Sunday, August 21, 2011

Botanical Gardens Contain a Gem of Ideas

There are fabulous places to sit in the Chicago Botanic Gardens. The chairs and benches have been very well thought out, but sitting is last thing that a garden photographer wants to do when presented with the late summer glory of a garden.

I met up with a group of fellow garden lovers and avid garden photographers. The gardens were alive with color, something my garden lacks this time of year. A few pockets of gold can be found in my yard right now, like with the brilliant yellow of my Blackberry lily (Belamcanda chinensis) or the unique flower of the my Toad lily (Tricyrtis sp.), but mostly, my garden lacks punch.

What I discovered on this trip is the sheer excitement that people get when they see wildlife in the garden. The colors can be amazing (and they were), but when a conversation comes to a screeching halt and is only completed with a single emphatic word, "monarch!" You know that a design works.

Botanical gardens are one of the many places I like to go for growing ideas to bring home. The downside is the scalability of projects. Most of the garden displays are laid out with the luxury of large scale design. If you look around enough you'll start seeing how you can scale the designs, and find ideas that you can take home to a residential garden.

One of the best ideas I brought home with me, is a way to really try to bring more wildlife to the yard. Near the English Oak Meadow is a hill of zinna, marigolds, and salvia. The hummingbirds and finches were swarming the area. The acrobatics of the hummingbirds were making people ooh and ahh like a fireworks display. The finches blended right into the background. The only real sign of them were the flying flower petals while they were reaping the seeds from the spent marigolds.

All of these flowers are very easy to grow from seed, and they really liven up the garden. I have a few sunny patches in my yard. The prospect of bringing in more birds (and butterflies) without having to refill a feeder is truly exciting. 

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