Mayor Daley Goes to the Dentist

coneflowers and skyscrapers at Lurie Garden

Who transforms a dentist visit into a public garden to bless fellow citizens? These are the stories that come alive as garden writers gather together. Communicators from the gardening industry ventured to Chicago this month, uniting to spur each other on to be the best at what we do—bringing garden stories to you!

garden writers gather in Lurie Garden by Kirk BrownWe work to inspire and cultivate garden knowledge and know-how, ingenuity and insight, design and delight in the many media formats which make up our world. Whether readers prefer gardening information in words or photos, on screen or in print, via video or “live,” we are ready! GWA, The Association of Garden Communicators helps communicators pass on the passion and practice of gardening in the United States and neighboring nations.

A Look at Lurie Garden

Lurie Garden and the city skyline borderWhich brings us to Lurie Garden, our first stop on several days’ worth of garden tours composing our annual conference, #GWA2018. Lurie Garden, tucked in the heart of Millenium Park, is a showpiece of the city in many ways. We quickly filled up on photography and discussion of the perennial flowers and their attracted pollinators.

visit the Lurie Garden website,

However, I found the story of the garden’s beginning, told by Laura Ekasetya, Director and Head Horticulturist for Lurie Garden, to be the main attraction, a mustard-seed surprise if there ever was one. As she related, former Mayor Richard M. Daley was visiting his dentist routinely, and the office was located several stories above Michigan Avenue. The view out the office windows, beyond to Lake Michigan, should have been splendid! Yet the mayor was troubled by the sprawl of rail lines and parked cars between the Avenue and the shoreline. The grandeur of boulevard roadways and the nearby Art Institute seemed to be absorbed in an agglomeration of heavy metal.

The seasoned leader took action. He shared his idea to improve the century-old railyards as a gift for the new millennium with a few of Chicago’s key influencers. They took charge and promptly dug in. Enjoy the full story of the site’s transformation from rail lot to garden plot, elegantly chronicled by Garden Design magazine.

visit Garden Design’s Millenium Park article,

A Story-Pattern

Our visit after 15 years since the garden’s opening revealed a thriving sanctuary, a flower-filled haven in the midst of city skyscrapers, a happy-frenzy of fluttering creatures and birds nested in branches of the park’s trees. More than beautiful blooms in this sheltered space, however, was the delight of recognizing the story-pattern set forth in God’s Word:

So this led Him to say, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky found shelter and nested in its branches.
Luke 13:18-19 AMP

The man who planted a “mustard seed” that “grew and became” a sheltered place aligns with Mayor Daley’s planting an idea in comrades’ hearts that grew and became Lurie Garden, a sheltered place. It is a story-pattern happening all around us all the time, the triumph of God’s possibilities, the growth of something magnificent from a speck of a start.

Flowers of the Field

Garden designer Piet Odoulf and a team of designers for Lurie Garden incorporated perennial flowering plants and grasses, a gesture connecting the prairieland beauty of the Great Plains that make up middle America, where Chicago sits as a gateway.

visit Piet Oudolf design, 

learn more about Lurie Garden’s design team,

prairie style planting at Chicago Park District's Lincoln ParkThis aesthetic has been adopted by the Chicago Park District in other city greenscapes we toured, converting mowed areas of city parks to more naturalistic, high-wasted, perennial growth.

The design approach is a departure from Biblical landscape types. The Mediterranean region receives no summer rainfall; consequently, God’s Word speaks often of grasses and flowers withering:

They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up.
2 Kings 19:26 NIV

They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.
Job 14:2 NIV

for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
Psalm 37:2 NIV

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.
Isaiah 40:8 & 1 Peter 1:24-25 NIV

wild bergamot blooms in Chicago Park District's Lincoln ParkBy contrast, the Midwest is watered intermittently by showers and thunderstorms and better able to sustain herbaceous perennials through a warm summer. “Flowers of the field,” an endearing description from God’s Word picturing swaths of wildflowers, are generally considered to be spring-blooming species which retreat in bulbs or scattered seed during the summer. Ironweed, cone flower, wild bergamot, and other perennial garden favorites planted for our rain-graced or sprinklered meadow gardens are not native to the Bible lands. Instead, anemones, tulips, narcissus, lilies, and poppies make up the lovely fields of the Levant.

read more on Flowers of the Field in our Garden in Delight 2018 Lent series

A Garden Blessing

Go in God’s grace as you enjoy the waning days of summer gardens you visit, and realize that a garden story may begin anywhere, even the dentist’s office!

God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough. There are no boundaries to his greatness.
Generation after generation stands in awe of your work; each one tells stories of your mighty acts.
Your beauty and splendor have everyone talking; I compose songs on your wonders.
Your marvelous doings are headline news; I could write a book full of the details of your greatness.
Psalm 145:3-6 The Message



Many thanks to our gracious hosts at Lurie Garden,

Learn more about GWA, The Association of Garden Communicators at

Photo Credits:
©2018 Shelley S. Cramm

Coneflowers stand as tall as the skyline at Lurie Garden

GWA members Aimee Coker, Southern Living Plant Collection, and Keri Wilt,,  are the best at garden business chat! Kirk R. Brown,, took our picture.

The expanse of perennial plantings at Lurie Garden

The Chicago Park District cultivates prairie-style plantings in other city parks – this hillside blooms in Lincoln Park

Detail of wild bergamot blooms in Lincoln Park


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