A New Spring Bulb Display

After a long winter, the city is eager to see signs of spring.

It’s the color of early bulbs – daffodils, glory of the snow, and tulips – that gets Chicagoans through the tail end of winter. In 2006 Jacqueline van der Kloet, garden designer, bulb expert, and colleague of Piet Oudolf, added to Lurie Garden’s perennial plan a spring bulb scheme which introduced over 60,000 bulbs into the garden. Since this original planting, over the years more than 100,000 bulbs had been added to maintain its lush and vivid look.

In May 2019, Jacqueline returned to check in on her design and drew up plans for an update that included replenishing established areas and design additions in others. That fall, staff, volunteers, and community groups planted more than 65,000 additional bulbs to reflect these updates.

As Spring warms up the updated design reveals itself in waves. Greater snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii) pop through the snow, assuring us more color will be coming soon. Brilliant blue drifts of Turkish glory of the snow (Chionodoxa sardensis) appear while we’re appreciating the grape smelling Tubergen squill (Scilla mischtschenkoana).

Tommy crocus ‘Barr’s Purple’ (Crocus tommasinianus ‘Barr’s Purple’) is often the first crocus to appear and what will be the salvia river later in the spring is speckled with purple. To edge this feature a dense line of daffodils fills in, made up of daffodil ‘W.P. Milner’ (Narcissus ‘W.P. Milner’) and daffodil ‘Sailboat’ (Narcissus ‘Sailboat’).

Next are the tulips. A sea of white tulips occupies the middle Light Plate, including the ever-elegant, tulip ‘Maureen’ (Tulipa ‘Maureen’). Drifts of Jacqueline’s signature mix of tulip ‘Queen of Night’ (Tulipa ‘Queen of Night’), tulip ‘Don Quichotte’ (Tulipa ‘Don Quichotte’), and tulip ‘Ballade’ (Tulipa ‘Ballade’) can be found throughout the garden and is guaranteed to delight your winter-weary eyes.

A show of fritillaries and camassia wrap up this spring show. Persian lilies (Fritillaria persica) tower in the Dark Plate while the quamash ‘Alba’ (Camassia leichtlinii ‘Alba’) lines the farthest northern lines in the Light Plate.

One visit to the garden in the Spring isn’t enough. As the weather warms the momentum of these phases increases and if you skip even a week you can miss moments of magic. You can see the full list of bulbs that are included in our spring display here. 

Lurie Garden - Spring - JK