Lincoln Park Conservatory and Grant Park Butler Field Flower Shows - Flower Magic

Lincoln Park Conservatory

I love orchids. So, I was delighted to learn of the upcoming orchid show at the Lincoln Park Conservatory from one of its docents, Minna Novick. This third annual orchid show will take place Mother's Day weekend, from May 12th to 14th. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2391 N. Stockton Drive and it is free. Call 312-742-7736 for additional information.

Fern Room

The day we visited the conservatory to talk with head horticulturist, Steven B. Meyer about the orchid show, it was raining very hard. However, neither the outside or inside rain could diminish our appreciation of the tropical plants before us, their beauty and fragrances. Eight years ago, when Steven Meyer began working at the conservatory, he found a wonderful orchid collection, poorly displayed. Gradually, he created a special space for them in an area that was the 'stove house'. (In an earlier day, it was believed that all orchids needed warmth, so there was a stove and steam and it tended to kill some of the varieties of orchids that like cooler weather.) This space was slowly transformed. Koi were added to an existing pond and orchids were displayed attractively. The space became so captivating that a bench placed for viewing had to be removed because people were lingering so long, that they created a bottleneck. One of Steven Meyer's goals is to have the largest continuous blooming orchid display in Chicago.

Show room

This show was inspired by the wish to introduce Chicagoans to orchids so they understand them, are more comfortable with them and can enjoy them in their homes. Several vendors will be offering hundred of varieties of the flower for purchase at reasonable prices. Watch out! A sign in the orchid room indicates that orchids are addictive and rather like peanuts-you can't stop with just one.


Orchids are the most advanced plant known. At least 25, 000 varieties are known, and it is expected that more varieties will be discovered in China and Borneo. Orchids are found on every continent excepting Antarctica. They are exotic plants and once they bloom, the flowers remain for a least a month.

The conservatory, located in Lincoln Park, Chicago's oldest and most heavily used park, was designed by Joespeh L. Silsbee and constructed between 1890 and 1895. Its current houses are: the Palm House, the Fern Room, Orchid House and Show House. It was designed to showcase exotic plants and to grow the thousands of plants needed for use in the parks. This continues to be the case as we saw greenhouse filled with thousands of bleeding hearts and cat mint plants soon to be used for the entry of the Garden in a City Exhibit at Grant Park. Steve offered advice to home gardeners about maintaining grass. Spreading Milorganite on Memorial Day and Labor Day and using a winterizer to strengthen the grass eliminates the need for chemicals, although some dandelions may need to be pulled. He also recommended the use of Cypress mulch.

Steven B. Meyer, horticulturist

Steve Zelner of the Lincoln Park Conservancy described expected changes to the conservatory. He said a master plan has been commissioned and developed by David Woodhouse. Its aims to maintain the conservatory's 19th century feeling while providing 21st century amenities and will include more show houses, educational classrooms, a special events room, a place to eat and a gift shop. It is expected that the conservatory will become a destination rather than a place to stop by.

Grant Park is also hosting a very exciting exhibit, Garden in a City, America's first garden and landscape show May 13-May 21 in Butler Field. It focuses on urban horticulture and the greening of urban communities. It will feature approaches to gardening in urban areas and small spaces and will show how greening of rooftops and public spaces improves our communities and quality of life. The show is being organized by the Chicago Park District, City of Chicago (whose motto is 'Urbs in horto' or 'City in a garden') and the Parkways Foundation, the Park District's philanthropic partner.

Grant Park

Display gardens, designed by leading landscape architects and designers in the Chicago area will demonstrate how to design and plant gardens in urban settings such as bungalow yards, townhouse balconies, backyard decks and building rooftops.

Sponsors include: Parkways, Target, Chicago Sun Times, CBS Channel 2, WBBM- newsradio 780

For details go to or call: 312- 742- 4817

Photos by Gloria Henllan-Jones

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