Archives For Visiting the Garden

Find wonder in all seasons at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

We love nature here at the Chicago Botanic Garden, so we looked to the natural world for inspiration on how to enjoy the eclipse—here at the Garden, or in your own backyard.

Practice safe viewing at the Garden with eclipse glasses from the Adler Planetarium.

Practice safe viewing at the Garden with eclipse glasses from the Adler Planetarium. Distribution of glasses begins at 10 a.m. Monday, August 21 on the Esplanade.

On Monday, August 21, people across the United States will be able to witness a rare event: the first total solar eclipse to cross over the country from coast to coast in nearly a century.

The path of totality—meaning the area of the United States that will see the sun completely blocked by the moon—passes across southern Illinois. In the Chicago area, we will experience roughly 86 percent coverage around 1:19 p.m. This is the closest the Chicago area has been to a total solar eclipse in 92 years.

 

1. Make a pinhole projector—using leaves.

Rule number one with eclipses—and with the sun every day, actually—is don’t look directly at it with the naked eye. A fun way to indirectly “see” the eclipse is with a pinhole projector, and one of the best natural projectors is a leaf. Leaves often have holes that can act as natural projectors.

During the eclipse, turn your back to the sun and hold the leaf above a neutral colored background, ideally several feet or more away. A white sheet of paper will do. You’ll see a crescent-shaped shadow that changes as the eclipse progresses.

Via Rice Space Institute, a fun way to commemorate an eclipse: make a pinhole sign and photograph its shadow.

Via Rice Space Institute, a fun way to commemorate an eclipse: make a pinhole sign and photograph its shadow.

The easiest pinhole projector you can make is with your hands. Stretch out and overlap your fingers to create a grid. Look down and you’ll see mini eclipses projected through the spaces between your fingers.

Eclipse shadows seen through crossed fingers of kids.

Viewing with children? Use what you’ve got to make your own shadow art: tiny hands are perfect. Photo via blogger Linda Shore

Other ideas: Use everyday objects that already have holes—like colanders or crackers, for example—or by punching a hole in a piece of cardboard or other sturdy material. If you want a more patriotic experience, NASA has 2D/3D printable pinhole projectors in the shape of the United States and each state.


2. Follow the shadows of the trees.

Find a shady spot and watch as the eclipse shadows change over the course of the event. Instead of the one shadow that a standard pinhole projector creates, you can view hundreds by standing under a decently sized oak or maple.

Instead of the shadows of leaves, thousands of sun crescents: the light cast through the gaps in moving leaves is only a sliver of the sun, and it shows.

Instead of the shadows of leaves, thousands of sun crescents: the light cast through the gaps in moving leaves is only a sliver of the sun, and it shows. Photo by David Prasad from Fresno, CA., United States [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons, taken during the 2012 annular solar eclipse seen on the west coast of the United States.

Shadows of leaves on the ground during a partial solar eclipse look like a host of small, overlapping crescent moons.

Shadows of leaves on the ground during a partial solar eclipse look like a host of small, overlapping crescent moons. Photo by பரிதிமதி (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Another cool effect created by the eclipse is shadows that look sharper and appear to move (albeit very slowly) as the eclipse goes on. Boyce Tankersley, the Garden’s director of living plant documentation, was in St. Louis during the annular solar eclipse that passed over the United States in 1994, and witnessed this phenomenon while working at the botanical garden there. Unlike the annular 1994 eclipse, where a ring of the sun appears around the edge of the moon, the total eclipse this year will completely block the sun’s light in the path of totality (near Carbondale, Illinois, in our region). That’s because during a total eclipse, the distances between the moon, sun, and earth allows the moon to completely cover the sun; during an annular eclipse, it does not.

Rangers in Grand Canyon National Park use eclipse filters on a pair of binoculars during an annular eclipse viewing in 2012.

