick's garden? Something good about rainy days!

  6. I did like all the little touches (and the biog rocks) in the garden. My favorite was the Holsum bread door handle, which was washed out in my photo. :(

  7. Linda, I felt the same way about his garden... unpretentious and with really comfortable furniture (AND no fancy uncomfortable teak chairs!)...I loved the different levels and how regular gardener it looked. I want the fish pond, too! You know I feel the same about meeting you! The only disappointing part of Spring Fling was not enough time to visit and especially not enough time to visit with you! Thank you for the kind words and thank you for working so darned hard for all of us. gail

  8. Gee, I missed out on so much by not being there but the blogs are wonderful to make me feel as though I were there! I am amazed as to how much lettuce they get from this garden! And to know it is all used at the restaurants makes me want to eat there for sure!

  9. What an awesome kitchen garden. Looks like a lot of fun in this garden and all the spring flingers were so lucky to have so many wonderful gardens to tour. You guys did a great job!


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