The Garden's 27th garden, the Nature Play Garden, features a series of multisensory areas. It has sugar maple, aspen, and redbud groves and an expansive lawn that has a runnel, rolling hills, a willow tunnel, boulders for climbing, and natural “rooms” defined by arborvitae and hornbeams. Renowned landscape designer Mikyoung Kim provided the concept vision for the Nature Play Garden; Terry Ryan of Jacobs/Ryan Associates adapted the design, which incorporates native plants.
Horticulturists selected the garden’s flowers and trees for qualities such as color, scent, texture, and even sound (the sweetgums trees have seedpods that rattle); more than half of the perennials are new to the Chicago Botanic Garden.
“Adults will enjoy the fragrance of summer sweet and northern dropseed grass, smile at the large hibiscus flowers, be transfixed by the patterns of sunlight in the coursing water of the runnel, learn which plants do well in a swale to catch excess water runoff, and exclaim ‘oh wow’ when the long sweep of redbuds flower in spring,” said Kris Jarantoski, executive vice president and director of the Garden.
The Nature Play Garden is part of the Regenstein Learning Campus, a new home base for the Chicago Botanic Garden’s plant-based, immersive nature experiences and classes. (Our two most recent gardens, the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden and Kleinman Family Cove, opened in 2012 as part of the initial phases of the Campus.)
The Learning Center and Nature Play Garden is made possible by the generous support of the Grainger Foundation; Astellas USA Foundation; Arthur D. Collins, Jr., and the Collins Family Foundation; the Hunter Family; ITW; an anonymous donor; the Woman’s Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society; the Guild of the Chicago Botanic Garden; the Public Museum Capital Grants Program, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois State Museum; the Harris Family Foundation; and Cate and Rick Waddell.