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updated: 6/10/2013 2:40 PM

Children's Garden at Morton Arboretum sprouts added attractions

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  • A double kaleidoscope recently installed in the Children's Garden at Morton Arboretum gives a new perspective on plants.

    A double kaleidoscope recently installed in the Children's Garden at Morton Arboretum gives a new perspective on plants.
    Courtesy of Morton Arboretum

By Sarah Clark
The Morton Arboretum

The Children's Garden at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle is always growing and changing with the seasons. New installations have been added to the Backyard Discovery Garden, which is cared for with the help of the youth volunteers, called Macgyvers (Morton Arboretum Children's Garden Youth Volunteers).

Here's a look at what's new:


Spinning under the Alice in Wonderland inspired arbors, little hands will find a new curiosity. Is it a sculpture? A science experiment? No, it's a double kaleidoscope.

Look through one of the two cylinders as you turn the pot, planted with seasonal delights such as pansies and lettuce. The mirrors inside will give kids young and old a whole new perspective on the beauty of plants.

For photography buffs, try putting your camera lenses directly against the kaleidoscope's glass. Every picture will be unique.

Purple Garden

Over in the Growing Gardens area is a new Purple Garden. Come back throughout the summer to see 19 different purple plants such as purple pole beans, purple carrots, purple cauliflower, purple cabbage, eggplants, purple tomatoes, purple peppers, purple kohlrabi, purple radishes, purple tomatillos and, of course, lots of purple flowers. Signs made from small tree "cookies" will tell you what's growing where.

Around the edge of the garden, little ones can explore a tunnel covered with purple morning glory flowers and purple yard long beans.

"By using one color, smaller children can connect to what's growing and can point out why each plant was chosen," says Children's Garden horticulturist Katrina Chipman. "You don't see purple beans in your typical grocery store, but the children will see them here and learn that there are different, cool plants that can be grown."

Recycled Garden

In the Lunchbox Garden space, which is close to the Every Which Way Garden, you may see some silverware swinging in the breeze. That's a new wind chime, made out of recycled pounded out silverware, beckoning visitors to the Recycled Kitchen Garden.

"I'm really excited that kids and adults will see new ways to use recycled materials in this garden. You don't have to have a prim and perfect garden," Chipman says. "Repurposing household items in the garden, such as a kitchen colander, makes your space unique and is a fun challenge for gardeners of all ages. Plus, recycling and gardening should go together to promote a greener, healthier and more beautiful world."

Flowing out of shopping carts, coffee pots, blenders, and colanders will be a bevy of produce, such as radishes, Swiss chard, celery, peppers and brussel sprouts. Herbs will spring up from unusual places, including basil, ginger root, spearmint, chocolate mint, cilantro, basil, thyme, and chives.

"A kitchen garden is an old-fashioned name for a vegetable and herb garden -- all the things you need to make a great meal," Chipman says.

Along the fence, reused bean cans hang from the fences, planted with flowers. An old steamer tray will become garden art.

Pollinator Garden

While this is the third year for the Pollinator Garden, keep an eye out for new miniature fairy gardens growing in pots this year. Kids can also take part in a new scavenger hunt for pollinators helping this garden grow.

Windmill Garden

The main crop in the Windmill Garden is okra. New this year, the produce will be used in the restaurant, so keep an eye out for some special okra dishes.

Located at 4100 Route 53 in Lisle, Morton Arboretum is open daily 7 a.m. until sunset. Admission is free to members. Nonmember rates are $12 for adults ages 18-64 ($8 on Wednesday);, $11 for seniors ages 65 and older ($7 on Wednesday); $9 for children ages 2-17 ($6 on Wednesday); and free for children younger than 2.