Long-ago legend says that cranes can live for 1,000 years…and that folding 1,000 paper cranes, one for each year, can make a wish come true.
So it is that the crane is the symbol of longevity and good fortune.
22 Folds From the first corner-to-corner fold to the last crook of beak and tail, it takes 22 folds to make this style of origami crane. Because pictures are worth 1,000 words, we offer this visual guide to crane-making.
Fast forward to the turn of the twenty-first century, when Ray Wilke, a devoted volunteer in the Elizabeth Malott Japanese Garden, decided to make origami cranes as a take-away gift for children who visited the garden’s Shoin House. Each winter, Ray and wife Ginny folded cranes…and each spring/summer Ray handed them out, one by one, to the curious children.
Over the years, Ray and Ginny made 40,000 cranes.
Now there are 10 people who fold, bringing in bags of 20, 60, or 100 origami cranes throughout the winter.
And 3,000-plus cranes are ready to hand out.
From Ray’s original intent comes great good fortune: a community has sprung. And what do the kids think when they’re offered a crane? “They’re over the moon, they’re very gentle with them,” Mary says. “We say, ‘We’d like you to have one,’ and you’d think you were giving them gold when you explain why. It opens the door for conversations, especially with 7-, 8-, 9-year-olds.”
Cranes are offered, hand to hand, at the Shoin House whenever volunteers are present…for as long as the handmade supply lasts. (Although adults make wishes, too, cranes are for kids only.)
There’s more to the new North Branch Trail addition than meets the eye. It’s a great story to tell the kids or to share with a biking buddy as you try out the North Branch Trail addition.
On the surface (literally), it’s a lovely new bike/pedestrian trail that slopes down from Green Bay Road, skirting the north edge of Turnbull Woods and linking up to the outer road of the Chicago Botanic Garden. But dig a little deeper (literally and figuratively), and you’ll find the reason for that slope: the “hill” is actually the remnants of a glacier. Its proper name is the Highland Park Moraine. It’s one of a series of five, collectively called the Lake Border Moraine System, found on the inland border of Lake Michigan.
Flashback to geology class: a moraine is a giant accumulation—a ridge—of clay/sand/gravel pushed forward by the leading edge of a glacier, then left behind as it shifts its motion and melts/recedes. Moraines vary in sizes and heights.
Glacial ice that once covered northern Illinois began to recede about 14,000 years ago, leaving the five moraines, like scallops in the landscape, with the oldest to the west, the youngest to the east.
Oldest and furthest west is the Park Ridge Moraine; to the east of it is the Deerfield Moraine. The lowland between them is the West Fork of the North Branch Chicago River. Third is the Blodgett Moraine; its creation dates back to 13,000-plus years ago. The valley between it and the Deerfield Moraine is the Middle Fork of the North Branch Chicago River. (The West Fork, Middle Fork, and Skokie Rivers come together to form the North Branch Chicago River.) Next comes the Highland Park Moraine, formed about 13,000 years ago; Green Bay Road was built along its crest. The Chicago Botanic Garden lies in the Skokie River Valley between the Highland Park and the Blodgett Moraines. Finally, a bit north and east lies the Zion City Moraine, the youngest of the five.
As if all that isn’t cool enough, the Highland Park Moraine is also a mini-section of the Eastern Subcontinental Divide: water from the Highland Park Moraine drains toward Lake Michigan (Great Lakes watershed) on the east side, and into the Skokie River Valley (Mississippi River watershed) on the west side.
Planning & Planting
Planning for the new bike/pedestrian path included much deliberation about the plants that were already growing at the site.
As construction neared, ecologist Jim Steffen reached out to Glencoe Friends of the Greenbay Trail and Betsy Leibson, who heads up the all-volunteer group, which is dedicated to restoring the sections of the Green Bay Trail bike path that run through their town (and ours).
Steffen offered to donate hundreds of sedges (Carex pensylvanica and Carex hirtifolia) that were in the path of construction—and then helped Leibson and volunteers dig them up for transplanting along their trail. The sedges are reportedly thriving. GFGT showed their appreciation in such an appropriate way: see their July 14 post about it here.
