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Winter Wonderland


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Nobody strings lights on a branch better than the Chicago Botanic Garden, where clusters of white-lit trees sprout in gorgeous electric detail as part of the garden's annual Celebrations! A Festival of Flowers, Lights & Music. I dropped in on a frigid night last weekend to take a look, but just as I was admiring the effect, the spirit of Scrooge unrepentant appeared. "Do you think this is good for the trees?" he grumbled. "Forced to endure the heat and light of a thousand bulbs while they're in a state of dormancy? Humbug!" Then, as quickly as he'd come, he vanished. A little unsettled, I treated myself to dinner in the Garden Cafe, which had been transformed from its utilitarian daytime state by white tablecloths and candlelight, and proceeded through the wreath-decked North Gallery (bathed in a stink apparently rising from a stand of Tazetta daffodils) to a free concert in the auditorium of the Education Building, where the Great Hall--touted as "a snowy carpet of rolling hills"--featured potted plants poking through cotton batting. Topiary animals cavorted among the other plants in the adjacent greenhouses, and three glass cases in the museum offered a view of exquisite little felt characters--Alice in Wonderland, the Three Blind Mice, Peter Rabbit--crafted by a talented, obsessive woman named Olive Waud 50 years ago; in the courtyard, a sculptor transformed a block of ice into an angel. I passed up the carriage ride ($7 for adults, $5 for kids), but sampled wonderful white hot chocolate from a casual dining area set up off the North Gallery. The next morning I was assured by garden officials that the trees are slumbering undisturbed by their bright wrappings. "Celebrations!" continues at 1000 Lake Cook Rd. in Glencoe, through January 5. Hours are 5 to 10 PM Thursday through Sunday. (Santa will be there from 6 to 9 this weekend and next.) Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for kids ages 3 through 12, and parking is $7. Call 847-835-5440.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bill Biderbost, Chicago Botanic Garden.

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