This has been a particularly long and cold winter in Chicago. By the end of February, most people have had enough and are eagerly counting days until spring arrives. I've heard grumblings that the beloved groundhog, Punxsutanwney Phil, got it all wrong and should jailed for fraud. Typically it doesn't feel like spring until well into April here in our area. For me, the blooming of the crocuses mark the arrival of the flower season, and the tulips follow soon after. Meanwhile, as we patiently wait, we are fortunate to have several flower shows in our area that give us some respite from the cold outdoors and make us feel like spring has arrived.
Chicago Botanic Garden's Orchid Show, "Into the Tropics," has been going on since mid-February and lasts until March 24. The tropical theme this year makes you feel like you have stepped into a tropical paradise filled with beautiful orchids. It's the perfect place to practice your orchid photography. Orchids are the most difficult of flowers to photograph. Lighting in the exhibit can be challenging and it is hard to find good compositions and clean backgrounds. Chicago Botanic Garden has Tuesday morning tripod hours for photographers; otherwise, you can't use a tripod in the exhibit and this can make capturing these exotic and complex beauties difficult. For some tips on photographing orchids please read my recent article on the Visual Wilderness website.
A few images captured at this year's show:
Phalaenopsis Orchid, 100mm macro
Phalaenopsis Orchid, 180mm macro
Phalaenopsis Orchids, 100mm macro
The Lincoln Park Conservatory in the heart of Lincoln Park just north of the city, has a wonderful spring flower show that lasts until May 12. It's very creatively done with the addition of some "singing" egg cups in their water features. The exhibit features flowering trees, bushes, spring bulbs, azaleas, camellias, calla lilies, hellebores, and much more. LPC's orchid collection is quite impressive right now, as well.
Cymbidium Orchids, Lensbaby Velvet 85mm
Hellebore, Lensbaby Sol 45mm
I have to admit, my favorite show this spring is "Understory: Layers of Light" at Garfield Park Conservatory. This is the most beautiful flower show I've seen – the layers of trees, flowering bushes, tree trunks, moss, ferns, fungus and, of course, an abundance of flowers – is so creatively done. Each time I go I am discovering new things I did not see in previous visits. All the flowers are beautiful, but the collection of ranunculus, also known as Persian Buttercups, really steals the show. The show runs until May 12 and is worth several visits.
Of course, I can't go to Garfield without a visit to the Fern Room and the Desert House, two of my favorite places to photograph year-round. The Agave americana plant in the Desert House has sent up its impressive stalk and it is quickly approaching the glass roof. The grand finale will be the flowering of the stalk, then the plant will begin to die. Watch this fascinating interview about the agave on WTTW's Chicago Tonight, featuring one of my favorite people at Garfield, horticulturist Ray Jorgensen.
Tulip, Lensbaby Velvet 56mm
Same tulip, different perspective, Lensbaby Sol 45mm
Ranunculus or Persian Buttercup, Lensbaby Velvet 85mm
Ranunculus Curves, Lensbaby Velvet 56mm
Hellebore, Lensbaby Sol 45mm
Enjoy some spring indoors until the real spring arrives outdoors. It won't be long but I am so grateful that our great city of Chicago has so many opportunities for us flower enthusiasts to keep doing what we love to do even when it's snowy and cold outside. Thank you, Chicago Botanic Garden, Lincoln Park Conservatory and Garfield Park Conservatory! You each are true gems in our city!