It was another rainy and windy day in Chicago and I rather than sit inside all day, I decided to do what I do best on bad weather days: embark on an adventure. With my final days in Chicago approaching me, I decide to take on others’ suggestions and explore the Garfield Park Conservatory. Having already visited the Lincoln Park Conservatory, I know my plant and nature-loving personality will enjoy the two acres of indoor public greenhouse. What I didn’t expect is how much I would admire this conservatory with its mix of desert, ferns, and blossoming flowers. As I wander through various rooms of plant species, I continually see how the conservatory emulates founder Jens Jensen’s words, “The country must come to the city.”
Entering the palm house, I’m immediately drawn to artwork greeting me in the form of mirrored frames that reflect the abundance of greenery. The largest room of the conservatory at 65 feet high and 90 feet wide, I’m excited to continually discover tropical plants from around the world that eventually take me to the Sugar From the Sun room where various ferns and a rocky landscape make me feel as though I’m in a swampy lagoon. Plants that hang from the ceiling and fruit trees make me curious about what’s above just as much as what surrounds me below.
There isn’t just lush green forest in the conservatory, as I make my way to the Desert House where various cacti, succulents, and agave plants await me. I feel somewhat at ease with the familiarity of these species having seen them throughout the southwest deserts. Although the room isn’t particularly warm like a desert in the west would be, these cacti varieties seem to be thriving well and I can relate to their resilient independent spirit.
Eventually finding my path through the Show House where various blossoms, cherry tomatoes, and tiny chili peppers I also discovered at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I make my destination in the Fern Room. Immediately I feel as though I’m on a remote island and the themes of Jurassic Park play in my head like they did when I visited the Lincoln Park Conservatory. As it turns out, founder Jens Jensen wanted the sole purpose of the Fern Room to take people back in time and give them a look at what Illinois might have been like millions of years ago. Walking around the small pond in the middle of the room covered by lush green moss and plants, I expect a Brontosaurus to rear its head anytime soon, but for this time and place, it’s not possible.
For my final stop, I head back throw the Show House to the Horticulture Hall where I am greeted by several Christmas decorations including lights and Poinsettas. For the moment, I take the time to sit and enjoy the displays, something I never made the time to do in the past. Seeing Christmas trees decorated with red lights, I’m taken back to my past backstage and for a brief moment think of how I used to carry multiple laundry baskets with various costume pieces and quickly helping actors into jumpsuits for Phantoms haunting Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” It was only a year ago, but it seems so far away once I realize I’m in Chicago in a completely different world at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Seeing a quote from the Indiana Dunes Trail Map on my way out, perfectly characterizes my journey today even more: “It is to be expected that the average citizens will find their release from the tension of their overcrowded daily existence; that the contact with nature will refocus with a clearer lens their perspective on life’s values and that they make take counsel with themselves to the end that their strength and confidence are renewed.” My journey today from past memories to my holiday present at the Garfield Park Conservatory has done just that.
Hours and Location
Garfield Park Conservatory: 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago, Open 365 days a year, 9am-5pm, Free admission.
This post is a part of Photo Friday hosted by Pierced Wanderings, Monday Escapes hosted by Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey, and Fly Away Friday hosted by Time Travel Blonde and Life in Wanderlust.