The Botanic Garden Up Close

This year, the Chicago Botanic Garden is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. I have been visiting the Garden for almost that many years and have been a member for a good many of those. And for the past eleven years I have included posts featuring the Garden here on WordPress.

Naturally, many of the pictures are of flowers, although with most posts I have tried, not always successfully, to stick to a single theme, be it color, season or one particular area of the Garden. This time I’d like to present my close-up view of the Garden.

There are 12 featured areas in the Garden which include:- Bulb, Circle, Crescent, Enabling, English Walled Garden, Evening Island, Fruit and Vegetable Garden, Heritage, Japanese, Native Plant, Rose and Sensory Gardens. Each one of these is beautifully set out and maintained with a colorful array of flowers and plants.

But the Garden is about so much more than just the flowers. It’s about the buildings and bridges, the statuary and structures such as the bell tower and its ‘command center’ hidden among the treetops.

There are also three natural areas in the Garden including:- McDonald Woods, the Prairie and the Nature Reserve. So let’s not forget the wildlife. The larger birds are easy to spot, but the smaller ones like the mother hummingbird with her baby in its nest are not quite so easy to find. And watch out for the giant fish lurking underneath the Serpentine Bridge by Evening Island.

This probably won’t be my last post on the Chicago Botanic Garden this year, but I will certainly endeavor to come up with a fresh angle and new pictures in future features.

Summer’s Progress

Meanwhile, back in our garden, summer’s progress has provided us with an array of colorful flowers and interesting creatures.

The butterflies, bees and dragonflies are a welcome sight, the Japanese beetles not so much.

Sunflowers and nesting material continue to attract the goldfinches, and the hummingbirds love that Brazilian Blue Sage!

The rabbit has been busy as there are baby bunnies dashing about all over the place when I go out to work in the garden. It’s one of the reasons I let a few weeds grow in between the plants. I hope the rabbits go for the weeds. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

Cantigny Gardens

As I mentioned in the previous post, the gardens at Cantigny Park are magnificent, even without the weird and wonderful creatures. They are still in the process of renovating the McCormick Mansion Museum but the rest of the park is now fully open and the improvements they made over the past couple of years have made it much easier to get about and see everything.

There is a parking fee of $5 for week days and $10 at weekends, which gives access to the park and gardens and also the First Division Museum and the McCormick Museum which will reopen later this year. Cantigny Park is open all year round except for the month of January.

Areas of interest include the Display Gardens, the Rose Garden, the Rock and Gravel Gardens, the Hosta Garden and the Idea Garden as well as Gold Pond, Butterfly Hill and Prairie View.

There are picnic areas and other dining options, play areas for the children and even a splendid 27-hole championship golf course. Cantigny also hosts private events as well as school and scouting activities and has a calender full of interesting events. In fact, there is something for everyone at Cantigny.

Creatures of a Dream World

Here are some of the weird and wonderful creatures that we encountered on our recent visit to Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Visiting Cantigny is always a pleasure as the gardens are magnificent, but the art exhibition entitled ‘Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World’ made it even more enjoyable.

These amazing sculptures were created by six artists from Mexico City who regularly participate in the annual ‘Day of the Dead’ parade in that city. The Alebrijes date back to 1936 when artist Pedro Linares was inspired by a dream that he had while he was ill with a fever. The creatures have since gained in popularity and have even been featured in the Disney movie Coco.

The figures are made of papier-mache applied to wire frames and coated with lacquer to protect them from moisture. The designs and colors are absolutely stunning! And there are 49 of these sculptures placed throughout the park.

The sculptures are the property of the Mexican Cultural Center DuPage and after the exhibition closes in October, some of them will be donated to local schools and museums. The artists who created these wonderful works of art are:- Perla Miriam Salgado Zamorano, Alejandro Comacho Barrera, Alberto Moreno Fernandez, Roberto Carlos Martinez Tecillo, Edgar Israel Camargo Reyes and Emanuel Arturo Zarate Ortiz.

It may be of interest to note that while we there at Cantigny Park, Illinois Governor Pritzker was in the gardens giving a press conference promoting tourism in Illinois. Cantigny should most assuredly be on your list of places to see if you are visiting Illinois.

Paine Art Center And Gardens

Naturally, I coudn’t visit Oshkosh without seeing some kind of public garden and the gardens at the Paine Art Center were a delight.

