Much more than a house for beautiful plants, the Garfield Park Conservatory's immense, weathered greenhouse is one of the largest in the world, and sits on four and a half acres that have remained a laboratory of horticultural and architectural innovation for close to a century. The exterior grounds were developed by master planner William LeBaron Jenney, and much of its original greenery was landscaped by celebrated naturist Jens Jensen, one of the earliest attempts to bring the prairie to the heart of the big city.
The challenge of maintaining the massive structure has been met by partnerships between city government and concerned citizens. Since the mid-1990s, the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance has raised considerable programming funds and public awareness, reaching a plateau during a 2001-2002 exhibition of Dale Chihuly's stunning glass sculptures.
You don't have to be a botany wonk to appreciate this city treasure. The Demonstration Garden invites visitors to walk through a skillfully sculpted spiral and learn about native species, the Children's Garden impresses the youngsters with its oversized displays and the Fern Garden's warm and humid atmosphere is a welcome winter escape. Art lovers may linger through a recreation of Claude Monet's Giverney garden, bursting with color. Through the warmer months, organic produce and unique gifts abound in the adjacent Garfield Market.
Centerstage Reviewer: Justin Sondak