There is a sense of calm in meandering through a garden. A place you can lose the everyday and find the anything possible. This past weekend I celebrated my 29 years with a trip to Garfield Park Conservatory planned by my husband. Having never been before, I was very impressed with the way the designers’ original intent has been withheld in a place committed to teaching the surrounding community about the natural world.
The many family events and number of families we saw that day are an indication of the gardens commitment to the community. The Children’s room has a multitude of plant curiosities like the Sausage Tree, carnivorous Pitcher plant and Sensitive plant. This saturday the event was “Bees, Bats, and Butterflies”. It was a salute to “National Pollinators Week” and chock full of information complete with lives bats to pet. They are surprisingly fuzzy and kinda cute.
The gardens under the glass epitomized an assortment of climates from tropical, to desert. The designer, Jens Jensen even intended for there to be a conifer room, but the temperature was too variable and thus it was transformed into an Aroid room or in other words a room full of giant versions of your favorite house plants. Below is a picture of the central water feature in the Aroid room, with a newer addition of Chihuly glass lily pads.
My favorite indoor garden was the fern room. The room is adorned with rock outcroppings covered in moss and ferns as far as the eye can see. The story on the waterfall is that Jens Jensen made the mason rebuild it over and over until it made the sound he intended. He eventually had the mason listen to Mendelssohn’s Spring Song, to inspire him to make the falls “tinkle” into the pool below.
Outdoor, the expansive bluestone patio is surrounded by many specimens of my favorites. Check out the Tennessee Coneflower which in recent history was an endangered species. See how they are nodding in one direction. They always seem to face east.
A crushed stone path connects to a larger path that hugs the perimeter of the property. A variety of prairie plants long the path give way to a grove of Quaking Aspens and end back near the conservatory as you walk over a water feature ablaze with a rainbow of lily pads.
The visit comes about a year after a crippling hail storm broke through a majority of the antique glass panes, an event still being remedied. Check out some of the pictures of the devastation on June 30th, 2011 on the Garfield Park Conservatory website. The temporary plexiglass will eventually be replaced by shatterproof glass to help prevent further storm damage. To help support it, a local glass artist, Bryan Northup, took the actual broken shards and turned them into bowls sold at the gift shop.
I never tire of exploring a new garden. God bless my husband and his patience. This trip I was rewarded with a clear head and was reminded to try a few more diverse plants in my designs. On our way out we passed a group of school aged children visiting in a group. They’d come to the right place to invoke the sense curiosity for what nature can hold. Perhaps a future budding horticulturist in their midst? I couldn’t help but smile.