Lurie Garden Walking Tour

I recently spent a few days in Chicago, Illinois.  This is the third post in a series about the museums, architecture, public gardens, and art I visited while there.  The first post can be viewed here.

The less formal gardens in Millennium Park are complemented by the Lurie Garden.  The five acre garden that makes up the Lurie was designed by  Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd, Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel.  The design of the garden reflects Chicago’s history and combines landscape design with ecological preservation.  

While wondering through Millennium Park I happened to notice that free guided tours of the Lurie are offered weekly throughout the summer.  The 20 minute volunteer led tour focuses on the design, history, and plants that make up the Lurie Garden. 

When walking through the garden on my own I had a number of questions about which plants were used, the number of native plants incorporated, and the rational behind plant selection.  The tour guide did an excellent job of explaining the reasoning behind the plants and answering questions about specific plants.  The volunteer guide seemed to know what almost every plant was, why it was planted, and the history of the plant in the Lurie Garden. Considering the wide variety of plants found in the garden this knowledge was pretty impressive.

Our guide also spent some time explaining the elements of the garden that reflect the history of Chicago.  For example, the large hedges that surround the north and west portion of the garden were included to represent ‘big shoulders.’  The shoulder hedge appears to support the Pritzker Pavilion that is to the north of the garden and is a representation of idea that Chicago is a city with big shoulders.

The garden itself is divided into a dark and light plate.  The dark plate was designed to represent the early landscape of the site and city — a rugged shoreline and challenging land.  The light plate focuses on the future and the plants in this section are much more warm and controlled.  Had I not participated in the tour I would have had no idea of the historical connotations of the design.

If you’re interested in learning more about specific plants in the Lurie the garden’s website has information on all the flowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees planted in the garden. The information provided about each plant is fairly basic/encyclopedia styled but is useful if during a visit you saw a plant that you wanted to know the name of. 

I would definitely recommend the free walking tour to anyone who is interested in learning more details about the garden itself.  If you don’t have time for a tour or aren’t interested in learning that much about a garden – the Lurie is still worth a visit and is a beautiful place to take a walk.

Photo Credit: Andrew MacKay