5 Reasons to Love the North Branch Trail Extension
It’s safe (for all the bike riders who’ve wobbled in a vehicle’s wake on busy Lake Cook Road!).
It’s ADA-accessible: 10 feet wide, smoothly paved, and appropriately inclined.
It’s convenient for pedestrians heading to and from the Braeside Metra train station.
It’s family-friendly for strollers and toddlers, and shepherding groups of kids toward the Garden.
It’s the long dreamed-of and anticipated mile-long missing link between Cook County’s North Branch Trail and Lake County’s Green Bay Trail.
How smart is this? A special membership for those who ride their bikes to the Garden instead of driving. With plenty of perks included (discounts, member magazine, tax deductibility), but sans parking privileges, it’s a sensible and cost-efficient (just $50 annually) way to show your support for the Garden. A membership makes a great gift for the bikers in your life, too.
This is a treasure hunt to find trees. Follow the clues to find them with ease.
Each clue has a hint to the tree’s location, And a few facts for identification.
The numbers provided are GPS* clues, Just in case our rhyming stumps you.
When you get to each tree you’re meant to find, Read the message on the large brown sign.
*GPS coordinates give the general area and my not be exact. Use them to get in the vicinity, then look for a tree that fits the clues. (All trees can be found in adjacent gardens on the west side of the main island.) Don’t have a GPS device? You can use your iPhone or Android phone’s compass utility to follow the clues. Remember: leave any seeds you find for the critters that need food for winter!
Enter a Garden of native flowers and grasses; Walk ’round the fence and try not to pass this.
It’s tall and stately, and rough is its bark; Look up to see woody, small berries, which are dark.
If you go past the fliers, frozen midflight, “backtrack” your footsteps to the tree that is “right.”
GPS: N 42˚08.899′, W 087˚47.510′ iPhone Compass: N 42˚ 08’54” W 87˚ 47’31”
If these trees were shorter, this clue’d be a hard one. Follow the path through the Landscape Garden.
An evergreen trio are loaded with seeds; They form narrow cones—look up high to see.
You may cross a stream discover these gems, Enjoying the moisture, to the water they bend.
GPS: N 42˚08.879′, W087˚47.499′ iPhone Compass: N 42˚ 08’53” W 87˚ 47’31”
For those who love fall color it’s plain to see, Edna Kanaley Graham would have loved this next tree.
Come into the garden, where spring bulbs sleep. Look right in the entrance and take a quick peep.
This tree’s fruits (now all fallen) are small prickly balls, Star-shaped leaves are what’s left now—orange and yellow in fall.
GPS: N 42˚08.890′, W 087˚47.566′ iPhone Compass: N 42˚ 08’53”, W 087˚ 47’34”
Near the Circle Garden and the whistling of trains, A group of large trees makes nuts from sun, air, and rain.
Squirrels and critters think that these nuts are great; It’s also a favorite of Ohio State!
Can’t find our trees on your wander? Look down: This time of year, fruit and husks litter the ground.
GPS: N 42˚ 08.849′, W 087˚47.465′ iPhone Compass: N 42˚ 08’50”, W 087˚47’34”
From here, it’s off to the Enabling Garden you go; Where a smattering of these trees you’ll find in a row.
This specimen grows very large heart-shaped leaves; Long, narrow seed pods hang from its eaves.
Either side of the path they drip like fresh wax; We hope from these clues you discover the facts.
GPS: N 42˚08.810′, W 087˚47.416′ iPhone Compass: N 42˚ 08’49”, W 087˚ 47’25”
Our ephemeral signs have now been removed from each site, but here are the answers:
My summer intern, Melanie Jensen (now a senior studying horticulture at Southern Illinois University), has always wondered how botanic gardens put together their impressive seasonal displays. In fact, she was so intrigued by them that she did her final presentation—a graduation requirement for the Garden’s horticulture internship program—on the complexities and challenges of preparing these displays.
To say the work is complex and challenging is almost an understatement. Sometimes our work here seems like magic. Overnight, the Garden can transform from spring to summer or summer to fall. Yesterday there were spring troughs, summer palm trees, or fall mum towers in the Garden. Today, there is something completely different. Yes, it does seem like it happens just like that, perhaps with the snap of a finger. But behind the scenes, for months or even years before most visitors get to see a display, a team is already hard at work making it happen.
