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

      • I’ve been meaning to do a post on Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens for a while. Your post has given me a wriggle on. I did visit Chicago many years ago for three days, en route to San Francisco via train, but it was mid-winter and freezing and I spent most of my time indoors!

  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!

    • We have just one – a ‘Donald Wyman’ – but I’m thinking of putting one in the back where the flowering dogwood died.

  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

    • I have been on desperate pre-Christmas expeditions to find some toy from Thomas and Friends, so I can appreciate your son’s feelings. You should definitely see if you can do an outing to CBG with the family.

  5. Very nice – looks like you got the perfect weather for it. Such lovely light and great photos! I’d love to have a botanic garden like this near me – you are so lucky!

      • Not near us! In Munich there’s a big park, but it isn’t comparable to your botanic garden!

  6. Chicago has a fabulous Botanic Garden – lucky you, and well done for getting the perfect day for the crab apples, beautiful! I must be missing something but I’ve never really noticed that my crabs have a perfume.

  7. I love crab apples, how wonderful to have somewhere to see them in masse like that. It must be an amazing sight when they are all in fruit too.

  8. Those pink crabapples blooms really tug at my heart strings. Just beautiful. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

    • I can really appreciate it at the CBG, not sure what I would do with it in my own garden. It is a stunner, though, isn’t it?

  9. 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!

    • They must bring them into the greenhouse for the winter. The plant has a thick, woody base so I don’t think it can be grown as an annual.

  10. Thank you for the tour of Chicago Botanic Garden. I love crabapples, and enjoy the one specimen I have. Must buy a couple more. I have lots of space to put them.

  11. What a fabulous place, the towers of jewels are simply amazing!
    Now how can you say those carp are ugly???? lol…they look gorgeous to me!xxx

  12. Perfect day at the CBG! Lucky to see so many crabs in bloom at the same time. Seems like they haven’t held their flowers very long this year, so you picked the right day to go!

    • I realized that this was the weekend to go because I had to go Saturday morning for a class I am taking. Then Judy and I returned the next day to walk.

  13. 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.

      • It is an incredible garden and I delight in it every time I go. There is also the Shaw Nature Preserve out in Gray Summit, MO that is known for its native plantings.

  14. A real pleasure garden, I’d say. Amazed to see the Echium–never heard of it. My garden mentor had a lovely crabapple and always shared her jelly with us.

  15. Hi Jason, wow, that’s a really beautiful botanic garden and looks stunning right now, especially the crabapple blossom, I’m glad you have caught it as its best.

  16. I have been thinking of planting a white crabapple tree this year and after seeing all those beauties in bloom at the gardens I am convinced it is the right idea. Now which one?

  17. Prairie Fire seems very popular around Chicago now, excellent disease resistance. Here’s a link: mortonarb.org/trees-plants/tree-plant-descriptions/crabapple-cultivars.

  18. Jason, what a fantastic place you are very fortunate to live close by. Your photographs are also really lovely in this post.

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