For quite a few years my winter treat was a day spent at Olbrich Botanical Gardens at the annual Horticulture Magazine Symposium. It was where I tracked trends, fought attacks of plant lust and worked at becoming a more informed gardener. But mostly I sat in the dark seeking inspiration.
With no snow in the forecast, a brief warming trend and no more Hort magazine symposiums, I decided we should seek inspiration further afield: with Dan Pearson at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Pearson is the wunderkind of contemporary landscape design, working on projects around the world and author of a new book — "Spirit: Garden Inspiration" — which was the basis for his pair of lectures we attended on Saturday.
While Pearson gave us plenty to look at and to think about, so did our walk through the CBG. Neither one of us had ever been there in winter, so we made a quick tour of some of the spots that had captured our attention last May when the garden bloggers descended en masse as part of their Chicago Spring Fling.
THE JAPANESE ISLAND GARDEN:
THE ENGLISH WALLED GARDEN: A checkerboard of clipped boxwood alternates with herbs in the foreground while a bright blue bench rests in the shadow of the pergola.
MORE WALLED GARDEN: The sweep of the curved bench against the back wall is no match for the scene-stealing weeping Katsura tree in the center of the garden. Our winter visit gave us a close-up of the severe pruning this tree gets in order to keep it in bounds. We plan on treating our Katsura the same way.
BRANCHED BEAUTY: Winter is the ideal time to enjoy all the clipping, pleaching, topiary and assorted other pruning techniques that the CBG does so well — and that is one of the aspects of the garden that most appeals to me.
PLANTS AREN'T THE ONLY THINGS THAT GO DORMANT IN WINTER.
WINTER REVELATIONS: Shapes, patterns and a softer palette that would be lost in summer, predominate at this season.