The Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago is one the most stunning and largest conservatories in the United States. The conservatory is often noted as “landscape art under glass.” The two acres inside house thousands of different species of plants displayed among eight rooms. Visitors will discover tropical temperatures and lush flora as they make their way through the conservatory, away from the bustling city of Chicago. Guests of the conservatory during the summer should also take the time to view the stunning twelve acres of outdoor gardens.
The Palm House at the Garfield Park Conservatory is the building’s largest room at ninety feet wide and sixty-five feet high. The room is designed to be an ideal tropical environment, with over seventy palms and other plants from tropical habitats in other parts of the world. The conservatory also houses four themed botanical habitats: sugar, sunlight, air, and water. These themed environments help guests discover how plants capture sunlight in every leaf and use it to change small amounts of water and air into sugar.
Jens Jensen, the designer of the Garfield Park Conservatory in 1906, wished to provide guests of the Conservatory with a look at what the state of Illinois may have looked like millions of years ago. An indoor lagoon, rocky outcroppings, and lush ferns invoke a prehistoric swampy landscape of Chicago.
The Aroid House at the Conservatory features several plants familiar to indoor gardeners, as many aroid plants are used as houseplants. An array of aroids can be seen on display in a typical landscape setting. One of the impressive features of the Aroid House is its “Persian Pool” that contains sixteen yellow lily pads created specifically for the Aroid House by Chihuly, the famous glass artist.
The Garfield Park Conservatory Desert House is home to one the most diverse collections of succulents and cacti in the region. Part of the popularity of these plants is their ability to survive in dry, harsh conditions, their unique and interesting forms, and their short-lived but brilliant flowers. The size of the displayed plants range from tiny stone plants to huge century plants.
The Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden offers a comfortable and fun indoor setting for students and families. A meandering, massive vine featuring larger-than-life roots, flowers, and leaves offers a chance for kids to have fun while learning more about plants. Twelve acres of outdoor gardens can also be explored at the Conservatory, including the Sensory Garden, Monet Garden, Play and Grow Garden, Demonstration Garden, and City Garden.
People are connected to plants throughout every moment of the day, whether through the air or food. The Garfield Park Conservatory strives to explore, examine, and experiment with this relationship with plants. With its ever-evolving collection, the Conservatory continues to grow exotic plants right in Chicago’s backyard. Its Show House changes displays throughout the year, while new hybrids are created and new plant specimens acquired. The Conservatory aims to sustain an urban oasis through outdoor gardens and plants in glasshouses.
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