On Friday Judy and I visited the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG); it’s been a great place to visit since the pandemic struck. Since last June, CBG has been open to the public on a time-reserved basis. Getting our entrance passes online has been easy each time we’ve tried it. Here’s a link from our first visit to CBG after the reopening last year.
After walking through the Welcome Center we found this mass planting of Tulips on the Esplanade. It’s hard not to love any mass planting of Tulips, though this mix of pink, purple, and yellow is not my favorite. But hey – it’s a nice day and we’re in a beautiful garden, so let’s not quibble.
We walked past the Rose Garden, where not much was going on, and visited the English Walled Garden, where spring annuals, Redbuds (Cercis canadensis), and some other flowering trees were in bloom. The fountains were not yet operational. but hopefully that will change with warmer weather.
Overall I thought the standard of care was very close to pre-pandemic levels, which must not be easy since the volunteer program is still frozen.
For years our favorite walk has been from the English Walled Garden to Evening Island, then back across the bridge to the main part of the garden. On the way we pass through an area dubbed the English Oak Meadow, often the site of eye-popping masses of blooms.
Don’t know the names of the varieties, but isn’t this fabulous? I have to say, this has been a very good spring for Daffodils in the Chicago area. (Actually, I do wish there had been more signs around to ID plants – but hey, I’m sure staff are already working their fingers to the bone, so this is a minor point.)
That blue in the background is False-Forget-Me-Not (Brunnera macrophylla).
On the bridge to Evening Island. CBG’s 385 acres are designed around a large water feature that curves throughout the entire garden, so you are never far from a view that is framed to include water.
Evening Island has a Carillon Tower on a small hill. There is a modest lawn that provides a play area for kids. In early spring the lawn is full of clumps of Snowdrops.
The core of Evening Island is a naturalistic planting of perennial flowers, grasses, and shrubs. You can see the clumps of ‘Karl Foerster’ Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis acutiflora) are already greening up. That bridge over there leads to the Plant Evaluation Garden.
Near the Carillon Tower we came across a mass planting of Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) at the base of a shade tree.
Nearby, another mass planting of Grape Hyacinth, this time mixed with the sky-blue cultivar ‘Valerie Finnis’. I love how they look through a screen of red stems and young leaves (some compact variety of Red Twig Dogwood?).
We left Evening Island on this serpentine bridge.
On the other side of the bridge there is a woodland garden that was another favorite spot for Judy and I in April and May. It’s still a wonderful garden, but it has changed. It used to be dominated by Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica), Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis), and various ferns. Of these, only the Virginia Bluebells remain in substantial numbers. I wonder what brought on the change?
In place of the old standbys, we noticed lots of Bochara Iris (Iris bucharica), a variegated species of Solomon Seal (Polygonatum – just emerging) and some kind of Mayapple (Podophyllum).
By now we were getting tired so we headed back to the entrance, stopping to pay homage at the statue of a friendly Linnaeus. We’re so glad that CBG is open to the public and recovering from the damage caused by last year’s temporary closure. We used to visit CBG all the time, especially when our kids were small. Now that we are both vaccinated and essentially retired we intend to become frequent visitors once again.