Humboldt Park Formal Garden


2018 Jens Jensen Award


Chicago, IL


Chicago Parks Foundation

Landscape Architects

Project Details

The Chicago Park District and Chicago Parks Foundation partnered with the Garden Conservancy, a national nonprofit organization based in Garrison, NY, to make major improvements to Humboldt Park’s historic Jens Jensen Formal Garden. The beautiful and iconic circular garden was completed by the internationally renowned landscape designer Jens Jensen in 1908. The historic composition included an iconic circular garden and a transition landscape that slopes down towards the Prairie River. Collaborating to rehabilitate this historic landscape is a natural fit for the Garden Conservancy, as it taps into their expertise in garden preservation, design, and management practices.

“We are thrilled to be part of this important effort, as it marks not only our first major preservation project in the upper Midwest and in an urban center, but also the first Jens Jensen designed garden in our portfolio,” said Garden Conservancy Preservation Committee Chair Susan Lowry. “By rehabilitating this historic garden, the project will also revitalize a much loved community resource.”

This project aims to repair the garden’s deteriorated infrastructure, rehabilitate its important design features, integrate stormwater best management practices, and implement a planting design that re-interprets Jensen’s historic planting palette and famous Prairie Style. The project sponsors engaged Hitchcock Design Group and Piet Oudolf to prepare rehabilitation plans. Hitchcock Design Group, a Chicago landscape architecture firm, has considerable expertise in rehabilitating historic landscapes, especially the work of Jensen and his disciple Alfred Caldwell. Dutch plantsman, garden designer, and author Piet Oudolf has been lauded for his contributions to such projects as Chicago’s Lurie Garden, New York’s High Line, and the Toronto Botanic Garden. The project team has made extensive recommendations for the site. These include incorporating lush native perennials into the landscape to provide year-round seasonal interest, attract birds, and make the garden more interesting, beautiful, and sustainable.

“We are proud to be home to Jensen’s ‘living green parks,’ which continue to serve as natural havens amidst the city bustle,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael P. Kelly. “With the Conservancy’s assistance, not only are we restoring the important design features and spirit of Jensen’s beloved garden, but we are enhancing it by transforming it into an inviting four-season gathering space accessible to patrons all year round.” The improved Formal Garden and new Transition Garden adjacent to the Prairie River will be characterized by Piet Oudolf’s signature style of hazy swaths of perennials and grasses, planted in layers that embody the essence of true four-season gardening.

Members of the Humboldt Park community — including the Humboldt Park Advisory Council — are also joining the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Parks Foundation, and the Conservancy in efforts to help provide financial support and advice on a new planting plan and design for the popular park amenity. The revitalization project will enhance this outdoor green space for families and friends who often gather here to take pictures for special occasions, transforming this once vibrant formal garden into a spectacular display of perennials.

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