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Illinois Road Trip Round-Up — Public Gardens

June 9, 2020

We’ve been “All In for Illinois” during the pandemic, but as we hit the unofficial start of summer, we’re ready to enjoy our state safely. Check-in every Tuesday for an Illinois Road Trip Round-Up on themed topics showcasing sixteen destinations across Illinois. This week, we’re touring some of the state's top public gardens! So pack up the family, bring your masks, and get ready for a road trip!

VISIT CHAMPAIGN COUNTY

The Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden in Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve is located just off Illinois Route 47 in Mahomet. What once began as a small garden outside of the Museum of the Grand Prairie has expanded into eight acres of some of the most beautiful and diverse flora in east-central Illinois. On top of a gorgeous waterfall, the naturescape includes the award-winning Miriam Davies Memorial Enabling Garden and the iconic Japanese-style red iron bridge. From 7 am to sundown, visitors can take in the gorgeous views and take in some much-needed peace and tranquility.

Allerton Park and Retreat Center’s 14 Formal Gardens feature extensive plantings and over 100 ornaments and sculptures to discover. The Gardens were designed by Robert and John Gregg Allerton in the Neoclassical style during the American Country Place era between 1902 and the late 1940s. They are defined by divided ‘rooms’ bordered by pruned hedges and long allees with statues as strong focal points. The Formal Gardens at Allerton are truly one-of-a-kind. From booming peonies to the Fu Dog Garden, there are many incredible spots to explore and enjoy.

The present-day Japanese Tea Garden at the Japan House has a history dating back to the sixteenth century and the great developer and teacher of the tea ceremony, Sen-no-Rikyu (1522-91). Before then, Japanese gardens were not so much for walking but more for viewing from nearby buildings or from boats on the garden ponds (Heian period 794-1185, and later). The Tea Garden established a number of elements such as lanterns, stepping stones, bamboo fences, and water basins which were an enormous influence on Japanese landscaping to follow, especially in the expansive Stroll Garden (Kayushiki) style built by the regional rulers (Daimyo) for their pleasure and as evidence of their importance.

Enjoy Aurora

Described by the City of Aurora as the “crown jewel” of Aurora’s parks, it’s fitting to call Phillips Park a hidden gem amongst Chicagoland’s historic parks. Its 325 acres are home to a zoo, golf course, aquatic center, and a magnificent Sunken Garden. The Sunken Garden was designed by Ray C. Moses, an Auroran, and constructed in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. Planting over the years has commemorated significant historical events, including layouts paying tribute to the armed services during WWII. Seasonal attractions include spring tulips, summer and fall annuals, and the Phillips Park Festival of Lights at wintertime, the largest free holiday lights display in Northern Illinois.

Visit Bloomington-Normal

The beautiful gardens of Illinois State University’s Horticulture Center await you! The Center serves not only students and faculty but also our local community and visitors! It provides an inspiring and artful location to learn about and enjoy plants and nature. The Horticulture Center encompasses 18 acres, including serval display gardens, a Children’s garden, and a restored prairie area. The gardens excite, engage, and educate ISU students and the general public to produce a better understanding of plants, their uses, and their culture. Come explore these colorful, bountiful gardens and learn how we can all make a greener tomorrow. For more info: https://horticulturecenter.illinoisstate.edu/gardens/literarygardens.shtml

Chicago North Shore

Chicago's Botanical Garden is the fifth most visited garden in the United States and conveniently located on Chicago’s North Shore. With 385 acres to explore, where do you begin? Enjoy a narrated tram tour. Highlights include McDonald Woods, Japanese Garden, and others. Ride past the Garden’s 81 acres of water. Relax as you explore the Heritage Garden, Rose Garden, Waterfall Garden, Enabling Garden, and more. See changing displays of annual flowers. Or, walk the paths on foot to get a close-up view. Visit the Miniature Railroad Garden, Butterfly Garden, and extensive Bonsai collection. Learn remarkable facts about the Garden’s science and conservation projects. Don’t forget the Gift Shop and enjoy a snack at the Café. Uncover the mysteries of this living museum!

Meet Chicago Northwest

The Schweikher House was built in 1938 by a young Chicago architect named, Paul Schweikher. The beauty of this home is the well-manicured gardens that encompass this once family home to both Paul Schweikher and also The Langsdorfs - Martyl, and Alexander. Martyl was a fine artist who also helped design the DoomsDay clock. Her husband, Alexander, was an American physicist who worked with Enrico Fermi. Explore the Japanese-inspired exterior, peek into a window or two and take in the scents of Spring. Make plans to visit the grounds on Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm.

Chicago Southland

Public gardens are always in season in the Chicago Southland! Stroll through the winding, brick-lined pathway in the Shakespeare Garden at Moraine Valley Community College and enjoy the foliage referenced in Shakespeare’s works, adorned with quotes by the bard himself, which are incorporated into signage along the path. For a more unconventional garden visit, enjoy artwork throughout Flossmoor with the Flossmoor Sculpture Gardens or take in the sculptures, murals, and eco-friendly gardens of the Art Garden of Palos Heights. No matter which public garden you visit, be sure to stop and smell the roses while visiting the Chicago Southland!

