Natural Wonders Indoors: Chicago’s Park District Conservatories

It’s SPRING! Time to start planning your gardens and plantings for the year, to bring color, energy and beauty into your home and yard, and even provide you with delicious vegetables and fragrant herbs.

Chicago’s Park District is home to three flourishing conservatories, where tulips, palm trees and other plants and flowers from our parks spend the winter. More importantly they are wonder filled places we can visit throughout the year to see beautiful gardens, learn about exotic plants and flowers, attend a class or two on organic gardening, bee keeping, even keeping urban chickens.

Let’s get started.

Kilbourn Park Greenhouse

is home to the first public fruit tree orchard ever planted in a major city, and includes apples, pears, plums, cherries and paw trees, as well as currants, goumie berries, blackberries, raspberries and several grape vines. The harvest looks to be both beautiful and plentiful. The park also hosts a community garden, where you can rent a space for your own garden, and get tips and assistance from the Greenhouse staff on growing your own flowers, herbs and vegetables.

1 Kilbourn Park Greenhouse

While Kilbourn is the smallest of Chicago’s conservatories, it is the city’s only organic teaching greenhouse, with fun and exciting classes for everyone from toddlers up through their parents and adults. When I visited, Renee and Erin treated me to an early season look at the organic garden seedlings that are currently growing in anticipation of their annual plant sale, where you can get herbs, vegetable plants, perhaps some flowers and perhaps a few house plants, all offered at very good prices.

Under their watchful eyes and capable hands, the seedlings will undoubtedly be healthy and ready for planting in your own garden.  Expect a wonderful harvest.

Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse

3501 N. Kilbourn Ave., Chicago, IL 60641

http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/kilbourn-park-organic-greenhouse/

773-685-3351

2 Kilbourn Park Greenhouse

 Lincoln Park Conservatory

close by the Zoo, is an architectural masterpiece that has been called “a paradise under glass,” a place that nurtures “a luxuriant tropical growth, blending the whole into a natural grouping of Nature’s loveliest forms.” *  That description is absolutely true. The Spring Flower Show is in full bloom with tulips, daffodils, hydrangeas, orchids, early spring flowers and flowering shrubs all in their most colorful, exciting display.

I love these places for the warmth, energy and spring-time encouragement they offer.  Construction began in 1890, and continued, in several stages, until it’s completion in 1895. Projects are now underway to insure that this important Chicago resource is updated, repaired, and expanded.

3 The Lincoln Park Conservatory

 There are four display houses: Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House and Show House, and each one could capture your attention for many hours.  Take your time, breathe in the warm, fragrant air, and relax as you stroll around. Take time to understand the rich history and the larger purposes of this indoor paradise – the flowers you see along Michigan Ave., and throughout the downtown area are grown here, and kept safe through the cold winters.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

2391 N Stockton Dr Chicago, IL 60614

http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/lincoln-park-conservatory/

http://lincolnparkconservancy.org/projects/conservatory-garden/

(312) 742-7736

 *quote taken from http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks/lincoln-park-conservatory

5 Lincoln Park Conservatory 4 Lincoln.Park.Conservatory.original.1

Garfield Park Conservatory

is the largest of the three, and one of the most impressive conservatories in the entire US.  The greenhouses cover 3.5 acres with multiple displays and gardens, complete with fountains and sculptures.  Some of the views are breathtaking; the Spring Flower Show, through Mother’s Day, is spectacular viewing with more different flowers than you ever thought could be on this great, green Earth.  Since it’s now April, the 12 acres of outdoor gardens are getting green, with some early flowers in full bloom.

6 Garfield Park Conservatory

I recommend the Palm House, with its vaulted ceiling and tall palm trees surrounded by tropical plants and the Fern Room, which boasts the cycad, a living specimen of one of the oldest plant species on Earth, set admits rocks and a lagoon to remind visitors of Chicago’s ancient history as a very low, swampy region;  The Conservatory offers guided tours of several sorts, contact them for more details.

You might also enjoy the upcoming  Beer Under Glass 2016 Thursday, May 19, 2016!  Call or visit the websites for information.

Garfield Park Conservatory

300 North Central Park Ave.

Chicago, Illinois 60624-1945

http://www.garfieldconservatory.org

312-746-5100

8 Lincoln Park orchid 7 garfield-park-conservatory-conservatory-path

These are great places to visit; warm, inviting, colorful and peaceful, all at the same time. You can learn how to improve your garden or discover flowers and plants that you’ve never seen before.  Explore these places, especially now. You’ll be happy that you did.

April 2016