Most people think of visiting the Chicago Botanic Garden during the warmer months of the year, but exploring the Garden on a winter’s day, especially after a beautiful snowfall, is a treat not to be missed. Located at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, I love to refer to the Garden as a 385-acre slice of heaven, a photographer’s paradise. It features 26 gardens and 4 natural areas and stays open until sunset every day of the year. Whether you like to photograph breathtaking panoramas, macro close-ups, birds, butterflies or critters, the Garden offers something for everyone in every season of the year.
When you arrive at the Garden, stop at the information desk and get a map to familiarize yourself with the layout of the Garden. Better yet, you can download a smartphone app to guide you through the Garden, provide valuable plant information and point out great spots for photos. Chris, Tony Reynes and I, along with many other volunteers, helped to photograph plants for this phone app. It’s still a work in progress but you can download it here: http://www.chicagobotanic.org/app/
Winter gives us an opportunity to see the raw beauty of trees and limbs without the cover of leaves. White birches, yellow willow branches, red-twigged dogwood, bark and berries provide interest, color and patterns on even the dreariest of winter days. You might even be lucky enough to see some snowdrops peeking through the snow, our first hint that spring is near.
One of my favorite places to photograph during the winter is the Malott Japanese Garden, also known as “the Garden of Three Islands.” This garden, serene and simple, is most beautiful during the winter months. Snow-covered vistas, pruned pines laden with snow, the Shoin Building and, of course, the famous arched bridge, are all wonderful winter subjects. I often try to time my visit to the Japanese Garden so that I can watch the sunset from one of the islands. Chris has captured some gorgeous sunset silhouettes in the Japanese Garden, as well.
When you need to warm up in winter, step inside Regenstein Center and visit the three greenhouses – the Arid Greenhouse, Tropical Greenhouse and Temperate Greenhouse. All have plants blooming year-round and many of the displays change from month to month. Bring your tripod and macro lenses for some wonderful opportunities for close-ups. I recommend starting with the Arid Greenhouse, letting your camera gear warm up for a bit before hitting the humidity of the Tropical Greenhouse. There is also a wonderful exhibit in the Jountras Gallery, next to the greenhouses, featuring the fabulous woodcut relief prints of Bryan Nash Gill. Also, take time to step into Krehbeil Gallery, the long, main hallway of Regenstein, to see the ever-changing spread of spring flowers in the reflecting pool. The vibrant colors will remind you that spring must surely be around the corner.
Learn more about the Garden at http://www.chicagobotanic.org/