Chicago – Garden Clippings

Saturday September 30, 2017

Chicago, America’s third largest city is perhaps mostly known for its varied and bold architecture. Chicago is a city of museums and art galleries, anchored by the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry.

For the sports enthusiasts, Chicago is home to the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, White Sox and Black Hawks. Chicago is hardly known for its horticulture.

After spending 4 days in Chicago, with ample time between meetings and conferences, I beg to differ.

Our hotel, at the South end of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, was smack dab across the street from Grant Park, a 319 acre urban park, a green oasis within Chicago’s bustling central business district. Within Grant Park is the Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, The Buckingham Fountain, The Art Institute and the Museum grounds.

Not to be missed within the Park is the Chicago Cloud Gate, nicknamed “The Bean” the Lurie Garden and the Crown Fountain made up of a pair of LED sculptures with reflecting pool.

Chicago’s Millennium Park is not actually a horticultural show piece, but rather a perfectly acoustical open-air amphitheatre with a spacious great lawn, and home to a full schedule of performances.

At the river side of Millennium Park is the Maggie Daley Park, a child focussed park that has been 10 years in the planning stages, and under construction for only the past 5 years.

Maggie Daley Park is dominated by a 3 acre play garden with interactive sculptures, climbing equipment, benches and structures intended to capture the imagination and adventuresome spirit of children of all ages. Flowers, shrubs and huge trees have been carefully added to define spaces and provide shade.

Maggie Daley Park’s name honours Chicago’s first lady who was a champion of the arts, and deeply committed to enhancing the lives of children.

At the South End of Millennium Park sits the Lurie Garden, so named to acknowledge the 10 million gift from the Ann and Robert Lurie Foundation. Noticeably in contrast to much of Chicago’s manicured gardens, the Lurie Garden is a relaxed collection of plants providing a healthy habitat for people, plants and wildlife. Much effort has been placed on providing landscape interest 12 months of the year.

As much as I appreciated the vast and impressive gardens at Grant Park, I was perhaps most appreciative of the seasonal plantings within Chicago’s streetscape. The plant selection in containers and in the tight gardens along boulevards were obviously chosen and planted with precision. Even at the end of September when my own backyard seasonal plantings were beginning to wane, Chicago’s flowers were a picture of beauty.

Workers were busy replacing spring and summer annuals with fall plants, mostly mums and ornamental cabbage. No doubt, at the end of Thanksgiving, Christmas greens and décor will take centre stage.

It was a friendly cab driver who agreed with me that Chicago’s gardens were simply amazing. I asked him if he knew what the annual flower budget for the Chicago Loop area was, to which he replied, “I have no idea, but I do know that it was increased by 3 million in 2017.”

If you have the opportunity, do check out the gardens of downtown Chicago.