Winter Flower & Train Show
The Lincoln Park Conservatory is one of two conservatories in Chicago owned and operated by the Chicago Park District. It was designed by Victorian era architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee in Collaboration with architect M.E. Bell. The Lincoln Park Conservatory was built in phases between 1890 and 1895. It was designed to grow plants needed by the parks and to showcase exotic plants. With the spread of gardening and "tropical plants" available for purchase now many of these plants don't get the reaction from someone like me that they would have years ago. Regardless, the staff does a great job reinventing the conservatory with various exhibits to draw in new visitors and jaded gardeners like myself.
One such exhibit that draws me in every time it comes on my radar is the Winter Flower & Train Show at the Lincoln Park Conservatory. I can't get enough of it no matter how many times I've seen it. The only drawback of this exhibit is the fact that the show room is filled with poinsettias and I hate poinsettias with an irrational passion. Poinsettias are the Stepford Wives of the gardening world and whenever I'm in a room with them I try to avoid looking directly at them.
Unfortunately for me the Winter Flower & Train show consists of truck loads of poinsettias in every color imaginable. Red, pink, white- they were all there. It is a good thing the staff of the LPC has better sense than to use those spray-painted/glittered ones you see in Walmart because I would have thrown a fit to rival that of any of the yuppie toddlers that packed the show room. Poinsettias act as the background (and foreground, really) of most of the village the model trains wind through in this exhibit. I spent so much time avoiding looking directly at them that I failed to pay attention to the supporting cast of plants and flowers in the exhibit. The model trains and villages they wind through are almost enough to make me forget about the poinsettias all around. The "villages" made up of willow, spruce and birches consist of a few Chicago- style homes, landmarks and (my favorite) bridges! The model trains were not the easiest thing to photograph so I've included a short video I made of them (at the end of the post) for any model train nerds, kids or kids at heart who may come across this. I tell myself every year that I'm going to create a model train garden, maybe this year will be the year. You can click on the images for larger views.
A replica of Chicago's Dearborn Station. Designed by Cyrus L.W.Eidlitz Dearborn Station opened in 1885 and is an example of awesome architecture from the days before modern aviation surpassed rail. The plant behind it is labeled Euphorbia leucocephala or "Snows of Kilimanjaro."
Another icon of the Chicago landscape. This is the Chicago Theater it opened in 1921.
Here a model freight train crosses a bridge suspended over a pond. You can see this train and "village" better in the video. I didn't spend enough time trying to capture it in still photos due to the size and shape.
Click on the image to get a larger and better view into the greenhouse. It is situated in the the same village as the train above. If you can't make out the tableau; Lady's Slipper orchid on the bench in the upper left hand corner. The red plants are potted poinsettias (ugh!) and roses. Strewn on the floor are terracotta pots and a garden hose perhaps knocked over by the little orange cat.
A model of an Amtrak train rides above on an elevated platform. The tree to the right is an olive tree. This train and village are seen better in the video but you can click the image for a larger view.
The Chicago Water Tower opened in 1869 and was one of the few buildings that survived the Great Chicago fire of 1871. The green shrub in the upper right is Rhaphiolepis indica or "Indian Hawthorn" underplanted with variegated English ivy. The green mound under the white poinsettia is Ficus pumila or "Creeping Fig" which make a great groundcover for terrariums.
Here a train zips through the lower level that the Amtrak train rides above. You can also click on this image for a larger view but it is better seen in the video.
A wider view of the image above the train zips in front of a row of buildings. I like the little potted plants used to landscape the houses.
These two houses sat on the outer-edge of the village with the freight train that crossed over the pond. Euphorbia "Diamond Frost" is what the front "yard" is landscaped with.
Another shot of the train one image up that zips across an urban street that semi-represents a real street in Chicago. Again the little potted plant in front helps sell these houses.
This little house is probably my favorite as it most invokes a winter scene. Again, Euphorbia "Diamond Frost" with some dead tree branches representing dormant trees. I can even forgive the white poinsettias because they really help create the winter feel.
This row house comes in a close second as my favorite. It is situated to the left of the house above. Just to repeat myself, the Winter Flower & Train exhibit always makes me want to build a model train garden but I don't think I have the room and patience for such an endeavor. A cool spin on a theme garden like this would be one created indoors with small houseplants and or cacti & succulents. If anyone in Chicago has a permanent model train garden please contact me I'd love to visit one.