February 19, 2007
THE GARDENS IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO
I came across something interesting in garden blogs today. A blog devoted to the Literary Gardener . READING DIRT, has wonderful photos of the gardens in downtown Chicago . With reviews of good garden books it offers a great way to pass the winters here by " Reading our way down the Garden Path , " as its creator states.
For many years I worked on the Magnificent Mile , as a long stretch of Michigan Avenue is called. Not until our current Mayor, Richard M. Daley, took office did the downtown area look so colorful and green. As I said in a previous post, he's a Taurus and he's got a very green thumb. You'll hear some citizens moan and groan about the flowers and trees being a waste of the taxpayers money but I personally think its worth every penny.
Not only has the downtown area been planted with beautiful trees and flowers, but the median strips dividing the streets in almost every neighborhood and Lake Shore Drive as well.
Unseen by most except the privileged few and landscape designers are rooftop and balcony gardens with breathtaking views of the beautiful Chicago skyline. I've planted a few high-rise balcony gardens and I must say that I admire the audacity of the homeowners who are determined against all odds to have their little piece of paradise at whatever cost.
" What will grow in containers on the 46th floor with a sunny, windy exposure ? " is a frequent question. You have to be a patient , determined gardener with a lot of disposable income to maintain some of these high rise paradises. Even the sturdiest plants can succumb to Chicago's harsh climate, be it summer or winter.
To see the planted traffic medians and public gardens in Spring is especially delightful for many winter weary Chicagoans. They've also inspired many homeowners to plant flowers and trees. I'm constantly hearing questions such as " What is that purple flower that blooms all summer , what kind of shrub is that pink one ? What are those yellow flowers with the brown centers ? and so on and so forth.
We have our own unique public garden at the end of our street, which due to its shape , has been dubbed " the Triangle. " It was installed and maintained by the city . The space is very small but the designer did a marvelous job of planting it with long-blooming, low-maintenance perennials that bloom from Spring right up to Fall : Ornamental Strawberry, Stella' d'Oro Daylilies, Knockout Shrub Roses, and Ornamental grasses. A hard combination to beat and one that has thrived with the little attention it gets.