Rangers in Grand Canyon National Park use pair of filtered binoculars during an annular eclipse viewing in 2012. Note the crisp shadows at near-peak eclipse, as well as the crisp outline of the crescent sun.
[CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

At peak viewing time, from roughly 12:45 to 2 p.m., we’ll see a skinny crescent of light peeking out from behind the moon, almost like it’s taking a bite out of the sun. Though it’s only a sliver, it’s still strong enough to mess with the way shadows appear to the naked eye. This will make for some amazing patterns and changing shapes under the Garden’s trees. If you want to experience the eclipse this way, Tankersley recommends heading to the Waterfall Garden, English Oak Meadow, or English Walled Garden. Even the Garden’s parking lots have big, leafy trees that would work. If you prefer seclusion, the west service road, stretching from the Regenstein Learning Campus to the Graham Bulb Garden, has ginkgo, redbud, and buckeye, to name a few trees in that area with interesting leaves. Use the Garden’s plant finder or download our GardenGuide app to seek out a spot to see the eclipse by your favorite kind of tree.


3. Come to the Garden’s Eclipse Event

The Garden has partnered with the Adler Planetarium to host a solar eclipse viewing event. Free special viewing glasses—while supplies last—will be available so visitors can safely view the eclipse directly. We’ll also have Family Drop-In activities related to the eclipse and a scale model of the moon, sun, and earth stretching across the Esplanade, not far from the Visitor Center.

Crescent-shaped shadows of an eclipse seen through a colander.

Colanders, strainers, slotted spoons, and crackers—use household objects for your own eclipse experiments. Photo via Lightscapes blog.

The Esplanade is going to be a hub of activity, but the Garden has a number of other open spaces for great viewing. Grab your eclipse glasses and head to Dixon Prairie, on the south end of the Garden. When you need a break from staring at the sky, you’ll also see blooming blazing star, wild bergamot, prairie dock, and ironweed. If you’re lucky, you may also spot a hummingbird or monarch butterfly. The prairie is right off the section of the North Branch Trail that winds through the eastern part of the Garden, so it’s easily accessible if you bike here from the south.

Not as off the beaten path, but usually a sure bet for some private space, is Evening Island. It’s home to the Theodore C. Butz Memorial Carillon and features different landscapes on five acres. Head to the lawn overlooking the Great Basin for a clear view of the sky, as well as sweeping, photo-ready vistas. If you’re with a small group, gather in the council ring, inspired by the work of famed garden designer Jens Jensen.


If you miss this year’s total solar eclipse you won’t have to wait too long for the next one. There will be another in seven years, with the Chicago area closer to the path of totality and expected to see roughly 93 percent coverage. Practice your skills this year and you’ll be proficient in eclipse observation by 2024.


©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Alongside the stunning flora of Brazil, visitors to the Garden can taste the flavors of Brazil in two ways this summer.

The popular Garden Chef series, where visitors can watch cooking demonstrations by local chefs and sample the fare, will include Brazilian chefs and chefs from Brazilian-inspired restaurants cooking authentic dishes. Join us for Brazilian-themed demos at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. on the following dates:

  • June 17 – Jorgina Pereira from Sinhá
  • July 1 – Cristiane Pereira from Taste of Brazil Café
  • July 30 – John Manion from La Sirena Clandestina
  • September 10 – Tony Castillo from Longitud315

Visitors can also enjoy Brazilian flavors at the Garden View Café throughout the run of Brazil in the Garden. Favorites like caipirinha, the national cocktail of Brazil, and brigadeiro, a sweet, truffle-like dessert, will be served. Some regular menu items, including salads and pastries, have been reimagined to include flavors found in Brazilian cooking. Highlights from the menu include a misto quente sandwich, Brazilian beef picanha skewers, and Brazilian nut cake.

