With the Windy City living up to its name and the cool air settling in as fall approaches, I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be able to do much exploring. I thought this until I saw my mom on an impromptu trip to Denver and was relieved to accept my snow boots, red rain coat, and purple down jacket. Now that I can layer with leggings and multiple outwear options, I’m no longer afraid to take on the chilly weather, until I heard the wind wailing outside my bedroom window the night before I decided to head out on a long journey to Glencoe, Illinois and see the Chicago Botanic Garden. Although I debated, I told myself this may be my last chance before the snow hits, and luckily I didn’t listen to my doubts. Walking through the curvy pathways, I found this garden has its own delightful characteristics I’m glad the weather didn’t deter me from experiencing, even if gusts of wind did occasionally stop me for a moment.
Within this 385-acre garden I found more than flowers and botanicals. One of my first and favorite stops was in the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden where just about everything I’ve found at my local grocery store was growing. Looking through the nearly four acres of kale, green onions, and lettuce, I begin to think about a possible Pinterest recipe until I notice an orchard behind an arch with climbing branches and I decide to wander past possible dinner items. Making a full circle through the orchard back to the vegetable garden, I find what I admire most about this section: encouraging people to compost, plant their own garden (if only herbs in their kitchen), and quick and easy steps to store and use herbs for baking and salad dressings. I never expected a garden to foster independence in cooking.
Another favorite section of mine was the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden, and although I’ve been to many Japanese Gardens, including the one in Portland, this one was nothing short of impressive. Across the lake, carefully trimmed trees and shrubs decorate the small islands. Each element is carved and shaved with care to represent the style and meaning in a traditional Japanese garden. I can’t help but feel the sense of balance and harmony as I make way through each section and appreciate it for its own unique sense of character. Even a gust of occasional wind can’t throw off my sense of tranquility as I wander through the shrubbery.
Upon leaving the Chicago Botanic Garden, I’m amazed to see how much time I’ve spent here. Although I only expected to spend a couple of hours, I ended up using much more time and recommend you schedule plenty of time to explore each section the gardens have to offer. What I ended up enjoying best, was not only the different sections, but the use of natural and native plants in Illinois. Throughout the Chicago Botanic Garden, there was always a way of encouraging locals to use native plants around their homes and an appreciation of preserving the natural flowers, plants, and grasses in Illinois. While I’ve gained admiration for various plant species from visiting many gardens, this was one in particular that actually emphasized the importance of local natural varieties. Since I’ve always admired the preservation of cultures, why not preserve local wildlife too? It’s a perspective I’m glad I didn’t let the wind deter me from observing.