Winter in Chicago feels like it goes on forever and for those of us who are passionate about photographing flowers and plant life, it can be challenging to find enough subject matter to shoot. Chicago is blessed with two great conservatories - Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Conservatory, along with the much-loved greenhouses at the Chicago Botanic Garden. These locations keep me happy and shooting the subjects I love throughout the long winter months. Last week I visited the Garfield Park Conservatory with my friend Lara Joy. Located at 300 N. Central Parkway in the city, Garfield is run by the Chicago Park District and it's free to the public. The conservatory is comprised of two acres of public greenhouse space as well as propagating houses and outdoor gardens. We spent a lot time photographing in the Show House (pictured below), which is the site of beautiful flower shows each year. The holiday amaryllis were still on display, along with many other flowering plants. Garfield does not allow the use of tripods, so on this gloomy, rainy day it was challenging to get enough light to hand-hold. I embraced the situation and shot softer focus images and enjoyed playing with my Lensbaby lenses, as well.
Thoroughly exploring Garfield's many rooms requires more than a day. I decided to narrow my focus and chose to spend a good deal of time in the Desert House. Garfield has a varied and large collection of cacti and succulents in this large greenhouse. I enjoyed meeting and talking to Ray, a horticulturist in the Desert House, and he gave me a little tour of all his favorites in the Desert House. I am always awed by the passion of all the horticulturists I meet, their vast knowledge and their dedication to the plants they nurture. For me, part of the fun of photographing in these public spaces is meeting the people who care for them. They help me appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of the plants I photograph. Ray was so friendly and he introduced us to another horticulturist, Kathy, who gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the propagating greenhouses. What a fun day it was. I can't wait to go back and more fully explore the rooms at Garfield. It's a great place to spend a cold winter day. A true Chicago treasure.