Brazilian Superfood Chopped Salad

Brazilian superfood chopped salad

Picanha Skewers

Picanha skewers

The Café’s Brazil-inspired menu items are as follows:

  • Brazilian superfood chopped salad: Baby kale and spinach, quinoa, fresh mango, broccoli, black beans, radishes, flax seed, Brazil nuts, orange-agave dressing
  • Citrus salmon salad: Local greens, hearts of palm, cherry tomato, Vidalia onion, spring onion, avocado, citrus vinaigrette
  • Misto quente sandwich: Applewood-smoked jamon (ham), queso blanco (white cheese), local tomato, oregano aioli, buttered brioche
  • Brazilian couscous salad and chicken salpicão sandwich at the grab-and-go bar

At the Garden Grille:

  • Brazilian beef picanha skewers: Grilled sirloin, zucchini, Vidalia onion, cilantro-lime rice, chimichurri
  • Brazilian caipirinha cocktail: Cachaça, fresh lime

Barista and Pastries:

  • Brazilian nut cake
  • Cocoa carob cookies
  • Brigadeiro
  • Acai fruit smoothie with banana, acai berry, blueberry, raspberry, almond milk
  • Summer mango smoothie with mango, banana, almond milk

©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Are you feeling winter blue? Do you feel trapped in cold and ice? Has your mood gone south, leaving you wishing that you could, too?

What, with the world’s best antidepressant right out your front door?

The magic elixir is a winter walk. And the Chicago Botanic Garden awaits with a prescription-strength dose—miles of trails through the Garden, almost all of them kept clear of snow and ice, with a number of mapped-out walks ranging from 1 to 2.3 miles.

PHOTO: Spider Island in winter.

A hidden gem, the path along Spider Island is just the place for a peaceful winter walk.

I love a brisk walk any time, anywhere. But never is it as urgently necessary for my mental health as in winter.

A winter walk is the cure for cabin fever. And more than that, it’s the way to reshape the way you think about winter.

PHOTO: Birches in winter.

Elegant in winter, birches line the Sensory Garden path.

Winter doesn’t have to be a sentence to months of suffering. Once you start walking in it, you see it as a time for a brisk spins through snow-frosted landscapes; an opportunity to see trees in their dramatically revealed architecture; a chance at that perfect winter moment when a bright sun in a blue sky makes a new snowfall glitter like diamonds.

The Garden’s winter regulars need no convincing.

“I love the freshly fallen snow,” said Paul Wagner, who was here on a recent blue-sky day when snow frosted the hills and chunks of ice floated in the Garden’s waters.

He regularly drives 40 minutes from his Northbrook home to walk a 4½-mile circuit here.

“The Garden is really pretty. And it’s certainly less crowded,” he said. “It’s just peaceful. I listen to music…you’re deep in thought—and at the end of it, you’re just so relaxed you wonder where the time went.”

Cookie Harms, of Wilmette, treasures the quiet and solitude. She also admires the birds, untroubled by winter and more visible in leafless trees. “I still see something different every time I come here,” she said.

And as a self-described “summer girl,” she considers walking in winter an essential survival tool.

“It really lifts the blues,” she said. “It’s definitely a drug.”

PHOTO: Linden Allee in winter.

The Linden Allée, newly plowed after a fresh blanket of snow

But is it a hard drug to take? Isn’t walking in winter cold?

Wagner was wearing a sweatshirt over a base layer. The air temperature was 25 degrees Fahrenheit. He was perfectly comfortable. Walking fast is like being surrounded by a bubble of heat.

Harms was downright toasty, but that might be because she was basking in the sun in the Garden View Café before setting out on her walk.

Still, she was certain she would still be warm outside. “Fleece base layers,” she said, pointing to her leggings.

I would add: Hat. Wind-blocking scarf or neck gaiter. Chemical hand-warmers. Mittens.

Add a route through trees and hills, whether at the Garden or your local forest preserve—and out you go!


