The fact that this garden is beautiful is no surprise, with talent like Piet Oudolf and Gustafson Guthrie involved. What is unique about this public space is the way it works with nature. The plants are tough, picked to thrive in the existing conditions. Many of the perennials are native to North America. All are chosen to fit the climate and soil found in this garden, without coddling. The botanical diversity assures discoveries that surprise and delight every time you visit.
There’s no boring sameness ever,even in winter as the ravages of wind and snow bring down the mass of last year’s growth. There is a cycle…of birth, life, death and rebirth. Wet or dry,very hot or unusually cool. The main players change, favored by cicumstance to stand out–and that includes the pests. Plants are not force-fed to grow larger and bloom longer like some perpetual beauty queen. Each is allowed to do its best in its time.
Although not designed as a wildlife habitat, the Lurie easily qualifies. A diversity of plant species provide nectar,pollen and seed. A lack of pesticides or herbicides keeps the insect population high. Each migration season brings more bird visits. Strolling through the garden in late summer you will see clouds of monarch butterflies fluttering past and hanging from flowers like ornaments from a Christmas tree. Neighboring City Hall honeybees forage on warm sunny days.
When I talk with visitors that are moved to say something, it becomes clear that though not everyone loves it, everyone feels it. This connection, this alliance with nature, feeds a growing need in gardeners and urban park visitors for a space outside that is green and growing and seems to take into consideration the often accompanying concern…for themselves and the earth.
Want to know more? Check out this fantastic slide show that illustrates Oudolf’s idea of what birth, life, and death in a garden is all about. And then head over to Northwind Perennial Farm, which supplies the plants for the Lurie garden, and finally, visit our friends at Powell’s to get a look at Oudolf’s inspiring books.