Thursday, June 25, 2009

Garfield Park Conservatory - Chicago

Who loves a garden, loves a green-house too
Unconscious of a less propitious clime
There blooms exotic beauty, warm and snug
While the winds whistle and the snows descend.

~William Cowper
The Task

It occurred to me the other night that I'd not yet finished my account of this year's Spring Fling in Chicago. Sunday, May 31st - the last day - was another beautiful day in the Windy City and we had more beautiful gardens to see!

We met several other Flingers in the lobby of our hotel at 9:15, then walked several blocks to catch the El to the Garfield Park Conservatory. I'd overheard the comment earlier - "If you've seen one conservatory, you've seen them all." - and I couldn't disagree more. Though we'd just seen Lincoln Park's the day before, Garfield Park's was just amazing and probably the best I've visited anywhere up to this point in my life.

The conservatory recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, having been constructed in 1906-07 under the direction of Jens Jensen, the architect famed for his garden design. He intended it to be "the largest publicly owned conservatory under one roof in the world." Taking up 4.5 acres, Garfield Park Conservatory is the crown jewel of Chicago's West Side and has been recognized as an internationally significant horticultural facility.

The conservatory wasn't busy at all, which made it nice for the dozen or so of us that were visiting. Photo ops presented themselves at every turn and it was nice to not have to wait much (if at all), to get a clear shot of things.

In the first room, the Scheelea Palm (Attalea phalerata) was the star of the show. Grown from a seed planted in 1926, it is the largest and oldest palm in the conservatory.

I got a chance to chat a bit more with Pam during this time, which was nice, though she and Diana had to leave a little early. We talked about how many of the plants we saw here were houseplants for those of us that try to grow them in the north, but they're garden staples in Texas, where the two of them live.

For example, Pam grows wonderful agaves such as the ones we saw here and she knows how envious I am of hers. They're impressive plants!

The Fern Room was just unbelievable. The minute you stepped into the room, you could smell the green.

They'd used layers of rock from Ohio (yeah!) to form the base for growing the ferns and there were corridors you could walk through that were entirely covered by various ferns.

The size and scope of this room has to be experienced to be believed. The photos here just don't convey it adequately. That could be said of the entire conservatory though.

There's a permanent Chihuly glass display:

And just as I made the comment to someone that I didn't really care for cacti and other dry desert plants, I came upon these that tried to change my mind...

The bromeliads were impressive...

Flaming Sword Bromeliad (Vriesea splendens)

The outside grounds of the conservatory were pretty impressive, too. We exited the rear of the building, shown here, with its espaliered tree and boxwood balls...

...and found ourselves in the "City Garden."

Back into the conservatory and out again, on a different side, was the Monet Garden. Loosely adapted from Monet's Garden in Giverney, France, this smaller version uses plants and color much as Monet did.

And out yet another direction was the labyrinth, leading to the children's garden.

When it came time to head back downtown so we could get our car and head for home, MrBrownThumb walked Mom and me back to the train station, to make sure we got back okay. This was just another way he and other Chicago gardeners that were part of the planning team for Spring Fling helped make our weekend that much more pleasant and enjoyable.

Mom and I talked for a long time on the way home about all our experiences of the weekend spent in one of my favorite cities with so many nice people. It was apparent that a huge amount of planning and thought went into every aspect of it and everyone involved should feel pretty pleased with the results. We simply had a great time, and I'm planning to attend next year's Spring Fling, which is to be in Buffalo, New York.

Most of the Spring Flingers, as captured by MrBrownThumb in Lincoln Park

As posted on the
Chicago Bloggers' website, here is a list of other posts by other attendees on the Spring Fling experience:

Garden Girl:


My Skinny Garden:

On the Shores of Lake Chicago:

Garden Faerie's Musings:
Flatbush Gardener:

Ramble on Rose:
Spring Fling '09 Wrap Up
Muse Day Final Fling Thoughts

Art of Gardening:
Garden Bloggers Spring Fling
Garden Blogging Influencing

Caldwell Lily Pool, an oasis in Chicago
Visit to Garfield Park Conservatory
Intimate Gardens of Spring Fling
Art Institute Garden in Chicago
On Cloud Nine in Lurie Garden
The People Behind The Blogs
Chicago Botanic Garden wows Spring Flingers

Dig Grow Compost Blog:
Loving It-Chicago Botanic Garden
Rick Bayless Garden
Thank You Chicago Garden Bloggers


Prairie Rose's Garden:

May Dreams Gardens:

The Garden of live Flowers:

Sharing Nature's Garden:

Each Little World:

Outside Clyde:

Our Litte Acre:


Lisa at Greenbow said...

Hey Kylee, Are you keeping cool over there in Ohio?? tee hee... We are about to crisp up over here.

I love your presentation of the conservatory. It is a marvelous place.

I am also glad you posted these other sites with SF posts. I looked on the CGS and couldn't find them. Hmmmmmm

Try to keep coool Tell Mom that the starts I got from her via you are growing well here. I am so pleased.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Kylee --what a nice compilation of all the postings about the Spring Fling. I am sending this link to my daughter who is in Chicago for a few weeks doing some training...maybe she will have time to see some of these gardens.

Muum said...

oh, great pics, as always, esp the closeup of the unfurling fern. and thanks for the summary of other bloggers' spring fling blog entries! I'll check them out as I get time!

Chiot's Run said...

I wish I could have come, but alas I had to work.

Love the photos!

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