My kinda town…………
October 17, 2010
I started the summer with the intention to once again chronicle Chicago’s street planting. Knew I’d be in the city at least once a month. The plan started strong the first week of June, when I spent an enjoyable hour or two with MrBrownThumb wandering the Lurie Garden and the other public spaces between Michigan Avenue and Columbus drive. The salvia at the Lurie Garden was stunning, the annual/tropical beds along Michigan Avenue were recently planted as was the Art on the Farm potager garden.
I was back the first week of July. Took tons of pictures, but never got around to downloading the pictures from camera to computer. Back again the first weekend of August for the Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon. The annual/tropical beds wre now well developed, the Lurie Garden had shifted to coneflowers, and the Art on the Farm garden was ready for harvest. However, the weekend turned into an electronics nightmare. Started with dropping my phone in, uh, water at the race expo, then lost my camera not once but twice. Unfortunately, only recovered it once. Gone were the July and August planting updates (and sadly, shots of cool “destruction” along Wacker at the Transformers 3 film set). It did give me an excuse to get one of those cool new waterproof cameras, a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5, but that’s another story.
There was one more trip to end the summer. My favorite trip of them all…Labor Day weekend in the city with the boys (hubby and son). The weather was perfect for exploring the city. We rode down from Milwaukee via Amtrak; dropped our bags off at the hotel, and began our city adventure with a river and lake cruise using the Wendella line. Someday I’ll do the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, but first wanted to introduce kiddo to Wendella. I remember doing this tour with my Girl Scout troop – at about the same age. Sill a great tour.
Kiddo has come to love walking around the city and on this trip we also introduced him to using public transportation, the el, the subway, city buses.
Spent our last afternoon at the Museum of Science and Industry. A childhood favorite of mine, and now my son’s. Spent quite a bit of time in the Smart House exhibit.
Hit the coal mine first to avoid the crowds – and ended up with a three person, personal tour, saw the Hubble movie at the Imax, found the Poop to Power exhibit amusing, the submarine tour well worth the extra charge, and the interactive screens are tons of fun.
All and all a great family weekend. Had a slight melancholy moment as we entered Union Station to take the Amtrak back to Milwaukee. My foursquare check-in said, “And with this summer comes to a close”.
Of course with every closed door, God opens a window……..so know we’ll have more adventures ahead.
October 18, 2009
This weekend brought a couple of unrelated incidents that made me realize how my mental image of myself has, or maybe more accurately, is changing. Hubby and I were down in Chicago celebrating our 10th Anniversary. First up was a surprise trip to the spa for a massage and facial. When the massage therapist asked me if there were any areas in particular for her to focus on, I caught myself saying, “Well, I have a tendency to hold tension in my traps and my IT bands really need work”. Say what….
After the massage as I was waiting for the facial technician in the “relaxation” room, it hit me that I really was relaxing, fully comfortable in the robe they had supplied. That I hadn’t had to ask for a larger robe, or sit there in one that didn’t quite close – or worst of all, sized up by the receptionist at check-in and offered to swap out the usual robe for a plus sized one. Instead I was perfectly comfortable sitting there waiting in the normal robe, which actually felt large, wrapped over completely in front. Such a nice feeling, couldn’t help but smile.
Then again none of this really should have surprised me. Hell, we’d brought our bikes on this trip; planning to take advantage of Chicago’s Lakeshore trail and a promise of sunny not too cool weather. That would never have happened 15 months and 65 pounds ago. Yet as I’ve made these changes to healthier foods, healthier eating, regular exercise, gone down several clothing sizes; I’ve never really thought about the changes to my mindset to the way I thought about myself, the boxes I put myself into.
But this weekend, I realized that I think of myself as a bit of an athlete. That being active is not something I do, it is something I am. And that while my weight loss journey is not over (35 pounds to go), I have taken great strides forward, I have changed not only my body, but my mind.
Which leads to this morning’s ride. The trail along Lake Michigan is a gem. One enjoyed by a wide variety of people. Sure there were plenty of people out for a casual stroll, but for the most part on this Sunday morning the path was populated by other athletes – folks out for a serious work out. Some passed us, plenty we passed. It felt good, I felt strong. We rode 32 miles on the trail – a loop north to Foster Avenuse and south to about a mile past the Science and Industry Museum. But best of all, I felt like I belonged.