©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Where Love is in the Air

The Garden's Most Romantic Bridges

Karen Z. —  July 26, 2015 — 2 Comments

A bridge can be a portal, a passage, a strategic position, an arrival, a departure, or a place to meet halfway. And of course bridges can be marvelously romantic, as anyone who’s gasped at a mist-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge or taken a Parisian boat ride on the Seine can attest.

Bridges are integral to the Chicago Botanic Garden, too, built as it is on nine islands.

For a lovely summer evening, take a long walk together…cross these six romantic bridges together…and prepare for some memorable moments.

Daisy Chain

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Daisy ChainShall we Cross that Bridge?

Bridges are one of the most spectacular places at the Garden for photography—as countless brides, prom groups, families, and sweethearts can attest.

PHOTO: Trellis bridge.

Sunset frames the Trellis Bridge in golden glow.

Halfway along Evening Island, the Trellis Bridge is a surprise invitation to explore what lies on the other side. The Trellis Bridge has different acoustics than the other bridges: it goes quiet at the center. Listen for the sounds of gardens, rather than the sounds of people. Its sinuous shape and curving boards invite you to pause…and enjoy each other’s company.

PHOTO: Japanese Garden bridge.

The serene scene at the Malott Japanese Garden bridge.

Intentionally steep, the arched bridge that leads to the three islands of the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden forces you to slow down as you climb. At the top, you pause naturally to take a breath, to stop and lift your gaze, to look around, not just ahead of you. This bridge signals change—your passage into a very different garden and a very different mindset.

PHOTO: The Zigzag bridge at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

In good spirits? Cross the Zigzag Bridge.

Separating two of the three Malott Japanese Garden islands is the Zigzag Bridge. While legend holds that humans can elude evil spirits by crossing a zigzag bridge (because those spirits move only in straight lines), a zigzag bridge also has a practical purpose: to slow your progress, encouraging you to enjoy the beauty around you…including your sweetheart.

PHOTO: Lotus frame the ends of the Arch Bridge in midsummer.

Lotus bloom in the shallows of the Arch Bridge in midsummer.

Turn left as you leave the Malott Japanese Garden, and the very next turn brings you to the Arch Bridge, which connects to Evening Island. With its height above the water and its panoramic view, this bridge has a grand, soaring feeling. Plan to be there at sunset, when late light strikes and illuminates the bridge, making it—and the person you’re with—positively glow.

Set the SceneDine and dance every evening Monday through Thursday at the Garden to the rhythms of swing, Latin jazz, samba, bluegrass, big band, country, rock ’n’ roll, and salsa.

Return to Evening Island and you’ll soon reach the Serpentine Bridge, which carries you back to the main island. It also brings you quite close to the water, as if floating above it. Meanderingly quiet and peaceful, the Serpentine Bridge feels very protected. Fish swim just below you, lilies and lotuses rock with the breeze, and the view toward the Arch Bridge at sunset is simply glorious.

Bridges set the scene for what’s ahead, and the long boardwalk to Spider Island does that in a particularly brilliant way. Hand-hewn from black locust, the boardwalk bridges our largest island to our smallest, with an angled path lying low across the water. What could have been a short, direct, 90-degree crossing becomes instead a private journey to Spider Island’s sole, spiral path—like a tail on the curve of a question mark. 

PHOTO: Spider Island boardwalk.

Follow the path to its end, a small and private sitting area.

Daisy Chain

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Ten Romantic Spots to Pop the Question

Summer of Love

Karen Z. —  June 11, 2015 — 2 Comments

Gardens are romantic by nature. That’s why one of our most frequently asked questions is, “What’s the most romantic spot at the Garden?”

So we scoped it out, asked around, and compiled a list of our top ten most romantic spots. Now it’s up to you to…
Pop the Question.

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Daisy Chain

PHOTO: Rose Garden arbor.

The Krasberg Rose Garden’s arbor is the perfect place to pause on a romantic stroll.

1. “Doesn’t it smell wonderful?”

