Spring at the Chicago Botanic Garden
I hope that my previous article on flower photography got you excited to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden and practice your skills in both macro and landscape photography. The time to visit is now – the tulips and other spring flowers are in full bloom! CBG is 385 acres and has 26 gardens and 4 natural areas. There are blooms and interesting panoramas to photograph in every corner of the Garden. I have highlighted some of my favorite areas for this time of year. Get to the Garden and explore for yourself and find your favorite areas. Take note, it’s crowded on the weekends, so if you are limited to a Saturday or Sunday visit, it’s best to visit early in the morning or later in the afternoon towards sunset. The light is better for photography at these times and you might be able to get a shot without the crowds of people.
When you exit the Visitor Center and cross the bridge you will enter the Crescent Garden, one of my favorite gardens in the spring. The 26,000 tulips in the Crescent Garden have just opened and their many shades of purple and cream make them a wonderful subject for a landscape shot with the lake and willow trees in the background.
If you continue along the path through the Esplanade, you will see Regenstein Center on your left. Stop in and see the Garden Photographic Society’s “Nature in View” photography exhibit in the Joutras Gallery. The exhibit will be up until May 19th.
A stop in the Bulb Garden this time of year is a must. Tulips of many colors and varieties blanket the beds at the entrance of the garden and along the pathway through the garden.
Continuing along the main path, you will come to the Circle Garden, another spring favorite. This garden features a dancing fountain with four identical beds of spring tulips in pink and yellow, as well as beautiful combinations of annuals, scrubs and flowering trees. There are two “secret” gardens off to each side, as well. This is a beautiful garden for a landscape or HDR shot, so bring your wide angle lens.
Probably my favorite area within the Garden this time of the year is the Enabling Garden and the upper walkway that features the Sensory Garden. The raised beds make it easy to get close to the flowers and plants, and you can set up your tripod right on or against the bed ledges. Both these gardens are a delight to the senses, and the color combinations, smells and textures of the mix of perennials and annuals are stunning. Some of the most unusual and beautiful tulips are in these gardens.
The Sensory Garden woodland path is lined with whitespire birch trees and many wildflowers and ferns. The bleeding hearts are just beginning to bloom in the woods.
Another treat this time of year are the flowering crabapples, redbud and cherry trees at the Garden. They are all over the Garden but one of the most stunning paths is along the lakeside between the Japanese Garden and the English Oak Meadow. The crabapples form a canopy of flowers that is magical and lovely to photograph. They are very close to blooming now. The cherry trees in the Japanese Garden are in bloom but won’t last long.
The Iceland poppies in the English Oak Meadow are fun to photograph. They took a beating during our recent rains and flooding, but are beginning to bounce back. The English Walled Garden is right next door, so take some time to explore its blooms and lovely architecture.
Lastly, stop in the Heritage Garden, a circular garden divided into 4 quadrants and dedicated to Carolus Linnaeus. Seven of the beds display plants according to their geographic origin; 14 other beds display the major plant families grouped according to their scientific classification. I am particularly fond of the bed of Persian Buttercups, one of which is pictured below.
The Garden is open every day from 8:00 a.m. until sunset, but the gates are open and you can get in if you want to photograph as early as sunrise. Admission to the Garden is free but if you are not a member, parking is $25 per car. You can avoid the hefty parking fee by taking the Metra, Pace bus or bike into the Garden. Visit the CBG website for more information about public transportation options: http://www.chicagobotanic.org/visit/directions
Visit my website and follow my blog about what’s blooming at CBG: http://annebelmont.zenfolio.com/