The Lurie Garden in October

October is the golden month at the Lurie Garden.


Fluffy mounds of Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii and A. tabernaemontana) glow in the autumn sun.


I had wondered if this years hot, dry September weather would affect the Amsonia’s fall color this year. But it looks pretty good, I’d say.


Lurie Garden’s radiant vistas make me so happy that I want to hug passing strangers, and I am not a demonstrative person. However, I’ve been able to restrain myself.


Various grasses beautifully complement the Bluestar.


‘Blue Heaven’ Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is one of the grassy stars of October.  Look at that color!


And how the fluffy seedheads catch the light.


But Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is the most glorious of all the grasses at Lurie, especially ‘Shenandoah’. The leaves have red streaks through the year, but in fall they begin to turn from green to yellow, as well.


One problem with Switchgrass, though, is how hard it is to come up with different ways of saying “airy seedheads”. Swithchgrass does have airy seedheads that are very attractive in autumn, but the phrase is overused. I looked up synonyms for airy and came up with “breezy”, “gaseous”, and “well-ventilated”, none of which were really helpful. So I’m open to suggestions here.



Whatever you call it, I’ve noticed that the texture of Switchgrass tempts many people to run their fingers through the upper part of the plants.


Over on the east side of the boardwalk, there’s a patch of Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).


These are very nice, though they don’t excite me too much as I have more than enough in my own garden. I’ll be curious to see if the Northern Sea Oats ends up making a pest of itself at Lurie.


Prairie Dropseed (Sporobulus heterolepis) is spread generously throughout the Lurie Garden. At this time of year it takes on a golden color, though it no longer has that Cilantro fragrance.


Here’s a big patch of Fountain Grass ‘Cassian’ (Pennisetum alopecuroides), with the irrepressible Calamint (Calamintha nepetoides) blooming in the foreground.  There was a gentle wind that day, just enough to make the grasses sway back and forth.



There were some other late blooms in addition to the Calamint. A big drift of Tatarian Aster ‘Jindai’ (Aster tataricus) was blooming its heart out.


Can’t resist blue flowers with yellow centers. Fun fact about Tatarian Aster: unlike so many unfortunate species, it was allowed to stay in the genus Aster. I guess it pays to know the right taxonomists.


Nearby, there was also a big patch of Toad Lily (Tricyrtis – not sure the variety).


There was some ‘Fireworks’ Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) still in bloom, though most had gone over.


Of course, the seedheads of flowers like Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium, above) and various Echinaceas are a major presence in the Lurie Garden this time of year. They keep the garden full of foraging finches and sparrows.


There is really no bad month to visit Lurie Garden, but I’m beginning to think that October is one of the best.

That’s all for now.

47 Comments on “The Lurie Garden in October

  1. Thanks as always for sharing the Lurie Garden, it always fabulous. I think October is fast becoming a favourite garden month for me.

  2. Stunning Lurie Garden! The grasses look wonderful in the autumn light, especially in the first photo…it is a winner. I feel like running my hand over all those colourful grasses too.

  3. It is looking good now. My Amsonia hasn’t started coloring up yet. It doesn’t get the sun that it should. I have tried to divide it as it is mature but the root system is too tough to get a shovel through so it sits there in the shade. Loving all the fall color of the Lurie.

    • My Amsonia didn’t start getting good color until I started cutting it back after flowering. It’s A. tabernaemonatan, not hubrichtii, though.

  4. What a stunning month in the Lurie garden! I think the designers planned this autumn crescendo. I love those Amsonias.

    For the Switchgrass, how about “soft pillows” of flowers/seedheads? Or “soft bustles”? I agree, the airy seedheads has been overused but gosh it really is an apt description!

  5. Radiant is right! No wonder you wanted to reach out and hug somebody. Also goes to show how color and nature affect our moods.

  6. Gorgeous photos, Jason, and quite helpful in determining which ornamental grass has the characteristics I’m looking for right now. As for labels, I like diaphanous. Makes me think of Edwardian ladies in gauzy dresses, swaying gently.

  7. Stunning garden and photos to match. I love your comment about the sea oats and their ability to be pesky! I like that plant (a lot!), but yeah.

  8. Oh, that fall colour is glorious! I think that so many people focus on spring and summer gardens with fall being considered the “clean-up” time – this is a great reminder that planting for fall colour is incredibly worthwhile. Ha – gaseous airheads just doesn’t sound quite right, does it?? 🙂

  9. Magical the light of autumn, especially on the seed heads of grasses!

  10. Wonderful to see what it looks like now as I’ve only ever visited in spring and summer. “well-ventilated” is not exactly the phrase one wants as a sub for “airy.” Too funny. Maybe whispy?

    • I was walking through Lurie today after work. It really is hard to come up with the right word. From a distance, wispy might work. But up close, the individual seeds stand out almost like an archipelago of tiny islands. That doesn’t work either, though.

  11. I especially love the shots with the cityscape in the background. “Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne” describes the Panicum seedheads for me.

  12. I love seeing pictures of this garden, and I do agree that October is particularly spectacular. The grasses and the movement and the way the light catches those different shades of silver and gold are just wonderful! I could list what I like about it, but I think it is just about everything! 🙂

  13. I’m convinced that Lurie is stunning in every season–even winter. But you won’t see me there in winter! LOL. Wow, the Amsonia is spectacular! I have one plant that is slowly growing. I hope it fills out a little more next year. Love that plant!

    • The seed heads in winter, and all the textures and shades of brown, are quite wonderful. I will take photos so Jason can do a post in January.

    • I have a bunch of A. tabernaemontana, including a really big one out front. No success with A. hubrichtii, though – and that’s the one with the best color.

  14. I love the Lurie garden and have taken literally hundreds of photos there, but all in either July or August. I hope I will have a chance to visit in fall someday.

  15. Delicate? Wispy? Gauzy? Filmy? Gossamer? Diaphanous? Oooh, I like diaphanous and gossamer. 🙂

    What a beautiful sight, that garden. The first frost must be quite magical.

  16. I would suggest frothy, but from now on I really think you should go with gaseous for describing Panicum seedheads. And since another synonym for gaseous is farty, you can use that too. Loved this look at the Lurie!

  17. Just beautiful… and I miss it. Thanks for the update and the wonderful pictures. I hope I can get to the lakefront before we have snow…

  18. stunning! We have some beautiful native plants here in the midwest that offer their own show that no other can match:-)

  19. Pingback: FRIDAY FINDS – The Impatient Gardener

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