Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Spring Fling Sunday - Winding Down

While some SF participants prepared to leave and others opted for time on their own, the small group who joined us Sunday morning at Garfield Park Conservatory were wowed by our visit to one of the oldest, largest, most beautiful conservatories in the US.

Designed by Danish-American landscape architect Jens Jensen in collaboration with a group of Prairie School architects and a New York engineering firm, the Conservatory celebrated its centennial last year.

This shot is from a visit during the year-long centennial celebration.

On the National Register of Historic Places, the Conservatory and it's outdoor gardens are crown jewels of the Chicago Park District.

Jensen conceived the Conservatory as a series of naturalistic landscapes under glass, a revolutionary idea at the time. The shape of the structure is inspired by the haystacks of the Midwest, and complements the plant collection it houses. The Palm House, restored in 2003, is home to 84+ varieties of palms. This huge Scheelea palm was sprouted from a seed in 1926 during an expedition to Brazil, led by Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. The poem below was included on the plaque describing this specimen:

If I were growing out in nature
I'd be twice this height in stature.
As it is I'm under glass
Where I'm biggest in my class.

Ferns are among the oldest, coolest plants on Earth. The oldest plants in the peaceful Fern Room surpass three hundred years.

Winding paths delight the senses.

The shades and textures of green are a visual, tactile joy.

Beautiful, naturalistic displays made it easy to forget we were in the heart of the big city.

Agave americana in the Desert House

close up

The outdoor gardens are lovely too.

Monet Garden

City Garden

City Garden is a model for urban greening.

Don't be fooled (I was for a moment,) the birds perched on the martin house aren't real, they're sculpture.

Tough, city-hardy plants and recycled urban materials are artfully combined.

Tumbled blue glass elevates a simple gravel path.

Can you tell I loved this garden?

Last year I visited the Conservatory in March when the outdoor gardens were still sleeping. After seeing them it's safe to say I'd go back for the outdoor gardens alone.

The visit to Garfield Park Conservatory Sunday morning with our warm, friendly group was a wonderfully memorable end to months of hard work, blood, sweat, sometimes controversy, and even a few tears.

I'm incredibly proud of our organizing committee and our commitment to the success of Spring Fling through all the challenges we faced. The warm, heartfelt expressions of gratitude we received throughout the event made it all worthwhile.

Garden Bloggers Spring Fling, conceived in Austin, Texas in 2008, came to Chicago in 2009, with plans already underway for a third year in Buffalo, New York. Our best wishes go out to the organizers of 2010's Garden Bloggers Spring Fling for another successful, memorable event.


  1. Oh the ferns! How disappointing to have missed this treasure, but thanks for showing us what you saw. The blue glass in the gravel is a nice touch too. Thanks again to the organizers for your hard work in making us feel welcome in the lovely garden city of Chicago. :-)

  2. I loved the blue glass too, and thanks for showing the birthday hat that you mentioned seeing. It's great! By the way, the director of my local botanical garden and arboretum, Bob Grese (pronounced Gracie), wrote the book "Jens Jensen: Maker of Natural Parks and Gardens" which I only discovered two years ago in the Garfield Park Conservatory gift shop! I had sat on an editorial board with Bob, but he's so low key you'd never have known he is an author! :)

  3. Great tour of the Conservatory, Linda..I'm always amazed at the huge trees under glass! Lovely photos...you done good!!
    Hoping to be a part of SF in 2010!

  4. The fern room is just fabulous! I'm sorry I had to miss that part of the weekend--I'm glad you guys had fun!

  5. I was surprised to enjoy this conservatory so much, but I really did. Diana and I missed the City Garden, as we had to dash off early to buy a few souvenirs for our kids, but it looks beautiful too.

    The Chicago team did a great job organizing garden tours and getting us everywhere efficiently. Thanks for all your hard work. I really enjoyed seeing Chicago gardens and meeting so many new and familiar garden bloggers. I too wish the Buffalo team the best as their planning gets underway. Rock on, Spring Fling!

  6. I think we can safely say (judging by everything I've read about the SF 09 by its participants) that the SF 2009 was a smashing success, so well done to all committee members!

    Thanks for showing that gorgeous conservatory. I've seen a few but this one is particularly beautiful. Just love those ferns and it is amazing how old some of them are.

