Caldwell Lily Pool, an oasis in Chicago


For my last post about Chicago Spring Fling, I’ll revisit a gem of a garden hidden away in a corner of Lincoln Park, not far from the zoo: Caldwell Lily Pool.


A sign gives you the back story.


Like entering a cave or a slot canyon, you walk down a slight slope and through a layered-stone and steel gate.


A naturalistic woodland-edge garden surrounds the lily pool, brimming in late May with springtime color. The image at the top of this post shows the lily pool and a sheltering structure built on a small peninsula.


Looking back at the shelter from the other side of the pool


One of the pond residents taking a rest.


A stone stair ascends to a council ring that overlooks the pool.


The first council ring I ever saw was at Chicago Botanic Garden on Evening Island. I loved the idea of simple, circular stone walls that double as benches, enclosing a peaceful get-away spot, and have since designed one for a client’s garden with a fire pit in the middle.


Since time was short, I didn’t get to explore all of Caldwell Lily Pool, but I will remedy that when I next return to Chicago. Heading back to the bus with Diana, a lovely flower garden alongside the sidewalk grabbed our attention, particularly these sunny yellow irises.


And bleeding hearts, which I’ve often admired on the blogs of northern gardeners.


Shasta daisies always look happy.

And so was I thanks to a wonderful day of private and public garden tours. Chicago showed herself to be a vibrant, friendly, and well-gardened city. I hope to visit again someday soon.

All material © 2006-2009 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

22 Responses

  1. Stephanie L says:

    Stunning. Looks so serene.

  2. janet says:

    Beautiful setting Pam. I think that is one of the best photos I have seen of a Dicentra.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    The council ring with stacked stone is great for gatherings. I would love to incorporate one in my garden. I always tease everyone about us gathering around a fire even though we don’t have a fire pit. Everyone seems to gather in a circle to chat when on the patio no matter how the chairs are placed.

  4. Les says:

    I love the horizontal layers of rock. It is a good contrast to the vertical plants.

  5. Marilyn Kircus says:

    Thanks for the lovely vicarious tour. The council ring reminded me that, I’ve always wanted a fire ring. I have a book called “Landscaping with Nature”. The author references a campfire garden that features a sunken patio with rocks and plants helping to make it a private place. The creator also made a sipapu, or entrance to the spirt world, which is a hole six feet deep and filled with black rocks that also serves as a drain.

    But it does seem necessary that we have both fire and water in our gardens.

  6. Randy says:

    Pam,
    You’ve always taken good pictures, but I really love that photo of the daisies. Looks like the perfect shot to me. :-)

  7. Gail says:

    Thank you for the sweet tour of the lily garden, I saw the butterflies instead (they were wonderful) …and will have to visit Chicago again…in the fall for the prairie show! gail

  8. Rose says:

    Thank you for sharing these photos, Pam! I didn’t get to visit the Lily Pool, having opted to go to the butterfly exhibit instead, so I appreciate seeing it through your eyes. It looks like such a lovely, serene place. By the way, we Northern gardeners also don’t have armadilloes in our gardens:) But I’d love to see one!

  9. Jean says:

    That is such a nice serene looking place. I think I just missed visiting it (i.e. we were close but didn’t realize it was right there). Love that daisy shot!

  10. I enjoyed my tour; what a great design idea, and beautifully photographed.

  11. “Hidden” is a good way to describe it. I’m glad you & Diana finally figured out how to get into it. I’m going to have to get back to Lincoln Park sometime and find my way in there. It looks lovely now that it has been restored. I hardly recognize it from when I used to visit it in the 80s.

  12. Makes me want to hop on a plane to Chicago again this summer!

  13. These are beautiful pictures! I’m bummed that I was pressed for time by that part of the day of SF, but I hope I will get another chance to see it soon!

  14. I like the lily pond project a lot. It looks comfortable in its place in the landscape, like it’s been there for centuries.

  15. And what a lovely oasis it is! It’s been nice reading about the 2009 SF and to look at all those lovely pics you took. But next time, take more. ;-) It almost made me feel like I was taking part as well.

  16. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Pam, your pictures make me wish Jean, Leslie and I had been able to find that pond. I’m adding it to the list of things I must see on a return visit to Chicago!

  17. Lola says:

    A quiet contemplating place for sure. Very pretty.

  18. I’m so glad you wrote about that. I didn’t make it over there, so I wouldn’t have missed it entirely.~~Dee

  19. linda says:

    Hi Pam, I’m so glad you got to see, and posted about the Lily Pool. It was lovely to see it through your eyes.
    We got there late in our visit to Lincoln Park, and didn’t have nearly enough time to explore there. I hope to be back there sometime in July to see it again. I grew up not far from there, and it was a mess back then. It was a joy to see it, even for a little while, looking so wonderful!

  20. babook says:

    The lake are perfect all view of them make of nature environment !! it`s nice wild project for environment ;D

  21. Susan says:

    I visit the Lily Pond several times each week. It’s what recharges my batteries. Sometimes I just sit and watch birds or look at plants; sometimes I sketch, sometimes I crochet. Speaking of crocheting in that area, earlier this spring a red winged black bird switched from warning me to stay away from his nest to trying to steal some yarn. It was a lot of fun.