Once again a Chicago post….more lustworthy plants and plantings
October 3, 2009
The streetscape, Chicago urban plantings, I’ve highlighted in my June post and the one earlier this week were just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more. I’m sure that I have barely scratched the surface in my walks – which have always been no more than a few blocks east or west of Michigan Avenue – from a southern point of the Blackstone Hotel north to the North Avenue beach. A tiny, but vibrant slice of this great city. Great plant combos, incredible use of color, texture. Mixes of annuals, perennials. Can’t help but share a few more, random sightings. In the center of one of the main promenade entrances to Millennium park, is this planting centered by what I assume is some sort of dark leaved sugar cane or Saccharum arundinaceum. Unfortunately, I struggle with my blackberry to find the perfect shot to highlight the scale and drama of this beauty.
The most striking aspect of any plant focused stroll through the heart of Chicago is the wide variety of plantings. Sure some plants, like the Angel wing begonias are repeated, but with different partners, in different ways.
But even in variety is repetition, bringing both drama and cohesiveness to an area.
And, I must acknowledge the individual plants who caught my eye, grabbed my heart. The striped maize noticed on the walk to the start line of the Chicago Rock-n-Roll half marathon, the unknown silvery beauty, and of course, the oft mentioned un-named yellow dahlia.
The Lurie garden in Millennium Park has offered a full season of ever-changing vistas with the current scene dominated by the Japanese Anemones, Russian Sage, Ornamental Oreganos and a late season second bloom of perennial salvias.
My late September visit to the Lurie Garden was the first time I noticed the use of twig “fences”, used to both keep the plants from the paths – and I’m sure keep the people out of the plants!
I have a running joke with my world-traveler Mom about her opinion that when you stand on the shores of Lake Michigan and look out, you have a view that could be anywhere – the Baltic Sea, Downtown Chicago, the Atlantic Ocean. This planting at the Oak Street Beach really helps blur that line.
Changing of the guard…an update on Chicago Streetscaping
October 1, 2009
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.
Streetscaping – Chicago Style
June 24, 2009
For the last several years, I have been impressed with the street plantings around downtown Chicago. An incredible mix of annuals, tender perennials/tropicals, and perennials all planted in an almost overwhelming abundance. Business took me to Chicago for the day with a stay at the Blackstone Hotel on S. Michigan Ave. I had the opportunity for an early evening walk north on Michigan, through Millennium Park and back.
On the cab ride from our office to the hotel, my eyes had spotted this dark leaved, yellow flowered Dahlia, and my first order of business was to grab a photo of this beauty. However, as I began my stroll, a familiar scent grabbed my attention. Nicotiana, flowering tobacco, planted as a center piece in giant street planters. (immediate mental note to get some seeds for next summer, one of those plants I used to grow each year in my first garden, but long forgotten).
These long beds appear to be newly planted, but I can’t wait to see them in their August Splendor. Cannas, Gingers, ‘Lime Zinger’Xanthosoma, Castor Beans, Cleome, Verbena Bonarensis…so many of my summer favorites.
The lions of the Art Institute were standing proud with a long line of these attractively planted containers.
And then finally, a chance to sneak to the center of the street and grab a shot of that Dahlia. I so love the dark leaved Dahlias, and my last gardens have been too hot for them to thrive. Hmm, maybe this slightly cooler climate will have its benefits. Another attractive red flowered version was planted within Millennium Park, but it was that yellow one that really spoke to me, that I must track down and use in my garden.
The light was beginning to fade by the time I hit the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. My first though on seeing all the buds on the Echinacea was that I was too early to see the garden in its full glory. But then I began to notice how well this garden is planted for interest all summer, the Baptisas just past their bloom, the Stachys in current bloom, Amsonia hubrichtii ready to do its yellow leaved fall show.
But perhaps my favorite photo of all…this little behind the scenes glimpse of the gardeners’ tools. The wheelbarrow, the watering cans, discarded pots and flats and trugs of many colors. I look so forward to seeing the progress of the hard work these tools represent as I visit these gardens over the course of the summer.