Even when the Chicago Botanic Garden was buried in snow, our horticulturists would look for signs of spring and trade tips—did you see that winter aconite blooming underneath the crabapples? Spirits are high as early blooms emerge, well ahead of the first day of spring on March 20.
We can’t wait for you to rediscover spring at the Garden—especially after everyone had to stay home last season. And we’re pleased to report that, despite social distancing and other limitations due to COVID-19, we were able to plant more than 95,000 spring flowering bulbs last fall.
As senior director of horticulture, it’s hard for me to single out the season’s highlights; there will be a ton. But even after spending more than 30 springs at the Garden, I still love to see what comes up every day. Here are just a few of my favorite sights:
Azalea mounds at the Malott Japanese Garden
The azaleas are very well-trained into undulating mounds so they always look good. But they are incredibly dramatic starting in April, when they’re blooming en masse on a slope that provides different perspectives.
Redbuds at the Regenstein Learning Campus
We planted a large number of redbud trees to create a dramatic flowering display in early spring. The landscape architect for the Learning Campus, which opened in 2016, did a great job with the scale and placement of the plantings. Each year, the display is more impressive, as the trees grow and produce more flowers.
Drifts of roses at the Krasberg Rose Garden
The first big flush of flowers is typically around the middle of June. Note the simple shape and deep fragrance of heirloom roses, and the lovely colors of the hybrid tea roses; the large drifts of roses are always a visitor favorite.
Crocuses in the lawn at Evening Island
Sunny yellow and plum purple crocuses brighten the lawn at Evening Island, starting in early spring. It’s an indelible sight to see tens of thousands of crocuses in flower at the same time. Note that the blooms are very weather dependent, and there’s a short window for the peak display.
Iris reticulata at the Sensory Garden
You’ll see an explosion of early spring color here—violet-blue irises with yellow markings. But the blooms tend to be short-lived and fade quickly in warm weather. So catching them in full flower is a real treat.
Crabapples at the Lakeside Gardens
Don’t miss a walk through a cathedral of hundreds of fragrant flowering crabapples, starting in May. We planted these with a large-scale design in mind to create an impact in spring.
The changing season in the Graham Bulb Garden
To get the most out of spring, drop by throughout the season. Regular walks through the Graham Bulb Garden, for instance, will reward you with a continuous display of different types of blooms as the bulbs come into flower. The scale is like that of a home garden and full of ideas for you to replicate at home.
- Please note that all visitors—including Garden members—must preregister.
- Watch our social media channels and website for updates on what’s in bloom.
- The Garden stays open until 7 p.m., starting April 1. The longer days give you more time for a mini-spring break: Download a spring walk map; pick up a free seedling or seed to plant at home, starting May 12; and grab a bite to eat at the Garden View Café. Limited, socially distanced seating is available inside the Café and outside on the decks. Try the house-made frittata for breakfast or the salmon salad for lunch.