Melanie and more than 50 other staff and volunteers had a front row seat this summer to help me create this fall’s signature display in the Heritage Garden—the Viola pyramids, which are now on display. The pyramids themselves are really just a set of simple flowers presented in a very unique way. The story could end right there, but what I think makes this display fascinating to people like me and Melanie (and hopefully to you, too) is the astonishing amount of work it takes to get the pyramids from concept to finished product.
The Garden began working on this project more than a year ago, when outdoor floriculturist Tim Pollak and I were brainstorming on how we could use the pyramids in another display. Last used about five years ago, the pyramids have traditionally been used as a summer display component, planted with two cultivars of Alternanthera. Pressed to take a fresh approach to the pyramids, we settled on the idea that they would make a great fall display. We considered using mums (too fragile, and many growing challenges) and Verbena (not frost-tolerant enough for fall), and concluded that Viola were our best option. Others agreed.
Saying we are creating Viola pyramids is the easy part. Actually doing it is a completely different story, and it’s a testament to great project planning and teamwork at the Garden.
Here’s what it took:
1. Our production team grew 6,400 Viola plants, half orange and half purple, so they were ready for planting into the pyramid structure by early August. The pyramids are 9 feet wide at the base, and 10 feet tall at the apex.
2. In the meantime, Melanie and I led the team to prepare the pyramid frames. Working in the nursery, our first step was to attach landscape fabric to the front face of the pyramids using hundreds of zip ties. Landscape fabric helps hold the soil and the plants in the frame. We had to be very careful that the fabric covered every nook and cranny of the frame. If not, soil would leak from the frame, and it would undermine the integrity of the entire planting space.
3. Next we custom-blended special planting media, using lightweight potting soil and perlite. The pyramids retain water differently at their tops versus their bottoms, so we changed the composition of the media throughout the frame to accommodate this variance. Near the top of the pyramid we used a heavier, more water-retentive blend of about 70 percent soil and 30 percent perlite. At the bottom, where there is a risk that the pyramid could become waterlogged, we created a lightweight mix that was about 30 percent soil and 70 percent perlite. You can see in the picture how the soil/perlite composition changes from top to bottom.
4. Most of the time we will water the pyramids with a hose and water nozzle, but sometimes we need to give them a deeper soaking, especially on hot and sunny days. To help with that, we weaved soaker hoses throughout the frame so that we could water from the inside out.
5. To make the pyramids lighter (each individual panel weighs about 500 pounds—meaning each pyramid weighs 2,000 pounds), and to reduce the amount of soil and perlite needed, we stuffed sheets of foam insulation into the bottom of the frame. A mesh screen secured all of these materials inside the frame.
6. Time to plant! We cut tiny holes into the landscape fabric and inserted a Viola plant. As we planted, we also pinched and deadheaded each and every Viola. During the critical first few weeks of growing in the pyramids, the Viola plants need to spend their energy developing roots and spreading foliage to cover the entire frame, rather than producing flowers. Removing all of the flowers is a hard thing to swallow, but it’s really for the best long-term interest of the display.
(Incidentally, the cut flowers were put to good use, donated to our Roadside Flower Sale team. Pressed flowers are sold at their annual sale, with proceeds supporting Garden initiatives, including generous funding for the horticulture department.)
7. The original plan was to leave the Viola plants simply to grow as-is under the care of our great production team until they were display-ready in mid-September. However, Mother Nature had other plans. The weather caused the Viola to grow faster than expected, and by late August it became clear that we would need to do another round of deadheading. Staff and volunteers again converged in the nursery for two days of meticulous work removing every flower head and seedpod from the display. It was a lot of work, and a little disconcerting to again make a beautifully colorful pyramid all green and flowerless, but it was an important task so the Viola could flower prolifically later into the season.
8. Time to move to the Heritage Garden! It took 15 strong groundskeepers, some extra machinery and ropes, a lot of creative thinking, and 1½ days of hard work to move the pyramids from the Nursery to the Heritage Garden. Come by and take a look!
