Bzzzz July 27th, 2007

To continue with my visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden…With so much to see and only a few short hours, I decided to set some priorities. Since I’m in the throes of my own vegetable garden maintenance, I first headed over to see how the professionals fashion and keep up a vegetable garden in the summer heat.

It seemed that everyone else had the same idea, because the place was packed with people ogling tomatoes, leering at berries and salivating over apples.

The entrance takes you over a foot bridge and past a bed of miniature sunflowers that were in their glory. I couldn’t help myself snapping photos of other people’s children who were entranced by the sunny flowers.

Sunflowers at Chicago Botanic Garden

Cute Kid (not mine) at the Entrance to the Vegetable and Fruit Garden, Chicago Botanic Garden

Just beyond the entrance and to the right is one of the most clever combinations of flowers and vegetables that I have ever seen. The fascinating mixture of cabbages, primroses and golden coin (I think) topped a concrete retaining wall that surrounded espaliered apple trees.


Cabbages and Flowers in the Vegetable and Fruit Garden, Chicago Botanic Garden

Mixing vegetables and flowers isn’t at all a new idea. Our Colonial ancestors mixed all sorts of plants into a pleasing and workable jumble. But this combination was, I think, absolutely artful.

Espalier apple

Espaliered Apple Trees, Vegetable and Fruit Garden, Chicago Botanic Garden

Whoever planned the vegetable garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden has a real fondness for orderly fruit. There are rows and rows of espaliered apples, espaliered pears and colonnaded apples. They even have whipped rangy raspberry and blackberry plants into submission into orderly rows, climbing obediently up trellises. I envision a jack-booted gardener with a crop patrolling up and down to ensure no one gets out of line.


Collonaded Apple Trees, Vegetable and Fruit Garden, Chicago Botanic Garden



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Bzzzz July 26th, 2007

I’ve been visiting gardens and nature places for a while now as part of my business travel policy of making time to see places of interest besides conference rooms.

As a bona fide control freak, I find I am less unhinged by the inevitable travails of travel if there is something on the other end of the path traveled besides work. And, at least in the spring and summer, what better destination than a walk in a beautiful garden, eh?


Chicago Botanic Garden

So since I was headed to Chicago for a meeting, I blocked out Sunday afternoon to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Trust me. It is no small undertaking to try to see the Chicago Botanic Garden in a single afternoon. With 385 acres of displays, 2.3 million plants and stunning garden architecture and about 6 million other garden lovers visiting at the same time, there’s a lot to see.

As with nearly all of the botanical gardens I have visited, the Chicago Botanic Garden is arranged in a meandering path of interconnected theme gardens. It’s quite a lengthy and diverse list:

-Aquatic Garden

-Bonsai Collection

-Bulb Garden

-Circle Garden

-Dwarf Conifer Garden

-Enabling Garden

-English Oak Meadow

-English Walled Garden

-Evening Island

-Fruit and Vegetable Garden


-Heritage Garden

-Japanese Garden

-Lakeside Gardens

-Landscape Garden

-McDonald Woods

-Model Railroad Garden

-Native Plant Garden


-River Valley

-Rose Garden

-Sensory Garden

-Shade Evaluation Garden

-Spider Island

-Sun Evaluation Garden

-Water Gardens

-Waterfall Garden


The thing that was really missing, however, was a NAP GARDEN. After walking for hours and hours, I longed for a shady lawn where I could stretch out and close my eyes. Looking around at the other garden peepers, I wasn’t alone. But although there were some beautiful lawns, it was clear that they were designed as throughways and byways—not for napping.


Chicago Botanic Garden

Since I’m still catching up with work, I’ll be splitting my post on the gardens for the next couple of days with some photos and brief observations. I consider visiting professional gardens an educational experience. The plant pros have the luxury and the budget to experiment and find the optimum plant varieties for their locations, toy with various combinations of plants to achieve the maximum effect and work with architectural pros to design the most pleasing of hardscape to support the plants. There is much to be learned from all that hard work and experience.

Yes, I learn a good deal from reading all the great garden blogs as well as from reading the gardening magazines that fill my mailbox. But there is something even more effective about actually SEEING for yourself the effects of different plant combinations in a garden setting. And looking at a photo of a flower isn’t nearly as informative as seeing the actual beast. I mean, how many times have we been disappointed with our orders from nurseries with fancy catalogs?

So visit again soon and I’ll share some photos and naïve observations about things I learned at the Chicago Botanic Garden. And if you have posted your own garden or nature travel blog posts, will you let me know about it by leaving a comment?


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