Inside Ted's Greenhouse

The hustle and bustle of city life can make it easy to overlook the natural surroundings that exist within an urban environment. I commute in a train everyday and notice more buildings rising, tower cranes intersecting with the skyline, jackhammers making noise when breaking through the ground, people rushing to get from one place to another, the environments we live in hardly seem to have any life left to them.

Luckily for me, I get to think of ways to help solve that problem. I had the pleasure of escaping from my daily routine to go to Ted’s Greenhouse this past week. In a southern suburb just outside of the city, just seeing the silhouettes of Ted's greenhouses from a distance was enough to fill me with excitement. I made the trip with Nathan, our amazing horticulturist, who led me to the main entrance. It was an unassuming doorway that would take me from the cold drab of a Chicago winter to someplace entirely different. As soon as I walked in I felt a natural euphoria. The room was filled with vibrant colors, endless textures and an immediate flood of warmth, Ted’s Greenhouse is an oasis in an urban desert.

I took in all the sights, sounds and smells as Nathan walked me over to the sagegreenlife section of the greenhouse. As a multi-generational family owned business, Ted and his son Dan are first and foremost growers. I mean, they grow everything! And this was great, because we were asking them to do things a little differently. Growing soil-free is not common among growers, so it takes a bit of a mad scientist spirit to want to explore new methods. Ted’s took on the challenge head on when we approached them and so I had come to see all the different varieties- succulents, herbs, tropical and ferns- Nathan had curated and planted with Teds’ in soil-free sponge-like bottoms, referred to as plugs. Some were just beginning to sprout, others were more mature, but all were quite beautiful and healthy.

While we walked through Ted’s, I noticed each greenhouse had a change in temperature, light and air, expertly controlled by the professional growers to meet the needs of the many varieties of plants climbing, crawling, reaching and spreading throughout the greenhouses. But what struck me more was what remained constant: each room was filled with life. It reminded me that many of the natural elements we as humans need are the same for plants. We are all connected.

I promised myself before I left that I’d take some photos to share, and as I was snapping away, a man approached me and said, “What you are holding in your hand is addicting.” I turned, giggling in confusion, and said “Pardon me?” He replied, “Some people can’t live without it, I just put it away most of the time.” I finally realized he was referring to my phone, which I promptly put back in my pocket. We ended our brief conversation and I walked over to Nathan, who said, “I see you met Ted.” The man I spoke to was THE Ted in Ted’s Greenhouse.

As I reflect back on my visit, I realize that what Ted meant was that we should take time to stop, disconnect…and maybe even put our phones in our pockets.  I decided that I’d use that new found perspective to seek out natural beauty, not only in his greenhouse, but wherever I went.  Maybe I can even find it on my commute.

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730 West Randolph Chicago, IL