    The Monet garden made me smile as I've been to the real one a few times (always a wonderful experience). And yes, it does show that you love that city garden Linda, and why not, it's simply marvellous!

  7. I'm sorry you missed it too Frances. I'm glad you enjoyed Spring Fling in Chicago. There's so much to see and do here, three days just isn't enough time!

    Hi Monica, I was struck by so many of the places we went where salvage items like the blue glass, conduit and other old rusty stuff, and twigs and branches were repurposed and recycled in artful ways. I found lots of inspiration for cheap trellises and garden art, much of it with a lot more character than mass manufactured stuff.

    How cool that you got to meet and work with the author of that book on Jens Jensen! Part of the fun of SF for me was doing some of the research and learning more about some of these Chicago gardening institutions. It has been inspiring to learn how so many of these folks practiced their art and did their work in the midst of such controversy and hardship. If not for their determination Chicago would be a much different city than it is today.

    Glad you enjoyed the tour Lynn! Hope you get to attend SF 2010. I'm sure it will be a great success!

    Hi Rose, it was great to meet you at SF. The Conservatory is a fun place for kids - the Children's Room provides some hands-on experiences for them. I remember GP Conservatory fondly from my own childhood from family and school field trips. If you have an opportunity to go sometime, bring the kids along if you can!

    Hi Pam, glad you enjoyed the Conservatory. It is a surprising place, and definitely not your typical glass house. I love history, and knowing the stories about some of the places we saw enriched my experience of them.

    And I'm glad you enjoyed SF in Chicago! I'm sure the cumulative experiences of Austin, and now Chicago, will serve the Buffalo team well in continuing and expanding the tradition you and the other Austin organizers began. Kudos for dreaming up and executing such a wonderful idea! Although I wasn't there, it was a little intimidating trying to live up to the standard set in Austin.

    Thank you Yolanda! I'm glad you got to enjoy SF 09 through the blogs. I agree, Garfield Park Conservatory is particularly lovely. It was hard to imagine not including this premier, historic site in our tours. It's such an important Chicago gardening institution, and has helped shape and continue the city's fine gardening reputation for over a century now.

    How lucky you are to have seen the real Monet garden . . . definitely one on the long list of gardens to see before I die!

  8. Linda, I am sorry to have missed this tour, but you've given me an incentive to visit it next time! I love gardens with recycled amterial and ideas I can take home...The City Garden looks like it would feel with with inspiration...Thank you for all you and the committee did to make the whole experience fantastic. Gail

  9. I'm sorry you missed it too Gail. I think you'd enjoy it sometime when you're back in Chicago. Besides how beautiful it is, it was a good place for quiet conversation since there were so few people there in the morning.

    Our small group had the whole place almost to ourselves. That was really nice. The last time I was there it was later in the day and pretty noisy and crowded.

    I'm so glad you had a fantastic experience at Chicago SF - knowing so many people enjoyed it made our hard work worthwhile!

  10. Hahaha!

    I was looking at the pic of the statue with the hat and wondering why I didn't notice it. I was convinced that you and Monica had put the hat on her as a joke and taken the pics when nobody was looking.

    Once I read Monica's comment I had to go back and look at the caption a lot closer.

  11. I am sorry I missed this, Linda; thank you so much for sharing! I didn't realize ferns could get as old as 300 years, and that agave is huge! But I think I would have enjoyed the outdoor gardens the most. I love the blue glass path and the whole idea of presenting tough "city" plants for an example to any gardener.

  12. I love that greenhouse! Looks like a tropical jungle.

  13. MBT, that hat really gave me a chuckle when I saw it last year!

    Hi Rose, I didn't know ferns could get that old either! They even had a couple of those agaves outside - of course they weren't nearly as big, and I'm sure they're brought inside over the winter.

    Hi Brenda, the Conservatory was divine! I'm glad the weather was cool the day we were there - it can get pretty hot inside on a warm day - sometimes feels like a tropical jungle too!


Thank you for stopping by! Comments are welcomed, and while I may not always respond here, I'm happy to pay you a visit.

While comments are invited, links to commercial websites are not, and comments containing them will be deleted.

(Note to spammers: Don't bother. Your comments are promptly deleted. Hiding in older posts won't help - they're moderated.)