Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas garden outings

Is there a bigger selling point for the west side of Chicago than the peaceful botanical oasis that is Garfield Park Conservatory? The lush vegetation, the children's room and the events (like the awesome Halloween party with owls, wolves and other critters) make it a regular destination for our family. The first winter with a baby can be a little tough in this windy, cold neck of the woods - cabin fever sets in early. The balmy greenhouse of the Conservatory was a life-saver...a little bit of the tropics in the January snow, plenty of other young parents and no entrance fee at that. As a local Christmas destination for gardeners in the dead of the Chicago winter, the holiday flower show is unmatched. They have some bee-keeping classes coming up. I really want to go, but I know its just going to send me down the rabbit hole of another time consuming hobby. I've pitched it to my dubious husband as an informational session, nothing more. Still, I am pondering the way I could fit a hive into my life. In terms of livestock, after worms, what else but bees to fit into a very small urban garden?

Unfortunately, we have not hit the flower show yet this year, as our first winter garden outing of the season was to the Lincoln Park Conservatory. This, too, is a beautiful destination, but really, in my mind, doesn't hold a candle to Garfield Park. Either way, I remain grateful that the city maintains two of these conservatories given the tough economic times (yes, I know they are uncharacteristically closed today just for that reason). Lincoln Park has an annual model train show that we first discovered last year. The trains weave among poinsettias and models of local architecture crafted from natural materials like bark and seeds. Last year, we were charmed. Now, having been to the model train garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, it seemed a little rinky-dink, but our little one still loved it. It did look like it had been scaled down this year -- the overhead tracks weren't up. Makes me wonder if the same will hold true for the Garfield Park holiday show. The seed-and-bark houses really intrigue me. Really, they can't be that hard to make as long as you have a crafty bent. I think it could make a fun project with my kid one of these winters. We could build a model of our house and then sneak it into the train show, guerrilla-style. It would be funny to have a rogue representation of an undistinguished Chicago single family house nestled amongst the models of the museums, train stations and Lincoln Park row houses.

The various plant rooms at the Lincoln Park Conservatory have a darker, denser feel than Garfield. My absolute favorite thing is a Victorian glass terrarium perched on a small stand -- in it are a collection of carnivorous plants. They are walled off like tigers at a zoo -- one can only peer in and thrill to the danger. I don't know if they are in there for cultivation reasons-- I assume it's actually because too many folks tried to touch. But it does make them more precious to me, to have them glassed in and set apart. Then yesterday, I arrived home to another pile of seed catalogs. Shumway's is selling seed for Venus fly traps and pitcher plants. I could grow my own carnivorous terrarium! I need to investigate though -- this can't turn into another hellebore situation, where I bought seed prior to educating myself about the "up to 18 months" germination times. Now, to find myself a Victorian glass terrarium with my Christmas money....

1 comment:

  1. Neat! Sneaking your house replica into the Conservatory would be a hoot.

    Next year I think I'll put the grandson's train from many years ago into the greenhouse, I'll have to measure first, but I think it will fit. I will put it where no water will drip on it so it doesn't short out; it's battery operated. This is a wonderful idea, even without historic building replicas.

    Great post.