Gorgeous Image of Lurie Garden Claims First Prize in International Photo Competition

Chicago has been called a muscular city sitting atop big shoulders; the city’s skyscrapers, clattering trains, and meat-packing plants have always contradicted the city’s official motto, “Urbs in Horto,” city in a garden.

However, British photographer Helen McLain took the perfect photo of the “city in a garden”. The photo was chosen by the monthly magazine of the Royal Horticultural Society. The magazine has been around since 1866, and Britain’s most influential garden writer, gardeners, and horticulturists regularly contribute articles.

The Prize-Winning City in a Garden

That juxtaposition of muscular city and the lovely garden was beautifully captured in a stunning image awarded as the overall winner in the Royal Horticultural Society’s annual photo contest.

The UK gardening organization awarded the top prize, chosen from thousands of entries, to Helen McLain’s photo, entitled “Chicago Prairie.” The photo features the city’s distinctive skyline as a backdrop to a beautiful Lurie Garden in full bloom. The photo was taken at sunset with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

“The imposing and dramatic of Chicago’s skyline at sunset contrasts beautifully with swaths of native plants blooming in Lurie Garden at Millennium Park. The scene is infused with pink tones and a wonderfully romantic glow,” the Royal Horticultural Society posted with the image.

A Much Needed Connection with Nature

When announcing this year’s photo winners, Chris Young, editor of The Garden magazine said, “At a time when so many of us are ordered to stay home due to COVID-19, these beautiful photographs give us a much-needed connection to the natural world. For me, they’re a real visual medicine, a boost to our personal health and wellbeing. They are also a positive reminder of the wonderful world that lies outside our doors.”

About Lurie Garden

Lurie Garden covers just 2.5 acres at the southern end of downtown Chicago’s Millennium Park. The garden opened on July 16, 2004. The garden is mostly planted with 250 varieties of native prairie grasses, trees, perennials, bulbs, and shrubs. The park is divided by a boardwalk and water feature that imitates a natural stream.

Quite a few animal species can be seen in the garden. More than two dozen species of birds have been identified, as well as many different species of bees and butterflies are among the wildlife visiting the garden.

The garden resulted from an invited international competition that ran from August to October 2000. The winning designs were submitted by Designed by GGN, Piet Oudolf, and Robert Israel. Following the competition, construction of the garden began, and was completed in June 2004.

The sustainable garden was built on top of a framework of lightweight geofoam. All stone features in the garden are made of midwestern limestone.

What really makes the garden unique is that it composes the world’s largest green roof; the Lurie Garden green roof sits on top of the Millennium Park parking garage. A green roof is a roof of a that is partially or completely covered with plants. The garden was named for Ann Lurie, who donated $10 million as an endowment. The garden cost $13.2 million to build, and Ann Lurie’s $10 million endowments are for the garden’s maintenance and upkeep.

Since its inception, the garden has won many awards, including the Intensive Industrial Award by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, Best Public Space Award by Travel + Leisure magazinethe Institute Honor Awards for Regional & Urban Design, and many more.

For visitors, the garden has nature lectures, guided walkways, interactive demonstrations, family picnics, and festivals. Unfortunately, Lurie Garden has been closed to the public during the state’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order. However, visitors should be welcome back soon to the garden.


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