Changing of the guard…an update on Chicago Streetscaping


Last June when I wrote about the streetscaping and plantings around downtown Chicago, I mentioned that it would be fun to watch these evolve over the summer. Evolve they did. Now with the return of fall’s cooler weather and frost imminent, that evolution has dramatically accelerated as crews mysteriously rip out the old and replace with the fall mums, kale, pansies, etc. Somewhat sad that the planter outside of Union Station was switched to mums last week, before I could re-stock my supply of Verbena Bonariensis seeds. Or that the masses of coleus along Willis Tower and on Michigan Ave were replaced before I could put my “grab some cuttings at the last minute before frost” stealth operation into gear.

I’ve had several trips into the city since June, and on each one have discovered new plantings, new gardens. And on each visit, I have snapped many, many pictures with my phone. All within downtown, all walking distance from Union Station. Thought I’d share some of my favorite spots, and how they’ve changed since June….

I am especially taken with the series of annual beds along Michigan Ave, just south of the Art Institute. On my first trip they had just been planted. This is them on June 23, August 1, September 9, and today the last day of September. The Castor Beans are stunning. Taller than me, providing strong interest in the center.

Of course a visit to those beds requires a quick hello to the lions outside of the Art Institute and the grand plantings they watch over. In their summer glory and today in the new fall look.

The Willis Tower outside patio used one of my favorite garden combos – yellow and blue. Here it is as it was last week with the blue Salvia and yellow Cannas sharing the stage with the chartreuse Ipomoea batatas or sweet potato vine, and today in fall colors, salvias gone replaced by mums and kale:

An early morning walk on my trip the 1st week of September had me stumble upon this grand example of an ornamental kitchen garden.

And of course, that wonderful dark leaved, yellow flowered Dahlia that enchanted me back in June, continues to pull at my heart. So much so, that during the Rock-n-Roll Chicago half marathon, I paused for a second to grab a picture when I realized I was running on Michigan Avenue right next to the plantings.

Finally a single planting, outside a business, a perfect example of a balanced fall grouping…..


There’s so many more…but another time, another post.

Pushing my limits………

Sometimes the universe just aligns….hubby out of town, son at a friend’s house, bike already loaded in the car…. rare afternoon with no plans, no deadlines. My first thought was “naptime”; but that thought was followed quickly by “go for a bike ride”. I’ve been doing my riding on the roads in an 8-10 mile radius of my house. Busy roads, many with bike lanes but still lots of cars. Sure, I’ve found a couple of parks with trails, but those are short, barely 1 or 2 miles. I’ve wanted to give the Glacial Drumlin trail a go, and I seemed to have the perfect opportunity.

While I like and appreciate the social aspects of cycling, the Sunday morning long rides with my husband, the shorter leisurely rides with my son; what I really I love about cycling is the solo aspect. How I can use it to tune out the rest of the world, connect with myself, push myself; get lost in the mental dialogue to go further, go faster, push through wanting to quit, push past the muscle fatigue. I find the same thing with running (though my body, esp. my hips, doesn’t seem to appreciate it), with training for or doing the half marathons, with yoga.

Left out from the Fox River Sanctuary in Waukesha, WI which is at the east end of this 52 mile trail. The first 12 or so miles are paved, the remainder hard packed gravel. My goal was to ride the entire paved portion, an approximately 25 mile ride out and back. This would be my longest ride to date. A decent test for what I could do. Looking at my training log, it was just three weeks ago that I was wondering if I could ride 10 miles, and here I was determined to go 25. This is an out and back ride, so if I made it to the end of the paved portion; I had no choice but to ride the whole way back. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to push to my limits.

On entering the trail, I immediately fell into a rhythm. Loved that I could just ride with no cars or traffic to worry about. Could wear earphones and listen to my music. Dutifully stopped at the self-pay box for a trail pass, but after that didn’t stop until I hit the halfway mark, was able to just ride. Passed a few leisurely riders along the way. Got passed by a “real rider” hunched over on his road bike. That just pissed me off, pushed me to ride faster. Discovered that I could maintain his pace, which was a pleasant little jolt.

Enjoyed the views of the hills around me, the trees, and the occasional stream to cross.

The town of Wales at the 7 mile mark offered restrooms and tables if I had chosen to stop.

Dousman had a quaint feel with its gazebo, and aptly located “Bicycle Doctor” shop.

Shortly, out of Dousman the pavement stopped. I’d made it to my planned halfway point, but wasn’t ready to stop. Continued on the gravel portion.

Realized shortly after passing the 14 mile marker that while I still felt fresh, I had the ride back, decided to turn around.

Last couple of miles was a little tough; legs were rubbery when I got to the car. But damn I felt good! Loved this first trail ride. Love knowing I can go further than I thought possible, but a bit sad that I’m making these discoveries in the fall, and will soon have to stop for a bit…because as this sign reminds me, there are other uses of this trail.

Glacial Drumlin Trail from Waukesha
Find more Bike Rides in Waukesha, Wisconsin

"Fall"-ing for new things….


Wow, has it really been two months since I posted? Continue to struggle with getting my garden mojo back, that passion just isn’t hitting me. Dunno why. Think I remain overwhelmed, unable to find a path, a place to start, a vision for this space. I keep reminding myself, “You’ve created three great gardens”, but then the demon voices say, “Yeah, but those were blank slates, easy beginnings, this, this, this is, well, uh, a mess”. And that is as far as it gets.”Which makes posting in a blog under a name of “GardenKim” difficult.