I often like to break down the numbers for a project, because it articulates the scope of work in a way that words cannot. So, here are some numbers for this project: Over one year of planning, more than 50 people involved, 6,400 plants used, and more than 500 hours of labor to get the job done. Yes, 500 hours!
It seems like a lot of work—and it is—but I hope that everyone who sees the display takes away something uniquely personal to them. Perhaps it sparks your creativity on how to use simple plants in unique ways. Maybe seeing something new and special triggers your passion for plants and horticulture, either as a hobby or as a career. Sometimes the display will draw your attention to a part of the Garden that you never explored before now. Or maybe you like it just because it looks pretty cool. It’s even O.K. if this display just isn’t your thing: artistic choices are very personal. Whatever your take-away is, however, my hope is that we can use this display and others like it to engage you in a conversation about plants and to help you connect to the Garden in an exciting new way. That makes 500 hours of work worth it for me.
“Rise and shine, campers, and don’t forget your booties, ‘cuz it’s coooold out there today!”
If you love Groundhog Day the movie, or just the idea that there’s a Groundhog Day at all, then visit the Garden on Saturday as our own groundhog mascot, Botanical Bill, goes on an adventure. Download a PDF of the scavenger hunt here.
Bring your smartphone and hunt around the Regenstein Center for the answers to the questions below — get five of the ten correct and you’ve earned a cup of hot cocoa at the Garden Café, plus a d.i.y. photo op with Botanical Bill at the Visitor Center Information Desk where he’s hanging out all week!
1. An exhibition called Woodcut would sound good to a woodchuck — which, along with “whistle pig,” is another common name for a groundhog. Botanical Bill brought his name tag along on his adventure, which starts at the Woodcut exhibition. What material makes up the exhibit’s title?
2. Groundhogs have good eyesight — their eyes are placed high up on their heads, the better to peek out of their burrows while staying mostly hidden. Nonetheless, Botanical Bill used the magnifying glass to get a good look at this tree’s cross section in Woodcut. What kind of tree was it?
3. Groundhogs like to stay close to home—they rarely travel more than ½ mile from their burrow in their entire lives. Botanical Bill sure liked the look of this garden, though, from the In Search of Paradise exhibition in Krehbiel Gallery. Where would he have to travel to visit the real thing?
4. Groundhogs are rarely seen at the Garden. Much like British royalty and nobility. What collection of books is Botanical Bill admiring in the Lenhardt Library? (Hint: the collection was put together for fans of a popular television show.)
5. Groundhogs eat plants — lots of plants — including up to 1½ pounds per day in the summer. Botanical Bill isn’t so sure about these plants in the case in the Arid Greenhouse — they look like rocks! What kind of plants are they?
6. Groundhogs dig burrows that are 2 to 5 feet deep and extend up to 30 feet long! Foxes, snakes, raccoons, and rabbits often reuse old groundhog burrows. Botanical Bill met this fellow burrow maker in the Arid Greenhouse. What kind of topiary animal is it?
7. Groundhogs graze on grasses and clovers — but what they really love are vegetables and fruit growing in gardens! Botanical Bill gazes longingly at the just-out-of-reach bananas ripening in the Tropical Greenhouse. Walk down to the base of the banana plant — what name is on its plant label?
8. Groundhogs are “edge” creatures that like to live in brushy areas on the edges of forests, in farm fields, or even in landscaped neighborhoods. Botanical Bill is admiring the “meat-eating” plants like Venus fly-traps and sundews in the Semitropical Greenhouse. What plant is hanging in the basket above him?
9. Groundhogs like to sun themselves on rocks, along branches, or on stone walls. Botanical Bill found a sweet spot to catch some sun at The Sower. What year was it installed here? (Hint: Look down for the memorial plaque.)
10. Groundhogs aren’t big water drinkers — they get their water from rain and dew on the plants and fruit they eat, instead. While Botanical Bill’s relaxing with a mug of water in the Garden Café, answer this question: What was the name of Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day?
Now scamper over to the Visitor Center Information Desk with your answers. It’s Groundhog Day! Don’t forget to take your picture with Botanical Bill and post it on our Facebook Page!