He was 10, living in suburban Wheeling, when Tony Abruscato grabbed a pitchfork to remove sod in his family's backyard. He dug a section about 15 feet wide by 10 feet deep to start his own vegetable garden, where he grew lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers.
"I still remember the taste of those [ vegetables ] ," Abruscato said.
He's still toiling in the garden nowadays, but on a much grander scale.
Last May, Abruscato took over the annual Chicago Flower & Garden Showand is prepping run the show for the first time. The event is March 10-18 at Navy Pier.
"I'm both excited and nervous," for the show, Abruscato said. "One thing I will say is, this isn't your grandmother's garden show."
In other words, don't expect to just see a bunch of plants sitting on tables. Instead, it will be the wild and unbelievable, and also plenty of do-able options for even the green-thumb beginner.
The 2012 show has been tagged "Hort Couture," a blending of flowers and fashion, and the mantra is "Inspire, Educate and Motivate."
With 30 full gardens on display, there is something for everyone, Abruscato said, "and everyone can realistically pick up something that they can do on their own, in their own spacebe it a yard, patio, balcony or even on their desk."
The Flower & Garden Show showcases exotic flowers and plants, as well as common foliage. There are paving stones, decks, ponds and more.
"In my new role with the show, it's sort of a visualization of my life's work, combining marketing, design, logistics management, sponsorship, sales, finances and more," Abruscato said.
West Loop, and has a vacation home in Michiana Shores, Ind.
Dating Samuel Griffith, 24
Dog named Emma, nicknamed "The Baby"
Favorite TV show
Favorite gay bars
Sidetrack and minibar
Little-known fact I
One of his English teachers at Wheeling High School was Art Johnston, co-owner of Sidetrack.
Little-known fact II
He was the youngest elected official in Illinois history. Abruscato campaigned at age 18 for the Wheeling Park District Municipal Board, and was elected at 19; he served for six years.