Then it hit me…..I say in my profile, “striving to maintain balance through lifestyle changes, fitness, gardening, and travel.”. Well, heck, that gives me options, other things to write about. And suddenly I have so many posts in my head. I realized I’ve never done anything with those pictures from my trip to San Antonio and those lovely walks along the river, or the pictures from Grand Cayman and those beautiful gardens under the sea on my first scuba adventures, or the updated pictures of the beds in Chicago from this post, or my new found love of cycling that fits into that whole fitness and lifestyle changes heading.

Through the cycling, I’ve discovered a couple of county parks I’d never really visited. Fox Brook and Mitchell in Brookfield, WI. Both along the Fox River, both with good bike paths. Both with sights that cause me to pause, to smile, to slow down, even if only for a moment. First it was the surprise of a beach. The bumpity bump of riding the boardwalk paths through the marsh. The crunch of leaves under the wheels.

This cluster of purple asters, milkweed, golden rod caught my eye as I curved around the lake, slowing just enough to also catch the surprising sight of a sign for scuba diving. Really, here, in a county park? Will have to check that out next summer.

The brilliant red of the Virgina creeper slowed me down enough to catch another interesting sign, “Dog Swimming Area”, where on a ride with my son tonight we paused to watch a chocolate lab retrieving balls before heading back down the boardwalk path, across the Fox River to our car.

Of course, in all of those potential topics that love of plants, of gardens still is there. Perhaps by not worrying about writing about gardens and instead letting this blog lead me down any path, I can find the way back to the garden.

Growing up in *the* Garden

In my grand mental list of possible Blog topics, I have “write about the Missouri Botanic Garden”, and “tell people about the great plant database MOBOT provides”. However, as I looked through pictures last evening, I realized that I had a photo essay of my son growing up within The Garden.

The Garden, with emphasis upon “the”, is how I always thought of the botanic garden. I was a member, frequently took classes, and made a point of trying to visit in all seasons each year for inspiration. A gem in the city center of St Louis, MO. The Missouri Botanic Garden or MOBOT, along with the zoo, Forest Park/The Muny, the City Museum and a few garden centers/nurseries are the things I miss about living in greater St. Louis. While I frequently say it is not a place I want to live again, these are places I will go back to visit again and again over the years.

However, the real beauty and value of MOBOT is the draw for the both the gardener and non-gardener alike, young or old. Visit any June weekend, and you will see bridal party after bridal party doing photo shoots around the grounds; families walking the grounds, photographers looking for the perfect shot, couples strolling arm in arm oblivious to their surroundings. A hodge podge of people there for a hodge podge of reasons.

We first visited when my son was not quite two, and moved to Milwaukee when he was 8. Over our many visits, he developed some favorite areas of the garden. The Kemper Center was a first favorite. This area with it’s test garden, urban gardens, expanse of perennials is the spot within The Garden to bring the grandeur and splendor of the whole botanic garden down to the scale of the typical home landscape. It provides a help desk for both the homeowner frustrated with lawn care or the avid gardener with tomato blight. But for a child it also provides some great interactive fountains to captivate the young ones and draw them into the garden.

The grouping of stone sheep became a favorite photo stop on our visits. Funny how in the first visit, he is on the small sheep, but on the New Years Day visit with his big sis, had progressed to the full size version.

As he grew, other areas of the garden began to draw my son. The Victorian maze was a must visit spot.

The koi in the Japanese garden with their giant mouths brought smiles to both of us. And a requirement that I came prepared with quarters for the fish food machine!

The advantage to me was I never had to beg him to visit the garden. If I needed a bit of inspiration, a dose of beauty, or just a calming walk through this familiar place, at any age, my son jumped at the chance to accompany me. And this was before they built the actual “children’s garden”. A little bit of icing on the cake.

Finding this photo journey of my son’s growth while we lived in St Louis has been great. Even better this reminder of him with his beloved “Papa”, my Dad, who died from prostate cancer in December 2006, 5 months to the day after this photo was taken. One of the last days together before we knew how sick he was. How appropriate the day was spent in one of our favorite places!

Mommy and me: A garden play date


Sorry if you were hoping to read about children in the garden. Ok, yeah, that is one mis-leading title. Saturday was a planned garden date with my Mom and I…but not exactly a play date. Instead a day spent on the “Secret Garden Tour” hosted by Four Seasons Garden Club of Kenosha, WI. A tour of 6 private gardens most in the Pleasant Prairie/Carol Beach area. The day was perfect, rain had been threatened, but by 11 when I met Mom, the sun was out, low humidity, upper 70’s…a beautiful Wisconsin day. All the gardens were enjoyable, some more than others. The plant snob in me didn’t have much to see, but each garden sparked ideas in me. Overall I found several themes between the gardens…the importance of sitting areas within a garden space, the added interest containers can bring throughout a yard / garden, the importance of whimsy, and how the use of water features takes a garden to another level.

The light was not ideal to take a picture of this grouping of three wooden barrel planters each with a trellis to give height. the perfect solution to hiding a work area behind a garage.

Several gardens used non-traditional planting “containers”

Others used excellent plant combinations or groupings of containers

All six gardens had great sitting areas…a couple of my favorites:

This very impressive, very large water feature included one of the best looking bio-filter, natural rock filtering areas I’ve seen.

I found this use of a garden ornament to highlight and echo the colors of the plants to be very compelling.

It was a very enjoyable way to spend the day, just Mom and I. Made even better by a lunch al fresco at the Kenosha Yacht Club watching the boats go by. And of course, a bit of dreaming about a house on this empty lot with this view…where you could be anywhere.

Thanks Mom for the invite, great day. Love you.

%d bloggers like this: