now in its one-hundred-and-eightieth year
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.