October 13, 2017

Horticultural Highlights in Chicago

Lurie 1

Back in August, a group of Midwest bloggers and gardeners met in the Windy City to tour several gardening and nature sites. The event was hosted by Jason and Judy, bloggers at Garden in a City.

Our first stop was the incredible Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. Wow, I knew it would be impressive, but words and photos are inadequate! After all our family trips to Chicago and the suburbs, I'm embarrassed it took this long to see Lurie Garden.

Lurie 2

It was a joy to see such a rich tapestry of colorful forbs, including many native plants, framing the architecture of Chicago's skyline.

Lurie 3

The light was fabulous, and many native wildflowers, like Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), were still in bloom.

Lurie 6

Lurie, designed by a team of notable horticulturists and landscapers, including plantsman Piet Oudolf, is all about waves of plants. Here: Autumn Moor Grass (Sesleria autumnalis) partnered with Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum) and Threadleaf Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii).

Lurie 5

I enjoyed this eye-catching pairing of Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) with Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis spectabilis).

Lurie 4

Layers of grasses and forbs--with Fountain Grass (Pennisetum) the focal point at the time--illustrated how Lurie Garden was designed for visual interest in all seasons.

Montrose 1

After lunch, we headed to the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary. In late summer, the plants and pollinators were in full swing, including this bumble bee on Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana).

Montrose 2

Other pollinators, including this swallowtail, were enjoying the nectar of Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and other native forbs.

It was fun to see wild native plants in the middle of the city, including:

Montrose 3
Hardy Hibiscus (H. moscheutos) flanked by Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) and others

Montrose 4
More Monarda among a field of yellow composites

Montrose 5
Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

Montrose 6
Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum), with Chicago skyline

Bahai  1

Our next destination was the Bahá'í Temple in Wilmette.

Bahai 5

Swaths of blooming annuals and perennials framed fountains and walkways around the temple.

Bahai 2

As always, Verbena (V. bonariensis) was a favorite with the pollinators.

Bahai 3

This beautiful yellow rose captured my eye, but I didn't see a plant label.

Bahai 6

Plentiful Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) welcomed Monarch butterflies and caterpillars, along with other pollinators like this nonaggressive great black wasp.

Bahai 4

A little photography fun with Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden, and friend and fellow gardener, Becky.

Evanston 1

Our last stop was the incredible Evanston garden of our hosts, Jason and Judy, bloggers at Garden in a City. Wow, look at that floral welcome along their walkway!

I took too many photos throughout the day to include them all here, but here are a few favorites from Jason and Judy's garden:

Evanston 4
Honey bee on Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Evanston 3
Bumble covered in pollen on Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

Evanston 6
Great Blue Lobelia (L. siphilitica)

Evanston 5
Damselfly beyond Woodland Pinkroot (Spigelia marilandica)

Evanston 2
Tiny black swallowtail caterpillar on Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

It was a great day--perfect weather, fabulous gardens, and great company! Thanks to Jason and Judy for hosting!


  1. I'm not a big city fan, nor have I ever dreamed of visiting the USA but Chicago is an exception - ever since I first saw pictures of these wild gardens. I think it was a great sweep of purple sage as well as the grasses which first grabbed my attention and delight.
    The Mexican Sunflower with the bee on top is a memorable picture. I keep scrolling the page up to look at it again.

    1. I'm not a big city fan, either, Lucy. I can't imagine living in Chicago, but it is a great place to visit! Yes, you would love the Lurie Garden! I couldn't believe all the pollen on that bumble bee!

  2. Wildflowers in the center of the city.....it's always a thrill....So many beautiful blooms.....my garden is done and it's nice to see pics of some of my favorite native plants. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Sally: Yes, urban gardens (for me) take the edge off the harshness of the city. Plus, they're wildlife-friendly and help to make up for all the development. Thanks for your kind comments. My garden is slowing down, for sure. But no frost, so some of the plants are still going strong.

  3. This post inspired me to do some garden visiting in the city . . .
    I enjoyed the “waves” of grasses, flowers . . .
    Seems to give such a free flowing look . . .
    I liked the entrance gardens of your host friends . . .

