Continental Chicago

now in its one-hundred-and-eightieth year

Lurie Garden

Michigan Avenue skyscrapers above Lurie Garden (Credit: Susan Barsy)

One of my favorite places in the city is Lurie Garden, the native plant garden masterfully situated within Millennium Park.  Though bounded by a busy street and the most heavily traveled parts of the Park (the Gehry Pavilion and obscenely popular Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa are immediately adjacent), the Lurie is almost a secret garden, a spot that isn’t so easy to find.  Bounded by a wall of tall shrubbery and elevated above the level of the street, the garden isn’t readily visible and has only a few poorly marked entrances, which is probably the only defense that saves it from being mobbed all the time.

Lurie Garden plants with Art Institute in the background (Credit: Susan Barsy)

Once inside, the visitor finds abundant glories and a distinctive place yielding some of the city’s most unexpected views.  Lush drifts of native plants, both rare and common, anchor a vantage on Chicago’s buildings.  Here clumps of sage, flowering onions (a tribute to Chicago’s name), and the prairie plant known as ‘rattlesnake master’ foreground a view of the Art Institute’s new modern wing.

Banks of flowering plants in the Lurie Garden (Credit: Susan Barsy)

Fortunately, the Lurie’s scale is large enough to allow appreciation of the plants and the garden on their own terms.  The garden was carefully designed and is by no means a “natural landscape.”  But it does showcase the great beauty of our native plantlife while offering tacit support for the drive toward sustainable, low-maintenance gardening.  Plants were selected for hardiness, drought-tolerance, and four-season beauty.

Sage foregrounded by plants from the onion family (Credit: Susan Barsy)

The Lurie Garden and the Art Institute Pedway (Credit: Susan Barsy)

Though no great fan of the Art Institute’s new wing, I do like the unobtrusive pedestrian bridge (visible here in the distance) that now connects the museum with Millennium Park.  The bridge, like the modern wing of the museum itself, offers views of the Lurie Garden from above.

Children cooling their feet in the Lurie Garden stream (Credit: Susan Barsy)

Running along one side of the Lurie Garden is a Japanese-y style water feature, a shallow conduit of cool running water, specifically designed for quiet contemplation and chilling out.  Even fairly young visitors like to sit down, take off their sandals, and be still for a while.  Grown-up ladies with their high-heels and sore feet have been known to sneak off at the end of a workday to dangle their feet in this refreshing stream.

4 comments on “Lurie Garden

  1. sam dune
    September 3, 2012

    Wonderful pictures and a great narrative of them as well, thanks for identifyiing the plants!! I’ll let this post of yours hang around my computer for a good while. If I’m feeling low—a nice place to park my mind for a while. . . .

    • Susan Barsy
      September 3, 2012

      Thank you. Mood modification seems to be one of the foundations of my fascination with gardens and gardening. Looking at them, working in them, photographing them, visiting them. All of these invariably work like a charm! I love a little book I have about the history of gardens and all their religious and spiritual connotations. There is certainly some ancient and universal need that they ease. Thank goodness we have such “resorts”!
      Best wishes,

  2. Clio
    September 3, 2012

    one might also find a muse kicking off her sandals to roost by that little canal. Thanks for the very pretty pictures of this great place.

    • Susan Barsy
      September 3, 2012

      It does seem like a place where muses might hang out.

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This entry was posted on September 3, 2012 by in Around town and tagged , , , , , , .

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