Bonsai, Silks & Ceviche at the Chicago Botanic Garden Art Show

Sometimes you just have to take a ride.

With a long 4th of July weekend ahead of me, I headed an hour north to the Chicago Botanic Garden for their annual art festival. I’ve only been to the garden once in the dead of winter but I fell in love, even with not a thing being in bloom. I’ve been wanting to go back in summertime for over a year now and saw the art festival as my chance to kill two birds with one stone.


I was pleasantly surprised to see a large number of artists set up on the beautiful grounds. I spent over an hour perusing booths that ranged from jewelry to ceramics to woodwork to glass blowing to water marbling, yes, some weird art form called water marbling. Allow me to explain.

Shibumi Silks was a vendor on site for the show that allowed you to create your own silk scarf using an ancient Japanese art called Suminagashi. The practice consists of swirling paints in an ammonia-water solution to create a custom design that can be imprinted on fabric. Check out the video below to see the practice in action.


If learning about this new Asian art form wasn’t cool enough, the garden had a beautiful Bonsai collection to match. Most trees ranged from 30-70 years old with one being as old as 150 years! Being surrounded by these small, mini-forests was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I wanted to meditate right there in the plaza but I also couldn’t stop staring at their every little intricacy.


Another pleasant surprise I encountered was the Summer Chef Series held in the fruit & vegetable garden. Each week in summer the garden invites a Chicago chef to utilize fresh ingredients from their yield for a cooking demonstration. On this particular day we got to learn from Chef Leonard Hollander of Arbor Projects in Logan Square.

He spoke about the unusual way his restaurant works with guests never receiving a paper menu or even getting to choose what they want to eat. As Chef put it, “You essentially just kinda let me know what will kill you and I won’t give you that.”

He also spoke about how food can be an artistic form of expression and the importance of growing your own food for sustainability reasons. He was extremely funny and insightful and the zucchini-shrimp ceviche he made for us was a refreshing summer snack with it’s sharp, citrus bite.

So, even though I was alone at the show, I got to connect with some insanely talented artists, appreciate the beauty and stillness of nature while discovering a great new restaurant to try in the city.

So next time you have the chance to venture out somewhere new, do it. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll eat.

-Stacey P.

The Chicago Botanic Garden constantly has activities and events going on. Check their calendar for cooking, gardening, yoga and kid’s classes. They’re so much more than just a place to walk around at.

My favorites:
Stop by the gift shop before you leave to pick up some seeds to plant, they have a huge selection of flowers, fruits and veggies. The sunflower seeds I got last year were some of the best I’ve ever had grow!


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