The Lurie Garden in February (2018)

The snow has melted, and Judy has been anxious to take pictures of the Lurie Garden before all the plants are mowed down. Last Saturday we both had reason to be in the loop, so while I was working Judy took some time to wander Lurie Garden with her camera.

DSC_0944It is first and foremost the grasses that make Lurie beautiful in winter. Though I do like the sprinkling of Echinacea seedheads – they look like someone had carelessly scattered a handful of punctuation marks.


The skeletons of the Compass Plants (Silphium laciniatum) still echoes the downtown skyline.


But back to the grasses. Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is still a beautiful red-orange color even at the end of winter.


Bottle Gentian (Gentian andrewsii) in a state of decay is still handsome if rather melancholy. I’m not sure, but I think the plant in the background is Sea Lavender (Limonium latifolium). Whatever it is, it looks pretty good in winter. UPDATE: Actually, the plant in the background is Calamint (Calamintha nepetoides).


A closer look.


More grasses.


Echinacea seedheads, with Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the upper left.


Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) retains a bit of blue even in February. Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccafolium) adds some punctuation.


The Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum) has the look of tarnished silver against the golden stems of Arkansas Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii).


The Chicago Skyline hovering behind the north end of Lurie Garden.


I like the contrast here. The skeletons of Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium) are dark and rigid. But the Switchgrass, with ethereal seedheads, moves with the wind as if the stems and leaves were still alive.


In this picture even more so.


Soon Lurie Garden will receive a crewcut, the stems and leaves shredded and left to decay on the bald ground. I’m glad Judy got these pictures before that happened.

As someone who has scoffed at the very idea of winter interest, what I’m going to say next is hard to admit. However … I think these photographs show that it really is possible to have a four-season garden in Chicago.



54 Comments on “The Lurie Garden in February (2018)

  1. But maybe to create winter interest with grasses etc. you really need a lot of space. I think it is harder in a garden situation. This style was created for public spaces and I know Piet Ouldorf has said that it doesn’t work on a very small scale. Lovely images, thank you Judy. and lovely description Jason.

  2. Beautiful even in winter. But I am amazed that the plants weren’t squashed by the snow. My Miscanthus for example finds it hard to stand up again, and the Calamagrostis stems broke.

  3. Once you the see the beauty of grasses in a garden, you can see it more clearly in nature too. I had an English gardener here recently and as we drove through the countryside I had to stop so he could photograph honky tonks, abandoned houses…and fields of wild, mixed grasses.

  4. What a wonderful garden! Somehow, the cityscape juxtaposed against the garden gives the place a futuristic look, and in a very good way. (Have you seen “Black Panther” yet?) Also, I really, really liked your “handful of punctuation marks” description.

      • Terrific movie. Just loved it. And, yes, this nerdy, wordy woman very much enjoyed that description.

  5. I was expecting to see a heavy blanket of snow covering everything. The expanse of warm colors was quite a treat. Beautiful indeed and perfect for a part of the country once dominated by prairie.

    • There was a heavy blanket of snow, but then in a few days it was gone. Of course, we could get a new blanket of snow before long.

  6. I so love this garden. beautiful captures, Judy. It’s time for another trip to Chicago….Maybe this summer!

  7. I was downtown Sunday morning and was happy to see nothing had been taken down yet at Lurie, too. Hats off to Judy for the beautiful photos. And a reminder of things to come.

      • After leaving everything undisturbed over the winter I was wondering what was the best time to start cleaning up, especially since I’ll likely be doing it myself now that Art is gone. I read online that it’s best to wait until the temperature is consistently at 50 degrees because there are a lot of beneficial insects staking their livelihood on those dead stalks. It had never occurred to me before. But the way things are going with insects, I think I’ll follow this advice.

      • I think as a public garden in a very central location they are under some pressure to do it earlier than they would otherwise.

      • Oh I agree. But since I can’t visit the Garden to follow their lead I went to the internet for advice. On the other hand it’s hard to resist the urge to start cleaning up!

  8. I like the stark and subtle look of plants in winter! You get to see there shapes better.

  9. Wow — how totally wonderful! The images are beautiful and so convey how plants can be beautiful through their life cycle.

    Do you know if they’re somewhat edited prior to winter’s onset? They’re beautiful now.

  10. Is ‘Rattlesnake Master’ the cultivar name of the common name? I only knew it as eryngium.
    I remember that skyscraper with the sloped roof from ‘Adventures in Babysitting’. I also remember that the car was a 1988 Estate Wagon! Like totally RAD!

  11. Do the Lurie gardeners do any burns, or is all the end-of-winter leveling done by mechanical shearing?

    Little bluestem is so colorful for so long; yum! These photos really capture the garden’s intentions. Many thanks.

  12. Such glorious photos of the winter garden — and some plants which I recognized: switchgrass, little bluestem, rattlesnake master. Even while I’m luxuriating in our spring flowers, this makes me eager for autumn again. Fall and winter really are the grasses’ seasons.

  13. Lovely photos and description of the grasses at the end of winter. You and Judy could do a book on the four seasons of the Lurie Garden…all your posts on the Gardens have been inspiring. I agree with Laurie there is a futuristic look about the gardens in winter against the Chicago skyline.

  14. I don’t have many grasses, but luckily, one of them is about 15′ from my kitchen window – the perfect spot as that is where I most often enjoy looking outside during the winter.

  15. Fabulous pictures! I think this would persuade anyone to consider grasses! It’s great to see them layered with each other and no other ‘living’ plants to detract from their forms and colours. That first photograph really is like a painting. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Hello Jason, it looks so ephemeral and ghostly with the dead stems of perennials and grasses. The effect works well en-masse, when I try it in my own garden, it’s just a tangled mess! I guess spring is further away for you than it is here as I finished the garden clear-up and cut-back a couple of weeks ago, looking forward to the new season, before all this bad weather arrived.

  17. Beautiful! I love seeing the change through the seasons at the Lurie. Thanks for sharing!

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