Claim a bench under the Krasberg Rose Garden’s arbor and take a deep breath. Then another. Soon you’ll be discussing the bouquet of roses—one smells of musk, another of tea, a third of myrrh—just as you do a fine wine. (Which, by the way, is available at the Garden View Café.)

PHOTO: The blue bench in the niche at the English Walled Garden.

“Something borrowed, something blue…” sets the tone in the English Walled Garden.

2. “Would you like to sit here?”

With climbing hydrangeas overhead, a pergola of white wisteria just ahead, and a romantic morning glory tile inset behind you (are those leaves or hearts?), the vividly blue bench tucked into the niche at the English Walled Garden is the prettiest seat at the Garden.

3. “Shall we cross that bridge?”

On summer evenings, the bridges to Evening Island—the Arch Bridge and the Serpentine Bridge—are lit at night. A bridge is such a splendid place for a private conversation and…reflection.

PHOTO: The Serpentine Bridge at night.

The dramatically lit Serpentine Bridge is the path to summer evening romance.

4. “Can you top this?”

The top of the Waterfall Garden has it all: rushing water, a sweet arbor, birds chirping in shady trees. It’s one of the best spots at the Garden to sit…very…close.

PHOTO: Arbor at the top of the Waterfall Garden.

The peaceful hideaway atop the Waterfall Garden is a romantic destination in any season.

5. “Pics or it didn’t happen?”

Romantic memories need a great background. At the top of the Sensory Garden is the photo-worthy frame you’re looking for.

PHOTO: The view from the top of the Sensory Garden.

Tucked away in the Sensory Garden is this shady arbor, ready for a romantic moment.

6. “Want to try a new place?”

One of the newest—and therefore least-discovered—spots in the Garden is Kleinman Family Cove. (Yes, it’s open during construction on the Regenstein Foundation Learning Campus across the road.) Take advantage of the quiet, the deck that hovers over the water, and the natural chorus of frogs…

PHOTO: The Cove at dusk.

A shoreline chorus is the perfect accompaniment to your proposal at the Cove.

7. “Doesn’t that sound amazing?”

On Monday nights, carillonneurs from around the globe transform Evening Island into an outdoor concert hall. Not coincidentally, it’s also picnic night. Got the picture? A romantic picnic, the music of bells, and a secluded spot on Evening Island, where two perfectly placed rocks make a perfect seat for a perfect couple.

PHOTO: Sitting boulders at Evening Island.

Enjoy a concert for two on Monday nights from this secret spot on Evening Island.

8. “Which path do you want to take?”

A summer walk through the Dixon Prairie is inherently romantic, with grasses and prairie flowers taller than your head, and late-day light filtering through the foliage. Take the boardwalk bridge across the water to tiny Marsh Island for a memorable sunset moment.

PHOTO: The boardwalk to Marsh Island.

Prairie plants grow tall enough to hide stolen kisses off the beaten path on Marsh Island.

9. “Do you feel like a beer?”

There’s something different about this arch: it’s made from hops—which, of course, are the key ingredients in beer. Take photos under the archway, sit for a while in the Circle Garden’s very romantic “secret” side gardens, then ask the beer question. The answer will be “Yes.”

PHOTO: Arch at Circle Garden side garden.

Pop the question in one of the side gardens of the Circle Garden for a “hoppy” answer!

PHOTO: A sunset samba on the Esplanade.

Pop the question after a sunset samba on the dance floor with the best view in town: the Esplanade.

10. “May I have this dance?”

Dancing is romantic. Outdoor dancing is super romantic. Outdoor dancing at the Garden is meta romantic. And it happens every weeknight during the summer. Salsa, swing, big band, bluegrass, and jazz rock the most beautiful “dance floor” in town.

After you pop the other question…

Wonderful weddings happen at the Garden. Find out more from Connie or Kristina at events@chicagobotanic.org.

Wonderful weddings happen at the Garden.

Daisy Chain

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org