Advertisement

Fit for a Queen


The juxtaposition is a little jarring at first, and then you start to smile. You’re downtown, driving along Lake Shore Drive, the splendor of the city’s sophisticated architecture for a backdrop, and what do you see as you pass directly east of Buckingham Fountain but hundreds and hundreds of giant yellow-flowering sunflowers. A country flower if there ever was one.

Making the contrast even more striking is the fact that this spot is also called Queen’s Landing because it is actually the location where Queen Elizabeth II disembarked when she arrived in Chicago for the first time.

Usually these giant flower beds are filled with tulips in spring, followed by a mix of annuals for summer, but this year Adam Schwerner, director of natural resources at the Chicago Park District, wanted to do something different and got the bright idea of seeding the beds with nothing but 8-foot tall ‘Mammoth’ sunflowers. Moore Landscapes, Inc. did the work, says Jim Pearson, vice-president for maintenance at Moore.

Gardeners will be surprised at how closely the sunflowers are spaced (I certainly was), but they’re thriving. Pearson filled me in on the history:

“The beds were actually thinned out when the seeds had emerged at around 8 inches,” he recalls. “When they started getting taller, we had every intention of thinning them out again, but CPD liked how thick the planting was and told us to hold off. We also entertained ideas of staking the plants. We were worried about the winds and/or the big flower heads toppling the plants like dominoes. So far they have held up beautifully. The plants may only have about two more weeks of life in them before the blooms are done. The birds and squirrels have already started picking at the seed heads, and people have started pulling the heads off as well.”

All Photos: Natalia Salazar, Chicago Park District

The sunflowers won’t be back next year, says Pearson. Plans are afoot to prep the beds for an immediate permanent planting of flowering shrubs and rose bushes.

categories

Lincoln Park Zoo Advertisement

popular

Article Thumbnail
Columns
A Bit about Bees

Growing bee-friendly plants is one way to help increase the bee population. Another way is to actually raise bees.


Article Thumbnail
Columns
Friends Don’t Let Friends Plant Mint

If “ignorance of the law” is no excuse, does that apply also to the laws of nature? Of physiology? Of reproduction?


Article Thumbnail
Columns
Reflections in the Bleak Mid-Something

This period of the gardening year used to be called “the bleak midwinter.” That song would long ago have been changed to ...


Article Thumbnail
Columns
Mike’s Holiday Hort Sing-Along

I like holiday carols. Really, I do. Honest. Don’t look at me like that. I know it’s hard to tell from the annual hit job I ...


Article Thumbnail
Blog
Butterflies in February?

On a sunny winter day a few years ago, I strolled into our Palos-area garden looking for signs of snowdrops


questions

I have two 20-year-old pine trees whose needles are turning brown on the west side of the plants. On the east side I have a compost pile.

I live in the St. Charles region and my soil is mostly clay. What is causing the browning? Should I get rid of the compost? How do I correct the damage?

I start ‘Dragon Wing’ begonia from seed under grow lights. What other begonias can I use to cross-pollinate with the ‘Dragon Wing’ so I can collect my own seeds?

Would it help to apply a starter fertilizer on a poor green lawn in December? Will it give it a head start for spring? It hasn’t been reseeded.

ChicagolandGardening Advertisement