After pulling apart the peonies and deadheading the last of the mums, gardeners will take a long look at their backyards and head indoors to plan for next season. And as the hostas yellow and wilt outside, nature enthusiasts can take shelter with—and inspiration from—the stories in Cathy Jean Maloney’s beautiful new book, Chicago Gardens: The Early History.
Maloney has spent decades researching the city’s horticultural heritage, and her latest book reveals the remarkable story of Chicago’s first gardeners. Challenged by the region’s clay soil and harsh winters, Midwestern pioneers were forced to find imaginative uses for prairie plants, pounding salsify into gravy and grinding grain into coffee. Innovative nurserymen and florists would later develop a market for local fruit and flowers, in part by naming their varieties after Chicago’s well-known: the Mrs. Potter Palmer Carnation, for example, as well as the well-grown: the Bridgeport Chicago Drumhead Cabbage, in honor of the neighborhood’s Irish inhabitants. Gardening was no longer simply a way to fill one’s belly, but also a way to line one’s pockets. By the late 1880’s, Chicago had become the nation’s produce hub.
Today, Chicago earns the limelight as a leader in “green” cities. Chicago Gardens unveils a tradition of horticultural innovation—a story too long hidden under a bushel basket.
Read the press release.
Also see a special web feature for the book, five Chicago gardens.