The Gardens of the Art Institute of Chicago

I love to travel and whenever I find myself in a new place, I like to visit nearby gardens. A

I love to travel and whenever I find myself in a new place, I like to visit nearby gardens. A week ago, I was in Chicago and had 3 hours before I had to head to the airport.  So, I headed to Michigan Avenue, which is in the heart of downtown Chicago.  I parked near Millenium Park and started walking, armed with my camera. The first place I passed was the Art Institute of Chicago, where I was able to see their beautiful South and North Gardens.

Now, while most people were headed inside to view the art located throughout the institute – I was frankly more interested in the gardens.

As I approached the building, I saw the two large bronze lions guarding the entrance.  Colorful containers filled with violas and snapdragons lined the front of the building.

The containers surrounded the entire front of the building and overlapped around the side.  (I like how containers look when they are placed at different heights, don’t you?)

Violas are one of my favorite flowers for containers and I like how they combined the many different varieties of violas together.

As I approached the North Garden, I was greeted with a beautiful, meadow-like garden filled with flowering perennials.  Their contrasting leaf shapes created great texture in the garden and was pleasing to the eye.

Perhaps the most striking part of the North Garden was the ornamental alliums that flanked the walkway with the Flying Dragon sculpture in the background.

The flowers were quite large and so beautiful.

The South Garden is built on top of an underground parking structure.  Cockspur hawthorn trees are planted in raised containers.  This area provides a peaceful oasis in the midst of a bustling city that invites one into to sit underneath the trees and read a book or enjoy lunch outdoors.  The sound of water is always a great accompaniment in the garden and the South Garden is no exception – the Fountain of the Great Lakes is located right next to the garden.

Museums are often surrounded by beautifully designed landscape areas and are usually free for you to walk around.  I like to enjoy the beauty of the gardens and also take away some ideas and inspiration for my garden, although on a much smaller scale.

How about you?  Have you visited any beautifully landscaped museums?  Please share them with us!

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist, writer and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. She is the CEO and owner of 'AZ Plant Lady,' an education company that aims to help people garden successfully in the desert climate. She is the author of the book, Dry Climate Gardening, and her byline has appeared in publications such as Birds & Blooms and Phoenix Home & Garden magazine. She is an instructor at the Desert Botanical garden and Tucson Botanical Gardens.