Effingham

A botanical treasure house and outdoor gallery, Alwerdt’s Gardens and Alwerdt Artworks and Sculpture Park are one of Effingham’s hidden gems! Located just one mile south off of Interstate 70, Exit 82, the business and park cover several acres of land with their display gardens and half-mile sculpture walk. Stroll the lush grounds, and view 1,200 varieties of fragrant, uniquely landscaped herb, perennial and ornamental gardens. Visit the gift shop and garden center, which features hundreds of interesting plants and gifts. Beauty abounds at Alwerdt’s… Open April 1st through October 31st. Visit www.alwerdtsgardens.com for more details and hours.

Explore Elgin

Tucked in the Northeast neighborhood of Elgin, IL sits the NENA Butterfly garden. This garden combines native perennials, nectar-producing flowers, and larval plants, making it a haven for all kinds of butterflies! Here you can spot Monarchs, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Eastern Commas, Clouded Sulphurs, and Buckeyes. The students nearby at McKinley Elementary have raised and released over 100 Monarchs throughout the years. This is a perfect place to visit, have a picnic, or include in a relaxing stroll on a Spring or Summer day. Visit our website to plan your next outdoor experience.

Great Rivers and Routes

Delight the senses with a leisurely walk through this year’s “Golden Jubilee Garden” at Lewis & Clark Community College’s Monticello Sculpture Garden collection, 5800 Godfrey Rd., Godfrey, IL. The garden, designated by the Missouri Botanical Garden as one of their Signature Gardens in Illinois, seamlessly blends landscape design with bronze sculptures from world-renowned artists. Featuring seasonal fragrance, plant texture, and color, the garden is a feast designed to satisfy all the senses. Maps are available at the college security office at the college’s north entrance.

Heritage Corridor

The beauty of the Heritage Corridor region is definitely in bloom this summer, including at the Joliet’s Bird Haven Greenhouse and Conservatory. Located on three acres, the Italian Renaissance style facility features spectacular floral shows. Year-round attractions include their tropical house, cacti room, and show house. Don’t miss out on visiting Streator’s Weber House and Garden, where you feel like you are going into a storybook adventure. 10 differently themed gardens and a three-story Tudor style home. And in Princeton, Hornbaker Gardens is a specialty destination garden center, arboretum, and botanical gardens. 

Illinois South

While there are not many public gardens ILLINOISouth, there is one hidden gem in Jasper County known for beautiful sunflowers. Not far outside of Newton lies the Sam Parr State Fish and Wildlife Area, where there are sunflower fields as far as the eye can see. Each summer, folks flock here from hours away to take in the beauty of the sunflowers, and of course to snap a few pictures as well!

Peoria

Surround yourself with spectacular displays of spring-blooming bulbs or the blazing color of autumn at Luthy Botanical Garden which offers a tranquil setting to enjoy the beauty of each passing season in Peoria. Established in 1951, Luthy Botanical Garden encompasses five acres and offers over a dozen themed gardens, a conservatory, a rotating sculpture exhibit, and magnificent floral displays. Located 10-miles from downtown Peoria is the 1,800-acre Wildlife Prairie Park featuring over 90-acres of restored prairie lands with native Illinois plants, trees and flowers, and a friendly herd of bison. The park also boasts unique lodging and tent camping options.

Rockford

Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Rockford is a 155-acre living museum filled with spectacular gardens and rare trees. Explore all of nature’s beauty on the 1.8 mile, handicapped-accessible paved path or the 3 miles of chipped trails. Klehm is home to a variety of gardens including a wildflower garden, peony garden (continuing to bloom in early June), and a demonstration garden designed for inspiration. Kids will also love to visit the Children’s Garden featuring an interactive splash pad and fountain. Don’t forget to bring your four-legged friend, because Klehm is dog-friendly and any leashed dog is welcome! 

Visit SI

Nestled in the heart of Marion, IL is the beautiful sanctuary of Mandala Gardens. This seven-acre holistic, creative retreat space features gardens, a labyrinth, greenhouses, a cordwood chicken house, and Thea Alvin’s original stone structures, "Infinity Arch" and "Moongate". Mandala Gardens offers pathways of beauty and hidden benches, as well as being home to Blue Heron Yoga. Beautiful views and peaceful atmosphere, along with all the features of the property, make this one of the most unique places in Southern Illinois. This venue may be used for weddings and private events as well.  

Visit Springfield

Southwind Park, Springfield's most inclusive attraction, sets a new national standard not just for accessibility, but also for environmental excellence. Every area and feature of the 80-acre park exceeds ADA accessibility requirements. Erin's Pavilion is a Platinum LEED-certified building. Other eco-friendly features include wetlands, a wind turbine, solar panels, and a geothermal system.  While you are there, enjoy the fishing piers, gazebo, picnic shelters, and the 8-acre Great Lawn!  Complete with sensory gardens and an urban trail with a navigation system, this is a great place to find inspiration with an abundance of wide-open spaces.

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