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

popular

Article Thumbnail
Columns
Take A Hint. Or Not.

One of the great things about being a columnist is that when you run out of ideas you can steal them from other people.


Article Thumbnail
-Select-
Hope Springs Eternal

"Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to another season of exciting action! I’m Bud Blast–“ “–And I’m Hort Holler–“ “And ...


Article Thumbnail
Columns
Dear Ms. and/or Mr. MacArthur Genius Grant Person

My name is Mike Nowak and, as you can see, I write a column for this very, very, very esteemed magazine. It’s full color and ...


Article Thumbnail
Columns
An Xmas Carol

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. I had done the deed myself...


Article Thumbnail
Features
Flying High

Kay “The Bluebird Lady” MacNeil advocates (and gardens) for wildlife.


questions

I have twelve beautiful blooming violet plants on my office desk, placed 12 inches from a light source that’s kept burning day and night. I water them from the bottom and let the water remain in the saucer.

No matter what I spray, I continue to have gnats and other insects in my soil. I also occasionally start to get yellow spots on the tips of the leaves and then the spots start going down the leaves. What’s going on here?

Is it possible to plant and grow Italian cypress in the Chicago area? Are our winters too severe for it? If they are, is there an alternative conifer that will provide a similar look?

I have a hoya houseplant that has been growing happily for eight years. It had flowers when I received it, but it hasn’t bloomed since. What am I doing wrong? Can I get it to flower?

ChicagolandGardening Advertisement