Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory is the most beautiful, serene place closest to my front door (besides my own bathtub). The lush trees and flowers and plants made me want to just sit and stare for hours on end. You can always find a little piece of heaven/summer here in the Conservatory.

The Conservatory is divided into seven or so houses of different plants: the Palm House, Show House, Fern Room, Sugar and Fruit Plants, the Aroid House, Desert House and the Children's Garden, as well as outside gardens and pathways.

The Palm House: With a 60 ft high roof, the beautiful tropical trees gracefully reach up and over you as you enter the Conservatory. Don't forget to check out the Double Coconut Palm, the Chocolate trees, and the Scheelea Palm.

The Show House: Each year, the conservatory presents three unique flower shows in the Show House. This ever-changing room offers something beautiful, artistic and inspiring every new season. Don't miss the spring show featuring azaleas, the summer tropical show, and the holiday show during December.

Calamondin Orange- Philippines
The Fern Room: Jans Jenson, who designed the conservatory in 1906, wanted to give visitors a glimpse of what Illinois looked like in the dinosaur age. Mosses, ferns and cycads amongst a swampy lagoon bring us back to prehistoric Chicago. Check out the waterfall, the tree ferns, and the cycads! (Travis and I didn't actually get to see this room, due to the damage caused by the hailstorm last summer. Hopefully it will be open soon! It sounds amazing!)

The Sugar from the Sun Room: As soon as you step into this room, even the air smells sweet. Overhead, plants in the SUNLIGHT section grasp at the sun's warming rays through the greenhouse glass. Bananas, oranges and pineapples are growing all around you- truly beautiful, romantic and alluring.

Beautiful Blown-Glass Flowers
The Aroid House: Because many aroids are popular houseplants, you're sure to find something familiar in this room. This house also holds a number of new plant varieties developed over the years at the conservatory, including the Garfield Anthurium. Don't forget to admire the Trumpet Tree, the Calabash Tree, and the beautiful yellow blown-glass flowers that sit in the pool.

The Desert House: This house holds one of the region's most varied collections of cacti and succulents. Travis and I loved walking through this particular room because of the weirdly shaped and strange formed plants, some with long spikes, others with short spikes and the ones with fuzzies or bumpies or both. One of the coolest plants here is the Century Plant, a huge plant that does nothing for a decade or two before it finally shoots up a enormous 30 ft stalk and blooms gorgeous flowers, and then does nothing again for awhile... Don't forget to check out the Boojum Tree and the Jade Plants as well!

The huge fish in the Aroid Room's pool
The Children's Garden: Designed to be part ornamental greenhouse, part children's museum and part playground, this room is where all of the fun continues! With interactive exhibits and a slide, children can learn how plants use the sun, water and the nutrients from the soil to grow, and how we use plants in our every day life! Check out the Conservatory free weekend family programs and other fun things to do with the kids.

The Outdoor Gardens: There are three main gardens in the Conservatory's outdoor garden exhibits- the City Garden, where hardy urban plantings and recycled bits of cityscape challenges prevailing notions of what a public garden is supposed to represent; the Demonstration Garden, the city-lot-sized garden where visitors can learn about community and organic gardening in Chicago; and the Monet Garden, an adaption of impressionist painter Claude Monet's well known garden at Giverney, France.

One of my favorite plants was the Old Man of the Andes, found in Argentina and Bolivia and living in the Desert House. It looks so funny, covered in thick, white hair that serves as a hiding place for it's spiky quills.

The atmosphere and climate itself brings people far and wide to the Garfield Park Conservatory- free heat during the cold winter, just steps from an "El" stop seems to be too good to be true. But it isn't! Admission is free every day, and there are even free events and programs for kids and families going on year-round. 

Want to hang around and don't know where to go? Check out Garfield Park!

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