Chicago welcomes the return of Spring: scylla in Lincoln Park

scylla in Lincoln Park4

photo by Jennifer Stevenson

Lincoln Park in Chicago is built, though many people don’t know this, on landfill. So was Lake Shore Drive, along the east side of which runs Lincoln Park’s eighteen miles of biking, walking, and roller-skating trails.

A hundred and thirty years ago, the lakeshore on the north side had already been built upon: skyscrapers of 20 and 30 storeys, fine apartment houses heated with steam with and ornamented with gorgeous glazed tile, and the occasional stately single-family home, when Daniel Burnham (“Make no small plans”) helped set aside this and thousands of acres of other public spaces for parks to be enjoyed by the public, many years ago.

photo by Jennifer Stevenson

photo by Jennifer Stevenson

The entire north side lakefront, which includes three yachting harbors and a sculling school, numerous random basketball courts, a zoo, elegant old restroom buildings made of brick and glazed tile, a golf course whose pro shop looks like a darling chapel and sometimes serves as one for weddings, vast installations of soccer fields and tennis courts, a bike rental shop, many delicious concession stands, a bird sanctuary, a kite hill, a shooting range (now defunct), a trapeze school, picnic areas galore, a famous volleyball tournament zone, a grand bike path for those hardy enough to brave the wind, a huge dog beach, multiple people beaches, a nature museum, a history museum, a giant glass confection of a conservatory, formal gardens, a summer theatre, an outdoor chess tournament facility, and a massive park district building shaped like an ocean liner, was created by Chicago from the rubble of the Chicago fire when Burnham saw that there was no lakefront left for the citizens to enjoy.

photo by Jennifer Stevenson

photo by Jennifer Stevenson

The tiny section of Lincoln Park pictured in these photos lies north of what we used to call Waveland Golf Course. This is a not-very sylvan bit of woods composed of weed trees and mud that runs along the lake side of the bike path. Usually it looks like an unloved dumping ground for broken lumber and auto tires. But wait, what’s that blue stuff on the ground back there?

Scylla was planted here so long ago that it has completely naturalized. If you’ve ever planted scylla in your own yard, you know how many years it takes to make a carpet of blue like this.

It’s like finding a chunk of abandoned parking lot that’s paved with gold, thanks to the energy and foresight of public gardeners many years ago.

Do you have scylla blooming in your yard right now? What else is finally showing color? Post a (small) picture below!

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Chicago welcomes the return of Spring: scylla in Lincoln Park — 7 Comments

  1. I don’t know how to put pix in comments, and anyway my “garden” is the size of a bed quilt, but that blue is really, really beautiful.

  2. Spring started very early this year, but is progressing quite slowly. I love bulbs that one can leave in the ground to multiply and naturalise, which means my garden is the first on our street to have flowers each year, with cyclamen and snowdrops. I’ve still got yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) in flower, and purple anemone blanda, and pale blue pushkinia libanotica shaped like tiny hyacinths (those do much better in my garden than the real blue tiny scilla siberica or the starry blue-and-white chionodoxa, which I both love); the small early daffodils tete-a-tete are blooming in clumps, as well as the crocusses. The larger white actea narcissi that have such a wonderful fragrance will follow, and the hyacinths – they’re growing tall but not blooming yet. Same goes for the wild woods hyacinth scilla non-scripta which will bloom in pink clumps among my pulmonaria. They’re the same bulbs that had blue flowers when I planted them years ago, but in a few years they’ve all turned pink. Maybe they’re like hortensias, and my clay soil is not acidic nor iron-rich enough to sustain the blue color? They also grow in a little (somewhat boggy) wood nearby, and create a heavenly-smelling and gorgeous-looking bluebell wood, like the one you’ve pictures, by the end of april just as the bog oaks start to leaf out. For a few weeks each year that tiny scrap of boggy wood is pure heaven, until the flowers are goneand the wood comes alive with mosquitos from the peat creeks running through it…

  3. Ha! I spent all my babysitting money on renting livery horses and riding through Lincoln Park. Loved that park, and still do, though I’m not often in Chicago. It was great to see your photos! The only things starting to show are the lilies, and the bunnies are chomping them down as quickly as they can gain a half inch! I need to find more rabbit resistant early bloomers!

    • OMG Cee I didn’t know you lived here for a while! That livery stable is not there any more, sadly, but we still get mounted cops during big events in Lincoln Park.