Mar 19, 2008

Wintry Chicago Botanic Gardens, Ikebana, Protea and Banksia

We went to Chicago Botanic Gardens (CBG) past two weekends with Srini and Brindhaa to explore the wintry gardens and to enjoy an Ikebana show. The gardens were all snowed in yet it was an exhilarating experience to walk though the gardens. The hope that all this white canvas will soon be transformed into a fiesta of colors by the multicolored spring palette is uplifting. There is much to enjoy at CBG even when the gardens are snowed in. The three greenhouses filled with tropical, semi-tropical and desert plants can transport you to a warm, flowery locale. There are orchids, plantains, hibiscuses, jasmines, amaryllis, huge cacti and several fruiting plants in these greenhouses. Beautiful to look at and very refreshing! The collage below is that of the greenhouses. Soon, the whole garden will fill up with as much color and fragrance.


The garden was also holding an Ikebana flower show when we visited.
Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. There are different schools of Ikebana and when we visited, the Sogetsu school was displaying their artform. Ikebana has three main schools at present: Ikenobo (classic), Ohara and Sogetsu. The Sogetsu style promotes Ikebana as a modern art form which encourages free and creative expressions. There were two different arrangements in the show that had flowers that I had never seen upfront. A Protea and a Banksia. Although I wasn't much impressed with the looks of the protea flower, what amazed me was its size. It was huge. Banksia flower was small but unique. Both flowers were unlike any I had seen before and I was curious to find more about these flowers.


Both Protea And Banksia belong to family Proteaceae and are generally evergreen shrubs and small trees . The genus Protea has 115 species. The King Protea (Protea cynariodes) has huge flowerheads (upto 12 inches wide) with widely spaced, pointed, downy pink bracts which cover a central dome of pink flowers. It is the national flower of South Africa. The genus Banksia, on the other hand, consists of only about 76 known species that are found widely in Australia. Many species in both genera are facing extinction or are considered endangered. Protea and Banksia species are quite popular in the exotic cut flowers industry.


The wintry gardens of CBG are a treat, but with spring soon approaching I am waiting with bated breath for the gardens to turn into a flowery haven.

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