March 18, 2016

Chicago Botanic Garden - Orchid Show and Winter Walk (Feb. 2016)

Banzai and the frozen pond

Saturday, February 13
Chicago Botanic Garden - Glencoe, IL
42.147432, -87.790267
Appx 30-40° F - the sun was cooperating for nice photos

The annual orchid show! Where else can you see a room with such vivid combinations of colors? It was a treat for our eyes, especially with the seemingly perpetual Chicago winter.

This writeup is a bit late, but the scenery is still fresh in my mind. Let me show you some photos!

The Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL is reachable via Metra's Green Line on the Braeside stop. Come up on the weekend and you can get a weekend pass for $8. The North Branch Trail is newly installed and runs from the Metra station to the botanic garden. It treks through the adjacent forest preserve property, which makes the short walk to the garden quite enjoyable.

North Branch Trail

North Branch Trail

Each year, Botanic Garden hosts an orchid show in the center building. Thousands of orchids of all colors are on display for your visual pleasure. There is a small entrance fee of $10, but it goes to the garden.


The rooms smell wonderful. This was our first time to the Botanic Garden actually, and having gone now, we'll be returning frequently.

The orchids themselves were diverse and - living up to the hype - quite colorful. We spent a good two hours in the orchid show. Since I'm too lazy to identify each of the species of orchid, I'm just going to leave a slideshow of my orchid album. Hover over or tap the album to get slideshow controls. You can also click on the slideshow below to go to my Flickr album.

2016 CBG Orchid Show
Note: the image above is a slide show. Hover over or tap to get controls/go to the album

We took some time to trek through the other interior gardens, including the tropical and desert greenhouses. I fell in love with the desert room. Over a hundred species of cactus must have been in the desert greenhouse. From long cactus arms hanging down to greet walkers-by to tiny baby succulent species in the gravel at your feet, the myriad shades of green, brown, and gold in the room made you long for a trip to Arizona.


Some of the cacti were also in bloom, so small speckles of red, orange, and white accentuated the room.


Even if you're not a cactus fan, the low-humidity, warm room was a nice respite from the sharp Chicago air outside.





Here's the whole album of the cactus garden. It's quite a diverse display of green succulents! Hover over or tap the photo below for slideshow controls.

Cactus garden at CBG
Note: the image above is a slide show. Hover over or tap to get controls/go to the album

Although it was chilly, we braved the wind and decided to walk on the garden grounds before our train came to pick us back up (it was every 2 hours on Saturday). Many of the plants are dormant during this time of year, such as the fruit and vegetable gardens and anything with flowers. That doesn't mean, however, there is nothing to see. We were pleasantly surprised with the diversity of plant life and views that the garden still produced even during the heart of winter.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Frozen pond

We walked along the central lake - there's a small footpath along its perimeter. We had luck in seeing wildlife as a nutria ran away from us and hid under the ice. He peeked his nose up over the ice edge to see if we had gone away, but I managed to get a quick photo of him before he jumped under the ice.


The snow had blown around the flat, frozen lake, coloring the lake's banks with waves of white along the edge.

Frozen pond

Frozen pond

The center of the garden features islands and hills, each with its own features. Stone steps and wooden bridges connect visitors to the various lookouts and gardens.

Wooden Bridge to The Japanese Garden

Steps in the garden

Banzai and islands

Our favorite part of our tour along the snow path was when we happened upon the Japanese Garden, titled "The Garden of Three Islands." I read somewhere that the Japanese Garden was designed to have visitors walk along a path, with different scenes intentionally appearing as you walk along the path. Thus, you cannot experience the whole garden in one viewpoint - you have to walk and contemplate at each turn of the garden.

Frozen pond and banzai

Irregular stone bridge

Banzai trees predominantly called the three islands home, but they shared their islands with some evergreen shrubbery and some stuff that will have to wait till spring to leave and bloom. Rocks are intentionally placed throughout the garden to create scenes as well.

Banzai and bridge

Japanese Garden Banzai

Banzai path

The aspect of intentional contemplation had me intrigued. It's impossible to see the whole garden, yet you know it is there. Each "look" in the garden produced new scenes. This was simultaneously frustrating, fascinating, and beautiful each time I tried to set up a camera shot. Each step I took and each angle I looked produced a new view. There was no way to capture "all" of the garden in one shot. I tried to capture some of these looks on camera, but nothing will substitute for the real thing. Take some time to go walk through the garden and see what I mean. The whole experience was impressive.

Banzai path

Banzai and the frozen pond

Pond overlook at the Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

We ended up coming to the garden for the orchid show, but were equally impressed with the garden's landscape during the winter. The light snow cover accentuated all of the features in a beautiful way, making the garden equally beautiful during the winter as during bloom season. I recommend everyone take a trip to the Botanic Garden during the winter after a light snow, if you can tolerate the chilly air. We were impressed.

Tree lined road

Will certainly return again. I'll probably even make many day trips up there to write my dissertation.

Photo Albums on Flickr


2016 CBG Orchid Show
Note: the image above is a slide show. Hover over or tap to get controls/go to the album

Cactus Garden

Cactus garden at CBG
Note: the image above is a slide show. Hover over or tap to get controls/go to the album

Winter in the Botanic Garden

Winter at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Note: the image above is a slide show. Hover over or tap to get controls/go to the album

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