Welcome to the latest in our “Visiting Midwest Gardens” series as we visit Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservatory!
If you’ve ever visited Chicago, you’ve probably seen or at least heard of Lincoln Park. Situated a few hundred yards from Lake Michigan’s shoreline, Lincoln Park is among the most revered urban parks in America …
One of the park’s many attractions is the spectacular Lincoln Park Conservatory. The Conservatory sits aside the famed Lincoln Park Zoo and is only minutes from bustling downtown Chicago …
Join us for a bit of gardening inspiration as we explore the second of two prominent Chicago conservatories (Garfield Park being the other) …
About Lincoln Park
Boasting the title of Chicago’s largest park, Lincoln Park is the city’s green space crown jewel. The 1200+ acre park is a must see for visitors and has long been one of the city’s most popular destinations …
Dating back to 1865, Lincoln Park is named in honor of America’s 16th President Abraham Lincoln. Situated just west of Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline, Lincoln Park stretches almost seven miles south to north …
Did You Know: Lincoln Park is the 2nd most visited park in the United States, behind only Central Park in New York. Lincoln Park receives an estimated 20 million annual visitors …
The proximity of the park to Lake Michigan is one of its most appealing features. The lake’s moderating effect brings cool summer breezes and more tolerable winter temperatures …
The city of Chicago has long embraced Lincoln Park as an enduring destination appealing to all ages. Several notable world class attractions are located here within the park’s boundaries, including the enduring and beautiful Lincoln Park Conservatory …
Visit Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservatory
One of America’s longest established conservatories, this floral paradise dates back to the 1890’s. Its mission is steadfast … to showcase nature’s beauty and serve as an incubator to grow plants and flowers for Chicago’s parks.
The Conservatory is owned and managed by the Chicago Park District and is one of two prominent conservatories in the city (Garfield Park Conservatory is the other). Docent tours are available at select times where you’ll garner an in depth perspective of how the Conservatory operates. You’ll also discover interesting facts about the plants within …
When you visit, you’ll see a large formal garden just south of the Conservatory’s entrance. Lush with annuals in summer months, this garden actually predates the Conservatory and is one of Chicago’s largest formal gardens. The grounds showcase the natural design of prominent architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee and draw the visitor toward the Conservatory’s main entrance …
The Lincoln Park Conservatory consists of four display halls, each of which we spotlight below. Three seasonal flower shows are held annually, each spotlighting the current time of year. We visited during the spectacular Spring Flower Show – a real inspiration for upcoming gardening projects!
You’ll find the Conservatory in the heart of Lincoln Park, just south of Fullerton Avenue adjacent to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Open every day at 9 a.m., it’s one of Chicago’s finest free attractions!
Inside the Conservatory
As you enter the Conservatory, make sure to pick up a map in the wall display to your right. Right off the entrance are convenient restrooms … you don’t want to rush through the exhibits because “you gotta go” ; )
If you’re visiting Chicago in the wintertime, this lush haven of greenery provides a welcome respite from the cold wind and snow outside!
The Palm House
Go through the lobby doors and you enter the enchanting Palm House. Showcased are more than two dozen different types of palms of all shapes and sizes including a 50+ foot fiddle-leaf rubber tree dating back to 1891.
One of the first things we noticed was the “Sausage Tree” steps from the entrance. We saw this fascinating type of tropical African tree on our visit to the Domes in Milwaukee. The kigelia or “sausage tree” is a common sight in the Serengetti. Don’t be tempted to try the strange-looking fruits raw as they’re highly poisonous.
There’s a lot to take in here: various fruit trees including banana, papaya, grapefruit and calamondin orange. The interesting corpse plant which blooms every 7 to 10 years, cascading small waterfalls, koi-filled ponds full of colorful fish, and beautiful tropical flowers.
We got hungry reading some of the tropical flower names including the shrimp plant and lobster claw plant … both added a pop of red-orange to the array of greenery. All the plants are clearly marked for identification enhancing the experience.
When you are touring the Palm House – don’t just look down … there’s a lot to see up high as well! It was fun to spot the fruit hanging from the trees and gorgeous bright-colored blooms dangling from above.
The Fern Room
Entering the Fern Room, notice the diversity in the plants represented. Many ferns are on display including the Staghorn, Maidenhair, Ostrich and Horsetail … all conveniently labeled. There are more than 20,000 known species of ferns growing around the world. Many types of ferns flourish both outdoors (in warmer zones) and as houseplants.
You will also find Cycads housed in the Fern Room. Cycads are seed plants with a very long fossil history that were formerly more abundant and more and varied than they are today. They typically have a stout and woody trunk with a crown of large, hard and stiff, evergreen leaves. The individual plants are either all male or all female.
Cycads are sometimes confused with palms or ferns, but they are a unique plant group that is more closely related to conifers and the ginkgo tree.
Did you know: Cycads are the world’s most threatened plant group, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The Orchid House
Orchids are the largest and most diverse group of plants. The lovely Lincoln Park Conservatory Orchid House displays hundreds of orchids, as well as bromeliads. There were many types and colors represented … so pleasing to the senses.
Bromeliads can grow well as “air plants,” which are glued or nested onto logs, moss or other non-soil organic items. These plants collect all the food and moisture they need with their leaves from the humidity in the air.
These epiphytes are not long lived but will generally start to die back after flowering. They will produce offsets, or pups, that can be removed and started as new plants. Growing a bromeliad as a houseplant is pretty easy and brings interesting texture and color to the interior garden.
On our most recent visit to the Conservatory, the Spring Flower Show was all abloom in the Show House. A knockout presentation of azaleas, camellias, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, hydrangea, geraniums, magnolia trees and many more.
This annual showcase features more than 3,000 flowers in bloom, including azaleas descended from specimens featured at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. How cool is that?
Visiting Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservatory
The Conservatory is not that large, but it is densely packed with beautiful plant specimens. You could cover it all in 30-60 minutes depending on how much you linger and take pictures.
The atmosphere in every room is so peaceful, and there are benches that you can sit on and just meditate or relax. It’s a popular place for photo shoots with the stunning flora as a backdrop.
Insider Tip: If you can, plan to visit the Conservatory early in the day, preferably right after it opens at 9 a.m. You should be able to snag free street parking on adjacent Stockton Drive both north and south of the Conservatory …
Picture Perfect Camellia in the Show House
It’s always a wonderful day to visit Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservatory! Tell us about your favorite features by leaving a note here … we love to hear from our readers!