Where Love is in the Air

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.

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It’s official! Chicago Botanic Garden is voted Best Wedding Venue 2015 by Make it Better magazine! #MIBBestof2015

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.

PHOTO: Dancing couple.
For the complete lineup of music on summer evenings, click here.

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.

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©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Ten Romantic Spots to Pop the Question

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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It’s official! Chicago Botanic Garden is voted Best Wedding Venue 2015 by Make it Better magazine! #MIBBestof2015

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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.

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©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Meet the Interns!

At the Chicago Botanic Garden, variety is truly the name of the game. After all, the Garden is home to more than 2.6 million plants—both native and exotic—with 26 gardens and four different types of natural areas. But plants aren’t the only aspect of the Garden both numerous and varied: so too are the Garden interns, the young, intelligent, hardworking, and hilarious behind-the-sceners whose hard work is essential to keeping the Garden the world-class, varied, and vast living museum that it is today. 

But who, exactly, are these young people who have forgone relaxing, carefree summer days to toil in the soil? Sitting in a room with five of the interns quickly reveals a surprisingly wide variety of interests and personalities. To intern at the Garden, apparently, one does not necessarily have to be a Birkenstock-wearing, granola-chomping nouveau-hippie (though full disclosure: I did not look at their feet nor peer into their breakfast bowls). Instead, each one of these interns is approaching the work from a different place, with different backgrounds, fields of interest, and long-term goals.

PHOTO: Patrick Hogan, 2013 Production Intern
Patrick Hogan, 2013 production intern

For example, there’s Patrick Hogan. Patrick is from Wheeling, Illinois, and is a graduate of SIU in Carbondale. At school he studied landscape design but his real interest, he says, lies in plant propagation, pollination, and crossbreeding. At the Garden, Patrick interns in the production department, which involves all three tasks. “My goal,” he said with a grin, “is to one day have a plant named after me.” Patrick also seems to have an interest in human propagation—his first son was born nine months ago, and he says he looks forward to expanding his family in the future.

Also interning in the production department is recent Colorado College graduate Johanna Hutchins. In school, Johanna studied biology with a focus on plant ecology, and says that her interest in plants has been lifelong. She explained, “Plants are so complex. The way they respond to things, the way they’ve evolved…they’re really fascinating.”

The display garden interns are also a diverse, dynamic bunch. Take Mei-Ling Schmid, for instance. Originally from Thailand, Mei-Ling studies landscape management at Brigham-Young University and sought summer work at the Garden to “see how a larger botanical garden is managed.” Her work at the Garden is all about aesthetic: “You want the Garden to feel a certain way,” she says. “You want to create a mood. It’s about color, combination, composition…like art.” Yet, Mei-Ling attests that she’s learned most about the importance of effectively managing other people. “I see that you have to be smart about how you manage people and time to get things done. People think our work is just about plants, but nothing could be achieved if we weren’t able to work together.”

PHOTO: Kyle McGreevy, 2013 Landscape Design Intern
Kyle McGreevy, 2013 landscape design intern

Iowa State University student Kyle McGreevy also interns in landscape design at the Garden. Kyle originally studied landscape architecture, but switched to landscape design after deciding he wanted to better incorporate his interest in horticulture. Kyle explains that in landscape design, you think about things that require deep knowledge of plant biology, such as placement. He has learned “what types of plants grow best together and which locations work best for them.” Kyle says the best parts of his work here at the Garden are “learning how plants have personality and tie into each other, discovering the character of each garden, and seeing how people interact [with the gardens].”

PHOTO: Mel Jensen, 2013 Horticulture Intern
Mel Jensen, 2013 horticulture intern

Mel Jensen, an SIU student majoring in landscape horticulture, would agree. Interning under the expert tutorage of horticulturist Tom Soulsby in the Rose and Heritage Gardens, Mel creates planting designs and then does the planting, along with mulching, weeding, and almost every other aspect of the gardens’ maintenance. Mel says that the Heritage Garden is her favorite to work in because of its variety and the unique methods used to organize the plants. “We’ve planted in evolutionary order, from least to most complex,” she explains. “They’re grouped by region and plant family and are constantly being switched out to make room for new displays. We can do an entire seasonal turnaround in a matter of a few weeks.”

These young people are exploring interests in horticulture, landscape design, production, and just about every aspect of Garden culture and strategy—literally—from the ground up. For the college-age and recent grads interested in biology, or design, or anything in between, an internship at the Chicago Botanic Garden can be an informative, productive, hands-on, and (most importantly) enjoyable way to spend a summer among the plants, and among the plant-minded.

An aside: not all of the internship opportunities at the Garden require hours of hard outdoor labor. Mine, for instance, requires hours of hard indoor labor. I’m only partially joking—I am consistently being challenged. As an intern in the PR department, I’ve been tasked with a little bit of everything the PR team does, from writing press releases and sending media alerts to producing blog posts and videos. Of course, to do all that I’ve had to learn quite a bit about horticulture and the immense amount of behind-the-scenes work necessary to create and run the many community projects, classes, events, and gardens here. So, if you’re interested in nonprofit work or improving your communications know-how but haven’t got a green thumb, don’t rule the Garden out yet. There is a lot of interesting, engaging work to be done here from behind a desk, too. 

©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Summer Tour of the Garden

We recently toured the Garden with Boyce Tankersley, director of plant documentation, to see what’s in bloom this summer in a few display gardens: Landscape, Native Plant, English Walled and the West Flower Walk. Here are some of the plants we found.

Landscape Garden
The perennial border in the Landscape Garden


Queen of the Prairie in the Native Plant Garden
Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra) in the Native Plant Garden


Dianthus barbatus 'Rose Magic' in the English Walled Garden
Pinks (Dianthus barbatus ‘Rose Magic’) in the English Walled Garden


Daylilies in the West Flower Walk
Daylilies (Hemerocallis) in the West Flower Walk

Watch the video above for the full tour. Though we couldn’t take you to each one of our 26 display gardens, you can find out more on our What’s in Bloom highlight page each week — twice a week during the summer bloom season — to learn more about the different plants in bloom.

Then, come out to see them in person for the full experience. Download our GardenGuide app from iTunes or Google Play to enhance your visit with even more information about the plants and gardens that surround you.

©2013 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org