OUR RATING: Do It!
We’ve been missing the blooms and colors of spring this April with this horrid weather we’ve been having, so we took trip over to the Lincoln Park Conservatory for their free annual Spring Flower Show. This year’s flower show features azaleas, which once upon a time bloomed at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. But that’s not all of course, as you’ll see a variety of other spring blooming plants, spring flowering annuals and spring flowering perennials.
Adam: Conservatories are fascinating structures: the immediate change from cold barren weather to a lush rainforest is instantly appealing, all the more so because spring is so late this year. Wandering through the luxuriant foliage, spotting flowers here and there, it feels a bit like you’re in a scene from Jurassic Park, just waiting for the Velociraptors to strike. In fact, any Chicagoan knows that there are mini dinosaurs hidden in the fern room (and a wooly mammoth who would be far too hot), which are always a delightful little reminder of childhood – try and find them all on the left hand side of the fern room near the pond.
The flower show itself is scattered throughout the different rooms, and not clearly labelled, but the bursts of color lead you directly to the blooms. Peonies cluster is beautiful garlands, while heliconia invitingly gape their mouths, wishing that a hummingbird would pass by and take a sip. The red clerodendrum seem to hang from their stems, appropriately enough at hand height, being used medicinally in India to treat diabetes and high blood pressure. Perhaps the most striking plant on display was the red-pink calliandra. It’s easy to spot this one: hanging from a large tree, they look like mini pom-poms.
Alicia: All your senses are engaged at this annual flower show, providing a much needed pick me up from this past winter and the cold and grey beginning of spring. If the visual and olfactory sensory stimulation isn’t enough for you though, not to worry! Head over to the Fern Room for an auditory experience of Orniphonia 2 by Chicago composer Bob Snyder, running till May 31st.
Orniphonia 2 is part of Florasonic, a series of sound installation presented by Experimental Sound Studio in collaboration with the Chicago Park District. Unfortunately, Orniphonia 2 happens to remind me of the gosh-darned bird-sound installation in the women’s restroom at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago which was up for far too long, so my experience of this installation was a little marred. Snyder’s soundscape may sound like real bird sounds, but in actuality he creates it electronically using analog synthesis. Circuits generate patterns consisting of cycles within cycles of sounds that interact and change, mimicking the rhythmic behavior of the biological life one would associate with the surrounding environment.
As for the plant life, I suggest you check out the flower of the Kru Banana, a native to New Guinea and rarely found in private collections in the United States. Super colorful, and definitely unique. Their hyacinths are also particularly vibrant and quite spectacular.
Final Thoughts: With barren trees and cold temperatures, Chicago is in much need of some loving from good ol’ Mother Nature, and what better way to enjoy the colors and blooms of spring than in a secret garden complete with the colors of the rainbow, streams and fountains, and some relaxing sounds of the outdoors. But indoors, of course.
P.S. For those of you who want to learn more about the iconic part of Chicago history that was the World’s Fair, we recommend The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, which has fantastic visuals and amazing materials from the time. For the more horticulturally inclined, you can now order the seedlings featured in the show online, including azaleas, heliconia, clerodendrum, calliandra, and hyacinth. Before you know it, you’ll have your very own conservatory!