Another, truer photograph of the Art Institute’s South Garden.
I’ve learned more about the garden since posting a photo of it the other day. It was designed in the 1960s by modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley and is considered to be one of the better surviving examples of his work. Kiley died in 2004. You can read more about his life and work here.
The 500 block of West Oakdale is one of my favorites, partly because of these wonderful old brick row houses that, because of their white paint, seem like they belong in Washington, DC. I think these are some of the oldest attached houses in my vicinity, dating back to the early 1890s. More
As this runner knows, the annual gardens are best visited early or late in the day. Then light and shadow are most beautiful. Colors are vibrant. Often a cool dew lies on the grass. It is all so visually luxurious.
For, on one side of the garden—just steps from Michigan Avenue—, are two improbably aged, enormous, gnarly, overreaching trees. They are not decorous, they are not over-managed; they are awesome, merely.
In a town incessantly straining against its nature to be great, these trees are possibly the most cultured things around, because they are dignified, and because their stewards have accorded them the respect and even reverence necessary for them to survive. Though the garden they’re situated in has been remade several times, they have been left alone to achieve the majesty and character that is the work of time.
Next time you are at the museum, be sure to take a moment out for these glorious trees.
Desperate as we are, Mr C. and I willingly plunked down the price of admission to enjoy an indoor version of spring. It lasted just a few hours, and flowers bloomed under fluorescent lights, but hey: there were tulips and daffodils and delighted smiles in abundance.
The Chicago Flower and Garden Show comes along just as the light is changing. Experienced Chicagoans know that spring is still probably a good month off, and that we may still be wearing our overcoats on the first of May. Cravenly, though, we allow ourselves to be seduced into attending the Garden Show, which offers the illusion that spring has arrived.
The artifice bothers me, but Mr C admires the insane amount of effort that goes into this show. Twenty gardens are created inside the Navy Pier terminal, many with sizable evergreens, water features, and flowering trees. Flagstone paths and terracing. Sizable boulders with moss. Masses of ranunculus, hyacinth, azaleas, and other delicate plants, with colors so bright they defy photography. (Most of the pictures I took were surprisingly poor.)
About half of the exhibition space is given over to a marketplace, where vendors sell cut flowers and pussy willows, organic and locally produced specialty foods, garden tools and services, as well as bulbs and seeds.
Although the garden show has a commercial feel, it serves the worthy purpose of trying to feed Chicagoans’ interest in gardening by offering tips on garden design, plants, and integrating gardening into life itself. The show, which runs through March 17, offers brief demonstrations and lectures on a range of subjects, including cooking with garden produce and container planting.
There is even this nod to guerrilla gardening.
My favorite installation was that of the Peterson Garden Project, whose goal is to interest every Chicagoan in growing food, whether in community gardens, containers, vertical installations, or on the rooftops of their buildings. The Peterson installation featured a wonderful mural designed and created by students from the Senn High School. “We Can Grow It!” it proclaimed.
Peer through the heavy iron gate into the untouched preserve that wealth creates. There, no dog has messed or even strayed. No boot has smudged the snowy carpet. All is still and orderly: beautiful and obedient, and full of care.