“Urbs in Horto” (City in a Garden), Motto of the city of Chicago adopted in 1837 and appears on Chicago's Corporate Seal. The Chrysanthemum is Chicago's official flower.
I worked as a landscaper/gardener for about five years, so a book that combines horticulture, history and gardening makes me happier than a Pelargonium (geranium) in compost. Cathy Jean Maloney's new release, Chicago Gardens: The Early History, covers Chicago's rich horticultural heritage "from the first vegetable plots at Fort Dearborn to innovative garden designs at the 1933 World’s Fair."
I've just received the book and have only "green-thumbed" through it, but I can already tell it is going to provide rich fodder for future posts. A review will be forthcoming, but do check out the University of Chicago Press website for the book preview and Five Legacy Gardens from Chicago Gardens.
Now, I've got a little story from my gardening days that I'd like to share.
As I said, I worked as a landscaper/gardener for a few years. (I've had a very "mosaic" career.) It was basically only myself and the company owner, but we did very well and had many distinguished clients. One of our clients was Lois Weisberg. Yes, THAT Lois Weisberg.
One spring day we were working at Lois' lake shore home. I think I had just cleaned out her little pond because I recall that I was covered in muck and sweat. Not a pretty sight - or smell -, if you get my drift.
All of a sudden, here comes Lois down the steps to the garden. I glanced up and noticed there was another woman with her.
"Sharon," Lois called. "Come say hello to Maggie."
Yep, you got it. It was Maggie Daley, the Mayor's wife; First Lady of Chicago.
Ever had one of those moments where you would very much like the earth to open up and swallow you? Well, Mrs. Daley was extremely gracious, and we had a lovely talk. She had just returned from the Chelsea Flower Show and had a flower named after her (I think it was an astilbe or maybe a rose.) I won't ever forget that moment because, for me, standing there with Lois Weisberg and Mrs. Daley, I was with the city of Chicago in a garden.
Gardening (Encyclopedia of Chicago)
Park Districts (Encyclopedia of Chicago)
Prairie Farmer (Encyclopedia of Chicago)
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Prairie Farmer, Vol. 56, No. 2, January 12, 1884, by Various
World Business Chicago, "Urbs in Horto," September, 2006