It’s hard to get out of Chicago without a car, so I have to get a little creative when I want to plan an outing for a day. Fortunately for me, the Chicago Botanic Garden is somewhat accessible by public transportation, and it provides a nice reprieve from the city. With my love of gardens, it’s an obvious choice for a day trip out of the city. Best of all, admission is free!
Although summer is time to catch most of the plants, the diversity of plants at the botanic garden means that there is something to see in every season.
The Chicago Botanic Garden opened in 1972, and since then, it has expanded to contain 26 different gardens featuring different types of plants according to the season. I visited the gardens in August, when many of the late summer and autumn plants and flowers were in bloom.
The aquatic garden contains all sorts of water plants, such as lotuses and waterlilies.
The lotuses in the aquatic garden weren’t really in bloom, but I did manage to spot one lone flower.
The Crescent overlooks a pond with a large fountain. With large beds of multi-colored blooms surrounded by brick walkways, it is a feast for the eyes.
ENGLISH WALLED GARDEN
Ever since I read The Secret Garden, I’ve had a slight obsession with English gardens. So it’s no surprise that this is the garden that I was most excited to visit.
Evening Island is a New American Garden, somewhere between formally landscaped and completely wild. The highlights of this garden change with the season. In late summer, these lovely white blooms carpeted the island.
The Japanese Garden had a nice flavor of the beautifully landscaped gardens that I saw in Japan. The trees were trimmed very precisely, and there were water and rock elements incorporated throughout. It seemed like a potpourri of different Japanese garden styles, with a calm zen feel to it.
The garden includes three islands, only two of which are accessible. The third, known as Horajima or the Island of Everlasting Happiness, is symbolically out of reach, representing the ever-elusive paradise.
The Rose Garden is filled with hundreds of rose bushes, with many different varieties, ranging from heirloom roses to modern hybrid roses. When I visited, many of the bushes were not in bloom, but I still enjoyed walking through the cedar arbor in the rose garden, inhaling the scent of the flowers.
The namesake waterfall of the Waterfall Garden cascades into a pool, with plants and shrubs growing in the moist soil alongside the water. It is very lush and green but with relatively few colorful flowers. The fresh growth and gently falling water give the garden a peaceful atmosphere.
There is always a large variety of flowers in bloom at the gardens. I spent a good chunk of the day doing macro photography of flowers that I liked. Here are some of my favorite shots.
The Metra is the best option for getting to the Chicago Botanic Garden from the city. Weekend passes are $7 for unlimited rides. The closest Metra stop is Braeside on the Union Pacific North Line, and from the station, it is approximately a 20 minute walk to the gardens. During the summer, there are trolleys from the Glencoe Metra station, also on the Union Pacific North Line, and roundtrip tickets are $2/person. Admission to the gardens is free, but there is a fee for parking, so it’s best to go by public transportation if possible. The gardens are open from 8 am to sunset, all year round.