Catching the Crabapple at peak bloom at the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) involves some tricky timing, but we gave it another try last week on the first day that worked. Last time we visited the buds looked as if they were just getting ready to burst.

Passing the Regenstein Center, CBG’s building for indoor displays and public education, we noticed that there was an exhibit of the work of Philip Juras, an artist who specializes in prairie remnants. We stopped to look and are we glad we did.

Then it was on to our usual walk. Only this time it was from the opposite direction, starting with the Woodland walk. The Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) were past their peak, but still had plenty of blooms. I didn’t catch the name of that yellow flower.

We spied a patch of Cowslips (Primula veris) bathed in a shaft of sunlight.

Here and there were small patches of Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia). This is such a unique, delicate, and lovable wildflower.

The south bridge to Evening Island. You can see some of the Crabapple trees in bloom. Coming from the opposite direction really does let you see a garden with new eyes.

There are Crabapples planted near or facing most of the shorelines around the Great Basin, a sort of pond that makes up a large part of CBG’s water feature. Walking down this path on Evening Island, it looks like just a few blooms remain. I am not a big fan of most Euphorbias, but this mass planting of Marsh Spurge (Euphorbia palustris) has a definite charisma.

Walking further into the shade of the Crabapples, we found the Marsh Spurge paired with Camassia (CBG has at least 10 varieties of blue Camassia, but I am pretty sure this is C. leichtlinii ‘Caerulia’). The contrast in color and form make these two plants exciting companions.

A close up of the Camassia in question.

From across the water the Crabapple blooms looked a little sparse, but this stretch of path seemed more like a tunnel of blossoms.

We particularly enjoyed the flowers of ‘Prairie Fire’ Crabapple.

Eventually we strolled through Evening Island and onto the English Oak Meadow. The mass planting of Daffodils had gone over, but we were interested in this plant – Geum ‘Fuzzy Navel’, which has an intriguing name as well as flowers and foliage.

We passed through what is called the English Walled Garden. Would English gardeners would consider this garden to be particularly English? Clipped hedges, lots of annuals. I find this checkerboard arrangement of Tulips and Boxwood to be less than inspiring.

An enormous Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) used to grow on a folly in this garden. Our understanding is that it died after a particularly hard winter. It’s been replaced with a variety of Kentucky Wisteria (W. frutescens) called ‘Aunt Maude’. Kentucky Wisteria is supposed to be less rampant than its Asian cousins. I hope ‘Aunt Maude’ prospers in her new home.

On the way out of the English Walled Garden, we passed an open cupboard filled with pots of unusual Daffodil varieties.

Finally, we stopped to say goodbye to Linnaeus but he was already engaged in conversation with a Robin.

42 Comments on “Chasing Crabapple Blossoms At The Chicago Botanic Garden”

  1. How lovely! I was thinking of cowslips the other day, so great to see your photograph. My camassias have just finished blooming and look just like yours. The chartreuse color of the spurge is certainly eye-catching. And, of course, the crabapples, title of your blog, were worth the second visit.

  2. What a lovely stroll that must have been! Parks are not closed but it feels a bit odd going to one when we are still under a stay-at-home order. I’m getting the jab tomorrow, and the two week before I get the full effect of the vaccine ends right when the stay at home order is lifted – I can’t wait! P.S. That’s such an interesting thought, that the park looks so different depending on the direction you are coming from – it’s one of those obvious things that I think many of us hadn’t thought of before.

  3. That business of things looking different depending on direction is one of the first realizations I had when I began carrying a camera. I always make it a point now to do trails or paths in sections, looking at one side going in and the other side on the return. There’s just too much to miss otherwise!

    What you call Kentucky wisteria carries the same scientific name as our native American wisteria, although the one you’ve shown here is a variety. Just to refresh my memory, I visited the Missouri Botanical Garden site and got the confirmation I hoped for: “American wisteria is not as aggressive a spreader as Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria).” Lady Bird agrees.

  4. I love seeing those gardens Jason. What a beautiful crabapple blossom. It all looks very green. I suppose some parts of the garden are fairly sheltered to have Camassias in flower already. Or have you overtaken us already!

  5. Kentucky wisteria and American wisteria are so docile that I planted a pair on either side of a narrow gate into a rose garden rather than just one common wisteria on one side. They do not do much. I like them just because they are from North America. Mine were seedlings, I believe, of the common American wisteria, rather than cultivars. They are rather shrubby, with bluntly cylindrical floral trusses that protrude outward, rather than hand pendulously. Nonetheless, I am very pleased with them. There are certainly situations for common Chinese wisteria and Japanese wisteria, but they take so much work!

  6. This was an enjoyable tour, not too long, not too short, lots of interest and I like both the way you started with that lovely meadow photograph and ended with Linnaeus and the robin. The plants were interesting too! I personally think the lime green of euphorbias can make for some stunning planting combos (blue with those Camassias, but also pairs well with orange, magenta, purple…). No, I wouldn’t call that a particularly English garden (roses? cottage garden plants? maybe).

    • Perhaps I was being unfair without showing more pictures. And of course there is more than one type of English garden. My favorites are the ones with overfull, almost wild and colorful borders such as Great Dixter. But there must be more formal, restrained English gardens as well – but I think of those as more French.

  7. I also really like Malus ‘Prairie Fire” and planted three groups on eight trees each along the Crabapple Allée at Glen Villa. They contrast well with Malus ‘Dolgo’ which is the main crabapple on the allée. Love this visit to the botanical garden… thank you for letting me tag along.

  8. Beautiful destination! Interestingly, the Camassias are ahead of mine and the Crabapples are behind mine. Of course, there are different species of Crabapples, but most of them are finishing up blooming here in the Madison area, while the Camassias are just starting. Thanks for sharing the beauty!

  9. Hello Jason, I hope you are feeling well … this tour is so nice to see !
    I love that half light half shadow photo with the cowslip, they do shine and shimmer .. the ferns are a great foil to them.
    I have Profusion crabapple .. it is still rather cool here so I am waiting for those blossoms to smile.
    I am rather behind on garden chores here so I haven’t been taking pictures .. our weather is supposed to be very nice for the next week or so .. perhaps I will finally take some pictures once I get things in order !

  10. Beautiful plantings! I am not keen on the regular box hedge idea for gardens but I would call it a garden “jardin à la française” not an english garden which I always think of the more natural, pastural styles. But that is only my personal feelings and not what it is actually called. Amelia

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