The Jens Jensen Formal Garden, an iconic circular garden designed and built in 1908 by noted prairie-school landscape architect Jens Jensen, is situated near the center of Humboldt Park, a 219-acre parkland located in the ethnically diverse Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.
Jensen's design is typical of formal gardens of the period and features semi-circular beds filled with roses and perennials. Through the center line of the garden was a reflecting pool and a fountain. Encircling the garden, at a higher grade, is a terrace with wooden and concrete pergolas. Humboldt Park served as a living laboratory for Jensen's designs, including not only the formal garden, but also a lagoon that he expanded to emulate a "prairie river."
Jensen believed the garden was an important asset to the surrounding neighborhood. He called it a “community garden,” and said that it was created for “those who have no other gardens except their window sills.”
The garden at Humboldt Park is one of a very few formal Jens Jensen gardens that still exist and is a rare example of an early stage of his design evolution.
Renowned garden designer Piet Oudolf was selected to design the plantings for the revitalization project. In a community conversation hosted by the Chicago Parks Foundation, Oudolf shared his vision for the garden. “We will create a community of plants that work well together and look beautiful throughout the seasons," said Oudolf, adding that the plan will focus on sustainable and durable designs that will not rely on pesticides.
The Garden Conservancy, the Chicago Park District, and the Chicago Parks Foundation formally announced a new partnership to revitalize the garden. This marked our first major project in the upper Midwest, the first example of a historic Jens Jensen garden in our portfolio, and our first project in a dense urban neighborhood.
Piet Oudolf selected to revive Jens Jensen Formal Garden
Original garden plan by Jens Jensen, 1908
Historic photo courtesy of Chicago Park District