12 ways to soak in spring blooms, from orchids to native plant sales
We curated this quick guide to floral wonders, farming delights and natural opportunities that any city slicker can appreciate.By Julia Binswanger
Nothing signals springtime like the return of budding trees and wildflowers. Sure, florals for spring may not be groundbreaking, but they are timeless and they make us happy.
The Orchid Show: Magnified
When: Now through March 26
Where: The Chicago Botanic Garden
Don’t miss the orchids before they go. The Chicago Botanic Garden’s new orchid show, Magnified, takes a new approach to the flower. Not only are orchids arranged in the shape of an oversized telescope, but visitors can look at the flowers through a magnifying lens to see little intricacies, such as hairs and spots, the naked eye can’t catch. The show is also a perfect date night location, with Orchids After Hours events that offer cocktails and light bites.
Info: The Chicago Botanic Gardens, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe. Tickets are $7 for members, $19 for non members.
Spring Flower Show
When: Now through May 14
Where: The Garfield Park Conservatory
The Garfield Park Conservatory’s spring flower show explores the magical relationship between bees and flowers. Conservatory staff will show off the site’s most exciting blooms alongside demo hives from its beekeeping program. Tulips, daffodils, plus honey: It’s maximum spring.
Info: The Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave. Free, with a donation recommended.
Spring Woods Walk
When: Beginning March 26
Where: The Chicago Botanic Gardens’s McDonald Woods
After being cooped up for winter, it’s time to get outside and take a walk. Specifically, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Spring Woods Walk. Chicagoans will be treated to budding trees and scenic wildflowers — all while enjoying an ambiance of birdsongs in the background. More than 100 migrating and resident birds pass through the area in spring. What’s more, optional, guided 45-minute tours teach visitors about seasonal challenges facing the area.
Info: Chicago Botanic Garden’s McDonald Woods, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe. Tickets are $9.95, parking is $8.
When: April 16
Where: The Oak Park Conservatory
The Oak Park Conservatory teams up with the Trailside Museum, Field Museum, and Illinois Master Naturalists to put on this annual kid’s festival all about animals. This year’s theme, Life Under a Log, focuses on amphibians and reptiles. Bring your young ones to meet the Frog Lady, see snakes and other scaly, slimy creatures up close and learn all about the lives of the cold blooded.
Info: Oak Park Conservatory, 615 Garfield St., Oak Park. The event is free, but advance tickets are required.
Cooler by the Lake
When: Now through May 14
Where: Lincoln Park Conservatory
The days are getting longer, and so are the Lincoln Park Conservatory’s hours. The Conservatory’s spring flower show takes advantage of cooler-toned flowers, such as cineraria and snapdragons, to match Lake Michigan. Look for nods to lakefront staples such as passing boats and the iconic Chicago Harbor lighthouse.
Info: Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N Stockton Drive. The event is free, but advance registration is required.
Volunteer with the Urban Growers Collective
Where: Urban Growers Collective
When: Beginning in April
The Urban Growers Collective is a group of city farms that provides opportunities for Black and brown urban growers to fight food poverty and make high quality, affordable food accessible to all. Starting in April, the collective will offer new drop-in volunteer opportunities — which are great ways to not only help the community but to learn how to prepare beds, plant, harvest and engage in sustainable farming.
Info: Urban Growers Collective operates eight farms in the city, including in Grant Park, Roosevelt Square and Altgeld Gardens. Find a full list here.
Seeds, Soil, & Springtime Gathering
When: April 1
Where: Plant Chicago
The nonprofit Community Food Navigator is throwing a springtime gathering to celebrate the start of the new growing season. Feel free to bring your own seeds and gloves, as containers and soil will be provided. Chicagoans can come to start new seeds, vibe to music, dig into a delicious meal and peruse booths curated by local urban agriculture groups.
Info: Plant Chicago, 4459 S. Marshfield Ave. Entrance is free.
Morning Bird Hike
When: April 8
Where: Plum Creek Nature Center
Late-winter birds are still lingering, and early spring arrivals are flying in daily. Plum Creek Nature Center is beautiful to walk around on its own, but a guided tour offers a chance to spot some of Chicago’s finest avian friends.
Info: Plum Creek Nature Center, 27064 Dutton Road, Beecher. The event is free, but advance tickets are required.
Jackson Park Cherry Blossoms
When: Blooms can start late March to early May
Where: Jackson Park
It’s mid-March, which means Jackson Park is beginning to track its cherry blossoms. The area is home to more than 160 cherry blossom varieties, including Yoshino, Snow Goose, Snow Fountains, Gooseberry and more. Mornings and afternoons are the best time to visit due to crowding. The trees remain in bloom for just three to eight days, but just when is anybody’s guess. Don’t miss your window.
Info: Jackson Park, 6401 S. Stony Island Ave. Entrance to Jackson Park is free.
Tails on the Trails
When: May 7
Where: Morton Arboretum
On select days, dogs gain access to the Morton Arboretum. If your furry friend is ready for spring, check out the trees with your canine and wander the arboretum grounds with other dog owners. There will be an on-site Pet Expo, which will feature local pet stores, adoption opportunities and information on local animal shelters and organizations. And you don’t have to be a dog owner to enjoy this dog day. Any canine lover is welcome.
Info: Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle. Admission to Tails on the Trails is $5 per dog, in addition to admission rates for the arboretum ($16 for adults ages 18 to 64; $14 for seniors ages 65 and older; $11 for children ages 2 to 17; and free for children ages 1 and younger.) Members get in free.
Windy City Harvest Workshops
When: April 29 and May 13
Where: Farm On Ogden
Looking to improve your growing skills? The Chicago Botanic Garden is putting on one-day workshops throughout the spring season to teach amateur urban farmers how to better their gardens. From your backyard to your rooftop to your community plot, Windy City Harvest staff and other industry experts will provide materials and offer hands-on demonstrations on how to improve your green space.
Info: Farm On Ogden, 3555 W. Ogden Ave. Tickets are $75
The University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners of Lake County
When: May 20
Where: University of Illinois Extension
At the University of Illinois’ annual plant sale, green thumb enthusiasts can peruse a variety of nursery grown plants that aren’t easily found in a garden store. The sale includes homegrown herbs, tomatoes and other veggies, as well as natives, new cultivars of perennials, grasses and pollinator-friendly plants. What’s more, savvy savers can pick up some secondhand garden items, such as garden tools, decorative containers and gardening books.
Info: University of Illinois Extension, 100 S. Highway 45, Grayslake. Entrance is free.
Julia Binswanger is a WBEZ audio producer and curator. Follow her @juliabinswanger.