Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gardens of Downtown Chicago

The last place you'd expect to find gardens, perhaps, is smack in the middle of a big, gritty city. A meeting in Chicago where we flew last weekend provided a few eye-popping surprises. A stroll down the of Michigan Avenue, from the building near the where we stayed, to in front of the , was brightened not only by the dizzying array of stores, everything from to the (calculated to send any red-blooded American male fleeing in terror) to , but by a fabulous floral extravaganza. The tulips, it seems, are an annual display. Here is a sampling:

White tulips set off the creamy Joliet limestone of the old gothic Waterworks tower, one of the few structures to survive the Chicago fire of 1871.

On a corner near Borders Books, a basket of pansies, azaleas, and ivy.

Purple tulips in a huge sidewalk planter -- like a little slice of Holland.

Even the median strips blossomed: mixed tulips in a giant street planter. Municipal gardeners hired by the city must take their lives into their hands to plant and weed this thing. Those taxis don't slow down for anything.

What was I saying about Holland? Blue windmills that would look totally tacky in my garden look chic here in a sidewalk planter, with pink tulips and yellow pansies.

How much to ship this modest little arrangement home, hmm? Yellow and purple tulips, with purple phlox and blue pansies.

Off in the corner of , which used to be a train yard, is this naturalistic garden where they've planted native prairie flowers and grasses. It's still new and a bit raw-looking, especially the part with all the steel arms protecting the new trees. Has Chicago had a rash of tree-rustling? Or are they just keeping feet off of the young root systems?

More of the naturalistic garden, a green thumb-on-nose to the gritty gray skyscrapers all around.

Snuggled next to the stem of this Camas (Camassia) is a precious pink shooting star (Dodecatheon).

The oh-so-Chicago-style ampitheater stage, looking up through a tulip planting surrounded by clipped box.

Back at the hotel, the view out of our window was less than inspiring: nothing but the grimy, sooty exterior of the back of some extremely expensive condominiums. But as I looked up, I saw that someone hungry for the sight of a green living thing (someone who had to stare at the grimy, sooty back of our hotel every time they look out of their windows of their overpriced condominium) is making a stab at their own little city garden out on the fire escape.


Hanna in Cleveland, OH said...

Wow, they sure do have some pretty green spaces in DT Chicago.

Carol said...

I was in Chicago in early May a few years ago. They've done a great job bringing in the flowers. Your pictures are wonderful!

In the summer, I've seen patches along the sidewalks on Michigan Ave. where they tried to replicate the prairie. Very interesting.

Marie said...

Thanks for posting the pix. I've never had much desire to go to Chicago, but you've just given me a reason to consider it.

Carolyn gail said...

I worked on the Magnificent Mile for 30 years and not until Mayor Richard M. Daley came into office did it look so beautiful.

The gardens you show illustrate our motto URBS IN HORTO, or City in a Garden. Almost every neighborhood and our beautiful Lake Shore Drive have beautifully landscaped medians.

I couldn't find information on your site about you. Where can I look ?

Carolyn gail said...

I love your "Gardens of Downtown Chicago" and did a post on it. You are one of very few garden bloggers in the Windy City.

I'm reading through the rest of your blogs as well.