If you still haven’t had your fill of the joys of the season, visit the Chicago Botanic Garden and experience the magic of Wonderland Express. Chicago Botanic Garden transforms into a winter wonderland with exquisite holiday displays featuring more than 750,000 LED lights that illuminate the garden starting at the main entrance leading you to the exhibition inside the Regenstein Center. The greenhouses are decked out with lush topiaries, poinsettias and orchids, and walls inside the Regenstein Center are adorned with wreaths decorated by garden staff. Meanwhile garden-scale trains wind their way over bridges and through tunnels, past waterfalls and more than 80 miniature versions of Chicago landmarks handcrafted with natural materials like twigs, bark, acorns, leaves and pebbles, creating a 10,000-square-foot horticultural wonder.
If you venture to the outdoor gardens, look for scenic vistas across the water, the golden branches of weeping willows, red-twig dogwoods, picturesque pines and spruces and colorful fruits that offer interest to visitors and hungry birds.
Beginning on Jan. 19, the Joutras Gallery will offer the Woodcut exhibit. In a remarkable ink and paper documentation, Bryan Nash Gill captures the miracle of nature and time through every line, crack and tree ring. Woodcut reveals the fascinating history of individual trees through prints made of cross-sections of salvaged wood.
Gill is a contemporary artist living and working in New Hartford, Conn. His work has been displayed in numerous galleries and included in collections across the globe. Woodcut showcases 31 original artist prints, a video of Gill working in his studio, and a wood block of an English oak tree that once stood at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Most of the salvaged wood highlighted in Gill’s prints, including an old telephone pole and a tree hit by lightning, is from land near his home. He sands and burns the wood to prepare it, before creating the print by pressing paper onto the individual ridges and shapes unique to each block. The prints are made by hand, and each is unique.
Also on display, are three custom benches crafted from an ash tree. The tree grew at the garden until it was invaded by the emerald ash borer and removed. It was milled in the spring at World Environment Day, 2012. The tops of the benches were sanded and sealed in the garden’s carpenter shop.
Featured in the exhibition is Gill’s handmade print, English Oak. It was created from a garden tree that was one of a pair along the back road, located just north of the Dixon Prairie. It was removed after it began to grow into the neighboring tree, diminishing the health of both. Since that time, the health of the remaining tree has been restored.
The garden provided a cross section of the tree to Gill, who created 18 original artist variation prints covering the tree’s life. This print is available in the garden shop.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is easy to find and easy to reach, approximately 20 miles north of Chicago, at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe. The Chicago Botanic Garden is open every day of the year, and winter hours are from 8 a.m. until sunset.
Admission is free. Parking fees are $20 per car, $25 per van and $7 for senior citizens on Tuesdays.
For more information, visit www.chicagobotanic.org or call 847-835-5440.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the garden. Today, 2.5 million plants, 26 gardens and four natural areas thrive there.