Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Urbs in Horto at the Lurie Garden

It's warm again. Today's small pleasure was lunch on the deck. Only a few more of those kinds of days left in '11.

Even in early October, the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park is still fairly verdant. But late in the afternoon on Sunday, it was hard to capture that lushness with a basic digital camera.

Measuring about five acres, the garden is sandwiched between the Pritzker Pavilion and the Art Institute, but hidden by a 15-foot hedge. The Lurie Garden web site claims that the hedge is a symbolic "shoulder," as in the City of Big Shoulders, but that seems like a contorted effort to squeeze a symbol out of a physical presence.

The garden, designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichols Ltd., Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel, features perennials and bulbs, grasses, shrubs and trees in great profusion. The web site lists them, and I was glad to see that the designers weren't native-plant purists, though the majority are from some part of North America. Species from Europe and Asia seem to be well represented as well. If you insisted on native plants only, what would that be -- a vacant lot with weeds?

The Lurie Garden is also noteworthy because it's essentially a rooftop garden, since parking garages are below. It's been called the largest green roof in the world, though you'd never know that just walking around.

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At 11:49 AM, Blogger Betsy said...

I have been a Lurie Garden volunteer for the last six years and would like to correct a couple of misconceptions in this blog post:
(1) The Shoulder Hedge is not a strained metaphor. It serves a very practical function, which is to protect the four-season Lurie Garden plantings in colder weather when harsh and biting winds roll down out of the northwest. The Should Hedge runs along the west and northern borders of the garden.
(2) Native plants are not weeds in vacant lots. Those are mostly invasive species that have been introduced from other places. They take over and eventually overcome native species. A couple of examples are buckthorn and garlic mustard. A native prairie -- such as Shaw Prairie up in Lake Forest, one of the few example of original prairie remnants remaining of the millions of acres that once dominated the Midwest -- is self-sustaining, well suited to the hot, dry summers characteristic of this region. The Lurie Garden of necessity has a mix of native species and imported species. Piet Oudolf, the Dutch plantsman responsible for the choice of species and their juxtaposition, is fond of saying that his goal is not to reproduce nature, but to give a feel of nature.

The Lurie Garden is an amazing gem of a garden. Next year come on a Sunday morning, when we volunteers give free informative tours of the garden that last about 20 minutes. You'll learn a lot!

At 8:30 PM, Blogger Dees Stribling said...

Thanks for the information, Betsy. I do want to spend more time at the garden, and take a tour, too.

I don't doubt that the Shoulder serves an important function, but I still think evoking the line "city of big shoulders" is a stretch. But you do have a "Garden of Big Shoulders," and a lovely one.


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