Crabapple Blossoms at the Chicago Botanic Garden

It’s not always easy to get to the Chicago Botanic Garden for the peak of the crabapple blossoms. It only lasts a few days, and the dates can be unpredictable. The weather is not always cooperative, and a badly timed rainstorm can put a quick end to all the fragile beauty.

Crabapple blossoms at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Crabapple blossoms at the Chicago Botanic Garden

It’s worth making the effort, however. There are hundreds of crabapple trees planted around a small artificial lake called the Great Basin. The most common varieties are ‘Donald Wyman’, ‘Prairie Fire’, ‘Profusion’, ‘Calocarpa’, and various Japanese flowering crabs. At the right time, the masses of bloom are a joyful and uplifting sight.

Tower of Jewels (Echium wildpretii) outside the English Walled Garden.
Tower of Jewels (Echium wildpretii) outside the English Walled Garden.

Today happened to be that rare perfect day to see the crabapples at their peak, so Judy and I took advantage of it. The weather was mild and sunny, the sky a perfect blue. Once we got to CBG, we headed for the Great Basin. To get there, we walked through the Heritage Garden and then the English Walled Garden.

Iceland poppies newly planted on a hillside.
Iceland poppies newly planted on a hillside.

On the other side of the English Walled Garden there is a hillside that is planted with Iceland poppies every spring. The poppies had just been planted, so they hadn’t yet filled in. Even so, I loved seeing them glow like multi-colored jewels. This may be a wasteful practice, as the poppies do not last long, but I’m glad they do this.

Late Narcissus under the crabapple blossoms.
Late Narcissus under the crabapple blossoms.

Finally, we came to a wide path with fragrant crabapples on either side. There are still some late Narcissus under the crabs. Nepeta, windflower, marsh spurge, and dwarf borage are also included in the underplanting.

Bridge to Evening Island.
Bridge to Evening Island.

There is a bridge surrounded by massive weeping willows that leads to a part of the garden called Evening Island.

Carillon tower on Evening Island.
Carillon tower on Evening Island.

After crossing the bridge, we could see the carillon tower on Evening Island. During the summer there are Tuesday evening carillon concerts. Don’t get too close to the tower when the bells start ringing. I’m not a big fan of Euphorbia, but when it is massed this way I see the appeal.

Tunnel of flowering crabapples.
Tunnel of flowering crabapples.

During long stretches of our walk, we were in a veritable tunnel of flowering crab.

Pink crabapple blossoms and buds.
Pink crabapple blossoms and buds.

 

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It was a very leisurely walk, as it was hard not to stop and inspect the pink and white blossoms – and see which ones were most fragrant.

West bridge back to main garden.
West bridge back to main garden.

Gradually we made it to the second, western bridge back to the main part of the garden.

Ugly carp at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Ugly carp at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

While crossing back we saw some very large and ugly carp.

Crabs across the water.
Crabs across the water.

We could also get a good view of the blooming crabapples across the water.

CBG woodland walk.
CBG woodland walk.

On our way back to the entrance, we strolled through CGB’s woodland walk. Virginia bluebells, brunnera, primroses, and bleeding heart bloomed beneath the dappled shade of yellow birches.

Late tulips glowing in the afternoon sun.
Late tulips glowing in the afternoon sun.

We also got to take in the tail end of CBG’s tulip season. The light made the tulips glow, even the fading ones.

Thomas the Tank Engine rides the rails at CBG.
Thomas the Tank Engine rides the rails at CBG.

Finally, CBG has a very fine model railroad tucked away in a corner, but you have to pay extra to go in and see it. However, as we were walking past Judy was able to get a decent shot of Thomas the Tank Engine as he chugged past.

And so we bid farewell to the crabapple blossoms, to CBG, to Thomas (and to Mr. Conductor, of course). It was a very satisfying visit.

52 Comments on “Crabapple Blossoms at the Chicago Botanic Garden”

  1. Ugly carp? That depends on if you are another carp. I am sure Mrs. Carp has a different opinion. We all agree that this garden is fabulous! i love the Tower of Jewels, the woodland walk and all of the crabapples. This garden proves the principle that, in gardening, more is more!

  2. What a treasure your city has. I might even be tempted to visit Chicago next year just to see and SMELL that myself. Sigh. haha and I totally agree with debsgarden about the carp. What kind of person says mean things about carp? 😉

  3. Not to mention the scent of all those Crabapples! I can only imagine! We have only three on our lot and it smells incredible right now. I need to get over to the Chicago Botanic Garden again one of these days. I’ll miss the Crabapples this year, but I’m sure the summer displays will be fabulous, too. Thanks for sharing the highlights of your visit! Beautiful images!

  4. AHHHHH I was going to talk about the crabapples but then I saw the TRAIN!!! I have not been here since before the beans were born and we are always on the hunt for Thomas for my son or any train for that matter! Mom would get to take in the garden and my bean would see a train! A win win! But seriously! The shots that you got from across the lake are just out of this world! So glad you both were able to take it all in! Nicole

  5. Wow, Jason, Everything I have ever read, I didn’t think the Tower of Jewels (Echium wildpretii) bloomed anywhere near our zone!!! Do you know if the CGB treats them as hot house plants or plants them as annuals, or what? I’ve always though them a biennial zone 8 or 9!

  6. I love the crabapples in bloom. Growing up, we had a lovely tree in the front yard. In all my years in Chicago (6) and the area (another 2), I regret I never went to the garden there. Lovely photos on a lovely day. Thanks for sharing.

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