Garden History

Rare Books and Journals Rare Books and Journals Acquired

More than 4,000 rare books and journals, dating back to the 15th century, were acquired by the Lenhardt Library from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

Science First Science First Debut

The summer enrichment program began, reaching approximately 40 students from Chicago Public Schools each year. Participants continue to be immersed in hands-on gardening experiences through the free, nature-based science program.

Big Blue Pearl Garden Collection Reached 2 Million

The addition of the Blue Pearl Crocus brought the Garden plant count to 2 million live plants.

Seeds of Success Program Launched Seeds of Success Program Launched

The Garden joined Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the Millennium Seed Bank project to preserve seeds from 10 percent of the world’s flora.

Green Youth Farm Introduced

Students began attending the summer high school apprenticeship program that fosters interest in horticulture, agriculture, and green entrepreneurship.

Orange Meadowbrite Orange Meadowbrite Debut

The first orange coneflower ever cultivated, Orange Meadowbrite was created at the Garden as part of the Chicagoland Grows® plant introduction program.

First Summer Dinner Dance

The Garden hosted its first annual gala fundraiser, the Summer Dinner Dance.

The Garden Wall and Berm Completed

A 1.25-mile brick wall built along the western Garden perimeter helped protect the Garden from expressway noise and define it as a quiet sanctuary.

REU interns NSF Internship Program Launched

With support from the National Science Foundation, the Garden launched an annual, 10-week internship program providing research experience to undergraduates and allowing participants to explore a diverse array of scientific fields related to plant biology and conservation.

Esplanade Construction Crescent and Esplanade Opened

The Esplanade display opened, featuring dramatic elm allees and a pavilion lined with sheared cone topiaries and a row of waterspouts and pools. The Crescent, part of the Esplanade, was shaped with classical elements of garden design with a clean, modern perspective and bold plantings of annuals and hundreds of evergreen boxwoods.  Together, these spaces welcomed visitors to the water’s edge. Conceived by Architect Dan Kiley, they are among the Garden’s most inviting public areas. 

The Sower Donated

This sculpture by Albin Polasek, given by the Art Institute of Chicago, was set on the Esplanade.


Wonderland Express Wonderland Express Premiered

The indoor railroad exhibition began a new holiday tradition, featuring miniature trains that traverse dozens of Chicago landmarks. It was crafted entirely from natural materials.

Master's Program New Master’s Degree Offered

The Garden partnered with Northwestern University to offer a Master of Science Degree in Plant Biology and Conservation.

Native Plant Garden Native Plant Garden Renovated

The Native Plant Garden is redesigned by Ray Croft/ Meyer Landscape Architecture.

The Regenstein Center Education Center Re-opened as The Regenstein Center

The updated space presented an auditorium, classrooms, indoor gardens, and exhibit areas.

Windy City Harvest Windy City Harvest Started

Windy City Harvest, a classroom and hands-on training program in organic vegetable and plant production, welcomed its first group of students. The program prepares Chicago residents for jobs in the urban agriculture and green horticulture industries.

Hot Summer Nights Evenings Debut

The Garden expanded its hours, staying open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Science Initiative Launched

This campaign raised money to fund the Plant Science Center, the Trellis Bridge, and the Lavin Evaluation Garden.

Lenhardt Library Named
Sophia Siskel New CEO Appointed

Sophia Siskel, who joined the Garden as Vice President of Visitor Programs in 2006, became the Garden’s fifth president and CEO.