Plants & Gardening

Plants & Gardening

Garden Stories

It might be the coconut scent of Nemesia ‘Sunsatia Lemon’ that turns your head. Or the hot magenta blooms of Linaria ‘Enchantment’, which looks like a mini-snapdragon. Whatever it takes to get you to stop and feel spring in the Buehler Enabling Garden.

Alicia Green - Enabling Garden

People sometimes walk right by the brick pillars of the Enabling Garden, thinking it’s not for them, said Alicia Green, who maintains and designs the horticulture therapy garden. She likes to surprise them. “The Buehler Enabling Garden in spring is all about happiness!” she said. “I plant flowers that are colorful and scented, even a bit whimsical.”

More than one million spring blooms have started to unfurl at the Chicago Botanic Garden, in areas including the Enabling Garden. Green is still planting last-minute flowers; blooms start to take off in May. Here are a few of her spring design touches to look for in the Enabling Garden:

Think Beatrix Potter storybook

You might not find Peter Rabbit in the Enabling Garden. But you might pick up on the whimsical feeling of an English country garden. “I used a bit of lettuce mix foliage in there so it looks quaint like a cottage garden. The rabbits would probably munch on it,” she said. And yes, she planted carrots.

A touch of whimsy

Green avoids a formal design, with manicured rows of blooms and lines of color. She prefers a “grows and flows” look that suggests a natural garden or meadow. “It looks fanciful and just a little wild and crazy,” without being overgrown, she said. Look for a special botanical tulip called Tulipa ‘Nora’. The small, deep pink tulip looks more like a wildflower than a cultivated variety.

Old school is cool

“I stick with total crowd pleasers that people connect with right away,” Green said, “and I get your attention with a ton of flowers.” Favorites include old favorites like bright yellow daffodils, baby blue forget-me-nots, and purple stock, as well as pansies and violas. “I want people to walk in there and gasp and say, ‘Wow, that’s so pretty!’ Then take the time to look and notice,” she said.

Tickle the senses

Raised beds and other features make this a hands-on garden for people of all abilities. Take a moment to close your eyes and listen to the singing warblers or trickling fountain. In demonstrations, Green asks people to rub a bit of lavender or lemon balm to release the scent or to breathe in the sweet fragrance of a flower like dianthus. And note the soft, poofy petals of pretty pink Ranunculus asiaticus ‘Mache bicolor’ in urns near the fountain.

The beauty of choreography

Green plans for waves of beauty, all spring long. “It’s not a very long season,” she pointed out. “In a short amount of time, you have a lot happening. The spring garden does the most evolving, like a kaleidoscope—tulips and daffodils, pansies, then other flowers like snapdragons, dianthus and linaria take over at the end.”

Enabling Garden - Spring Plantings

Enabling Garden - Spring Plantings

Enabling Garden - Spring Plantings

Enabling Garden - Spring Plantings