    1. Yes, Lurie Garden is a "must-see" in Chicago. I can't believe it took us so long to visit, since we're frequently in the area to see family. Jason and Judy have a wonderful garden, too.

  4. It was so much fun hosting the Midwest Meetup this year! You got some great shots at Lurie - you saw some vignettes I never noticed. Especially love the Autumn Moor Grass with the Mountain Mint.

    1. Thanks for hosting and planning all the venues, Jason. It worked perfectly! Thanks, re: Lurie. I really want to get back there in different seasons and spend quite a bit of time studying it. It really is quite spectacular! The plant combinations are magical, aren't they?!

  5. Hi Beth, I have never been to Chicago and I was really surprised to see these natural planting styles in the middle of the city. I would have not expected that. My favorite plant combination is Rattlesnake Master with Purple Love Grass. Cool!
    And then the private garden of hosts... Wow, what a welcoming entry and what lovely plants. I have to check out there blog! Really, looks like you had a fabulous day! Thanks for sharing it here.
    Warm regards,

    1. Yes, the plant combinations are special at Lurie. If you're ever in the Chicago area, don't miss it! It's really hard to capture it in pictures, but I'd like to get back and try a little more. So many great photo subjects there! Jason and Judy's garden is amazing, too! And their blog is really fun. :)

  6. Truly wish I had been there. Sigh...Love seeing your photos.

    1. Lisa: We missed you! Hope to see you next year in Lake Geneva! It's always fun to get together with gardeners--especially when we've become touring friends. :)

  7. Oh, lucky, lucky you! I've heard and seen so much about the Lurie garden from Jason's blog - can't wait to experience it in person. I have my fingers crossed that I'll have the opportunity to do just that at the next GWA conference.

    1. I know, I did indeed feel lucky. Oh yes, I would think the GWA schedule would include some time at Lurie. Thanks for reminding me! :)

  8. Gorgeous gardens--thanks for the tour and kudos to Jason and Judy! I've seen other photos of the Lurie Garden, but yours rival any that I've seen.

    1. Well, thank you, Tina. You are too kind. Lurie is so amazing, and it's really hard to capture it--in words or in photos. Yes, we were thankful for the planning that Jason and Judy put into our day. :)

  9. What fun to see Jason's garden in person. There is never a time that Lurie isn't great to visit. I also love the view from above when you look out from the Art Institute.

    1. Yes, it was a great day! Oh, thanks for the tip about the Art Institute--I'll have to try that next time.

  10. Wow, what a fun adventure.
    I love the Woodland Pinkroot! Amazing. It looks tropical to me.

    1. It was a very fun day! I have the Pinkroot at home--I planted it for the first time this year. I'm at the northern edge of its range, though, so I'm hoping it will come back again next year. It does have a unique look, doesn't it?

  11. Your photos are fantastic, Beth! Although I had been to the Lurie once before, this was the first time I had ever seen it in the summer. Such a beautiful place all year round, and I love the way this sits in the heart of the bustling city. Haha, I forgot about the photo you took of Beckie and me--I'm sure I have one of you, too, in my files:) Maybe this winter I'll finally get around to doing a post on our get-together. Such a fun day with lovely gardens and great company!

    1. Thank you, Rose. Yes, I want to visit Lurie in other seasons, too. I'm sure it's spectacular in any season, even winter. But downtown Chicago is not my favorite place in winter! Urban gardens are special, though.

  12. Replies
    1. Isn't that rose pretty?! I so wish I could have found a tag to name it, but it was too pretty not to include it in the post. If I had more sun, I'd try very hard to find out its name so I could plant it!

  13. The frosting on the cake of a great city!

    1. Good point, Ricky! Chicago really is a great place, and to have beautiful gardens adds that magical something...

  14. Lurie is on my bucket / wish list so thank you!

    1. Oh gosh, yes, Diana. If you're ever in the U.S. and find yourself in the Midwest, make sure you see Lurie! And let me know when you'll visit so I can meet you in person! :)


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