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The show runs through Mother's Day.
The show runs through Mother's Day. Photo: Chicago Park District

“Understory: Layers of Light” spring showcase runs through Sunday, May 12

The Garfield Park Conservatory brings the forest to Chicago’s West Side for this year’s Spring Flower Show. The show entitled ‘Understory: Layers of Light’ takes visitors into the natural landscape of a forest ecosystem and its habitat. Conservatory visitors will walk under the trees arching upwards toward the light of the sun piercing through the greenhouse’s glass panels and learn about the mosaic of plants, shrubs, mushrooms and flowers that thrive under the forest canopy and above the forest floor. 

The understory is the underlying layer of vegetation in a forest or wooded area. This area is decorated with an assortment of seedlings and saplings of canopy trees together with shrubs, herbs and the Conservatory’s historic azalea collection, and flowers blooming at the first light of spring. 

For the duration of the exhibit, the Show House has been transformed into a “woodland”, with tree stumps, boulders, and trees. Fallen trees, hanging vines, and even mushrooms make visitors feel like they have stepped into a forest to catch an early glimpse of spring.

The Conservatory will be hosting interpretive panels in the Show House to explain how light impacts the growth and development of the variety of plants that thrive in the forest.  Guests may also opt to engage in a digital tour or participate in an exciting scavenger hunt to identify and understand additional understory plants in the other display houses. 

The show opened on Valentine’s Day.   The Conservatory, located at 300 N. Central Park Ave., is open Thursday thru Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

“A visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory’s annual Spring Showcase is an annual tradition for many Chicagoans dreaming of warmer temperatures,” said Chicago Park District CEO & Superintendent Michael P. Kelly. “This year’s captivating display of nature’s hidden beauty is sure to inspire the explorer in all of us.” 

The Conservatory's Show House is filled with fragrant spring trees and flowers ready to be discovered.  Live flora, consisting of azaleas, daffodils, camellias, tulips, freesia, African daisy, geraniums, ranunculus, stock, snapdragons, Marguerite daisy and weeping cherry, is a welcoming sight for all adventurers looking for an enriching experience. 

The living exhibit transports visitors into a secluded forest where imaginations can run wild. Visitors are encouraged to tag @gpconservatory on Instagram and use #UnderstoryGPC and #SeeAtGPC. 

The showcase will be on display through Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019. Admission to the Conservatory is free. 

The Lincoln Park Conservatory is also showcasing a wide variety of spring blooms under the Victorian glass roof of this historic greenhouse until Sunday, May 12, 2019.


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The Garfield Park Conservatory was built in 1907 by celebrated landscape architect Jens Jensen, the “dean” of the prairie school of architecture. Opening to the public in 1908, the landmark building is one of the largest gardens under glass in the world. It was one of the first conservatories to display plants in a natural-looking, landscaped setting instead of grouped in pots, a revolutionary idea at the time. Its mission statement proclaims it “a botanical haven in an urban setting.” The Conservatory is located 15 minutes west of downtown, in the midst of the beautiful boulevards of Chicago’s west side. The Conservatory has been producing seasonal flower shows for more than 90 years, since its’ opening. The Conservatory offers a full range of educational programs, family activities, guided tours and special events, including a free JuiceBox concert series, yoga with goats, and plant sales.  

The Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, works in partnership with the Chicago Park District to provide education programs, visitor services and cultural events at the Conservatory for more than 245,000 visitors each year.

The Chicago Park District is the 2014 Gold Medal Award winner, recognized for excellence in park and recreation management across the nation. For more information about the Chicago Park District’s more than 8,800 acres of parkland, more than 600 parks, 26 miles of lakefront, 12 museums, two world-class conservatories, 16 historic lagoons, nearly 50 nature areas, thousands of special events, sports and entertaining programs, please visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com or contact the Chicago Park District at 312/742.PLAY or 312/747.2001 (TTY). Want to share your talent? Volunteer in the parks by calling, 312/742.PLAY.