The gardens cover more than 3 acres of the Paine Estate and require a paid admission to the Art Center to view. Both were well worth the price but of course the gardens were my main interest. They featured ‘outdoor rooms’ with a pleasing aspect at every turn.

Nathan & Jessie Paine planned their new home in the mid-1920’s and their English heritage is reflected in the design and plantings in the garden, although the formal garden, pictured above, was added in 2017.

The mansion, in which the Art Center is housed, is certainly worth a visit. Nathan Paine commissioned architect Bryant Fleming to design the Tudor Revival-style estate. Most of the stonework is Kasota limestone quarried in Minnesota and the magnificent interior woodwork is primarily oak and walnut.

Sadly, the Great Depression took its toll on the Paine Lumber Company and in 1932 all work on the house ceased. Nathan & Jessie Paine never lived in the beautiful house that they had created but in 1946 they established the Estate as a museum. Nathan died in 1947 but Jessie oversaw the remaining work on the house and it opened to the public in 1948.

Close Encounters

Menominee Park Zoo was another stop on our visit to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The exhibits, grouped around a small lake, cover 8 acres in Menominee Park. Although the animals are somewhat less exotic than those of somewhere like Brookfield, they are, in most cases, easier to locate and fun to photograph.

There may not have been any lions or tigers at the zoo but we did have a close encounter with a chipmunk. I also had the opportunity to go eyeball to eyeball with a turkey.

We came across a giant tortoise named Dash that appeared to have the ‘run’ of the place, finding things to munch on as it made its ponderous way across the lawns.

There was also a rather amusing alpaca that appeared to be performing some kind of semaphore with its right ear. I should perhaps mention here that admission to the zoo is free thanks to a generous gift by Tom and Penny Harenburg and is open to the public from early May until late September.

Although there wasn’t an awful lot to see, it was a nice day and we enjoyed the walk, and before we left the park, we stopped off at the Chief Oshkosh Memorial for whom the city was named. His remains were purported to have been interred at the foot of the memorial but the truth of this appears to be in dispute.

For more on our visit to the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh, please check out Flying High

Marsha kindly suggested that the sculptures in this post could well qualify for her Photographing Public Art Challenge so with that in mind, here is the link to her page Publically Going In Circles

Butterflies Galore!

There may be a shortage of them in our gardens, but one place you can be sure to see lots of beautiful butterflies is at the Butterflies & Blooms exhibition at the Chicago Botanic Garden. There is something magical about these little gems as they flutter around, sometimes landing on a shoulder or a hat. But, be careful where you step. They are everywhere!

As well as butterflies that are native to Illinois, there are also species from South America, Asia, North America and Africa, with such enchanting names as Julia Longwings, Starry Crackers and Paper Kites. The Garden staff are very vigilant in their effort to make sure none of these beauties escape. Food and drink are not allowed in the exhibition and purses must be securely fastened.

As someone else who was there, said, “This is the best exhibition of its kind that I’ve ever seen!” And I would have to agree. This was my second visit this year, and I hope to take at least one more look. Entrance to the 2,800 sq ft enclosure is free with admission to the garden and opens at 10am every morning during the summer months.

Summer In The Valley – Part 1

Every season at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg has something special to offer and summertime means, amongst many other things, flowers. The new garden by the Visitors Center is flourishing with all kinds of plants that attract butterflies and bees.

The wealth and variety of wildflowers in the prairie areas is simply astounding! This doesn’t come without a lot of work on the part of the Nature Center’s dedicated staff, I’m sure. And they have done a magnificent job.

There was, however, one cause for concern. Even with all these lovely flowers, there were very few butterflies. By this time I would have expected to see monarchs, swallowtails and cabbage whites fluttering about all over the place. This may change in a week or two. I hope so.

An Interesting Development

You may remember that I mentioned some art installations at the Chicago Botanic Garden a few weeks ago. These are in celebration of the Garden’s 50th Anniversary and although they are small in number they are quite impressive.

To my mind, the most interesting piece is a creation called ‘The Rookery’. Designed by Patrick Dougherty and made from willow saplings, it stands in an open space where they usually hold the kite festival, and is open for all to explore. And there has been an interesting development. Since the last time I was at the garden a few weeks ago, ‘The Rookery’ has sprouted. It is a living display of creative art. It will be interesting to see what it looks like weeks from now, after we finally get some much needed rain.