Chicago’s Sidewalk Gardens are Urban Chic!

by / 12 Comments / 1940 View / August 23, 2008


I had Chicago all wrong!

Chicago IS a model for sidewalk garden urban chic and a shining example of urban renewal.

I was expecting downtown Chicago to be another congested, concrete jungle, as is the case with many high profile cities.

As a Los Angeles native, born and raised downtown, I had low expectations for Chicago based on my experience here.


The Chicago streetscapes  along Michigan Avenue in Chicago's famed "Magnificent Mile" area are jaw-dropping beautiful!


Apparently, the taxes  there are outrageous, but many of the merchants  contribute and fund these gardens that beautify storefronts, restaurants, hotels and offices.

Great example of someone else's sacrifice for my enjoyment!


Chicago Independent Garden Center Show at Navy Pier by Shirley Bovshow

Entrance to the Independent Garden Center trade show


I was in Chicago to report on the latest gardening products showcased at the Independent Garden Center Show.

But, I have to admit, I was a little distracted.


To my surprise,  there was a proliferation of neat and tidy curbside gardens everywhere, even in the parking lots!


I was so busy scoping out the gardens, I didn't pay attention to the "A-List"  fashion stores along the boulevard.

There's nothing like free entertainment and this garden lover enjoyed it in spades!


Check out these fashionably coordinated gardens and garden art installations along Michigan Avenue and some lesser traveled side street gardens.


I wish my Los Angeles urban areas looked like this:


Chicago's Magnificant Mile Gardens


Umbrella Dress in chicago street side garden

























"Umbrella garden" dress with  tropical coleus and impatiens plants.



recycled bottle caps used to fashion a dress in chicago street side garden

Recycled bottle cap dress and pink begonias



Coke Dress and coca cola necklace chicago street side garden


























Coca cola dress in lush garden




Fake flowers never looked so fashionable!




Pristine lawn and flower beds with red impatiens and sweet potato vine to enjoy from behind an iron fence.




Re-purposed shower curtain dress on a mannequin used as focal point in this garden.




Recycled table cloth dress on mannequin in small garden surrounded by box hedge and filled with white impatiens.



For more information on this garden walk, check out:




Just another "median strip garden"  filled with red fountain grass, purple salvia, red begonias and yellow marigolds  in Chicago.


Downtown Chicago is a premiere garden destination!




This curbside dining oasis was shared by at least four different restaurants.


The small gesture of placing dining tables behind simple, white picket fence panels transfomed a humble sidewalk into a dining destination!

Add container gardens and you have "Eden-esque" dining.

I didn't even notice the cars!





This is my kind of bus stop. I wouldn't mind waiting here for an hour!


The sound of water trickling from this stone fountain creates enough white noise to distract and muffle the sound of traffic for the weary traveler.

I was so absorbed by it, I missed the bus!




Cordyline, coleus, sweet potato, impatiens, red begonia….a little color in downtown Chicago





This is the best dressed fire hydrant I've ever seen!


Even the dogs show  respect for it!

It's cool how the red fire hydrant takes on a sculptural role in this small curbside garden.





Croton madness!


This red monochromatic planting scheme was hanging on a brick wall in front of a hotel.

Downtown Chicagoan's tuck their plants everywhere.


Garden enthusiasts will be thrilled by the "free garden tours" in downtown Chicago.

Make a point to visit to the Chicago Botanical Gardens while you are there.

Don't miss it!

12 Comment

  1. […] 4′ x 1′ x 8′ approx. Corrugated cardboard, copper wire. Feb 2011. This was my first project in the class. We were assigned to use cardboard as our medium. I was inspired by the art dress installation I saw on The Magnificent Mile in Chicago in 2008 […]

  2. Hello,
    Do you happen to have photos of the 2009 Magnificient Mile Displays . I mapped out a common pattern amongst most of the flower beds used in most of the floral arrangements and wanted some pictures to accompany them.
    Btw, the Coca-Cola corsets are not original. There was an artist, I forget the gallery (near Deep Ellum in Dallas, TX) who wove a womens corset entirely of 2 liter sprite bottle strips back in 2005.


  3. Shirley, thanks for sharing your photos of Michigan Avenue. When we visited Chicago a couple of summers ago, I just fell in love with the town and the gardens and went home wondering why Kansas City can’t do that. I don’t care if these gardens are artificial or not or whatever – they make people smile. It was so much fun seeing the wedding parties have their pictures taken in the gardens! It is a memory I will always treasure. Did you visit Garfield Park Conservatory?

  4. I love the pictures of my hometown, thanks for sharing

    Tracy Learner

  5. Hey Shirley,
    Great post on my home town!
    BTW, Your awards /online broadcast is too cool… Mwah!
    I thought I left a comment yesterday on your LinkedIn thread for Chicago’s Street-side Gardens! But I don’t see it…
    I wrote a few features after my late-summer trip this year, on a host of fab sightings from Millennium Park to Chicago’s North Side:
    Here’s a link to the series on Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel:
    Also the new Pritzker Garden in the Art Institute’s Renzo Piano-designed wing!

  6. I’ve admired Chicago’s dedication to public plantings for years. The miles of potted bulbs in the spring are amazing. And whenever I visit I can’t go out for a morning walk without seeing teams of people planting, watering and tending the hundreds of flower beds all over downtown. Another reason that Chicago is such a great city! Our little city of Portland, Maine has some great gardens that inspired me to write an article for a local magazine this summer. Residents in one of our historic neighborhoods plant “sidewalk gardens” that are really pretty impressive. I planted my own recently and its amazing how most people treat it with total respect.

  7. My wife and I visited Chicago in early August and found the planting colorful, but for the most part artificial. They can be commended for providing some eye distraction from the usual street scene, but I found most of the displays reminded me of a florist shop gone overboard. I can imagine that the people of Chicago paid more than a bit of small change to achieve this effect. Perhaps next time they could use some more subtlety.

  8. You must check out Lincoln Park and the Sheffield Gardens district next visit; and when the holidays roll around, Michigan Ave is again a trendsetting- OMG-Who-Pays-For-All-This?! showstopper. The creative, unique solutions to evergreens, twigs and ornaments is inspirational!

  9. Thanks Anna, glad you enjoyed it.

  10. It actually made me want to visit there! The ladies are all decked out fashionably with their recycled garb. I’m glad you took the time to capture that. It is very entertaining and done professionally too. The street containers and wall plantings were well thought out. You are correct—it is all very bold but also had a cottage flair to it–which I love.

    The city of Lexington just south of my town, is called the BBQ capitol of the world. They have pigs all decked out in some sort of attire. And let’s see–in NYC it’s bulls–I think. I’ve seen that theme-y thing done a few times the past few years and I think it makes for some friendly competition amongst the artist in town. Most of the time, a lot of effort has gone in to the design and materials. They get auctioned off too===for big bucks to charity. Then the folks who buy them display them beside their shops. It attracts a crowd.

    Well done Shirley–I enjoyed the trip.

  11. Welcome to EdenMakers Linda! I just visited your blog and see that you are also an Eden Maker. I invite you to come back soon.

  12. So glad you enjoyed your visit to my hometown Shirley. I love to stroll down Michigan Avenue and enjoy the planters. The neighborhoods are filled with gorgeous home gardens too. I enjoy visiting my daughters who live on the north side, and viewing their neighborhood front gardens and courtyards. Strolls through the museum campus, the college campuses, and the lakefront are picturesque treats as well.

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