The Lincoln Memorial Garden in April

These days I have to spend a lot of time in Springfield, about 200 miles south of Chicago. Twice in the last two weeks I was able to get off work in time to take a walk at the Lincoln Memorial Garden, which is located on 100 acres along an artificial lake.

Entrance to the Lincoln Memorial Garden.
Entrance to the Lincoln Memorial Garden.

Let me stop here to apologize for the quality of these pictures. I took them all with my phone. During the first visit it was very overcast, during the second visit the light was better but everything was waving around in the wind. Both visits occurred during the last hour or so of sunlight. But it’s a garden with an interesting history so I wanted to do this post even without good photos.

A path along the shore of Lake Springfield, which was created in the 1930s by damming what was then Sugar Creek.
A path along the shore of Lake Springfield, which was created in the 1930s by damming what was then Sugar Creek.

This garden was created through a labor of love. A member of the Springfield Garden Club spearheaded the idea of a different sort of memorial to the 16th President, who lived in Springfield for most of his adult life. In 1935 she persuaded the City Council to donate the land, which initially consisted of farm fields along the newly created lake.

lmg fieldwcornus lincoln memorial garden

The landscape architect Jens Jensen donated his time to develop the garden’s design. He transformed the treeless fields into a mix of woodland and prairie. Only plants native to Illinois, Indiana, or Kentucky were used – all states where Lincoln spent parts of his youth.

lmg bench2 lincoln memorial garden

Garden clubs from around the country donated funds for the wooden benches, each of which bears a quotation from Lincoln. Acorns were also contributed from many states, and several grew to become some very impressive oak trees.


In April, the Redbud (Cercis canadensis) are the stars of the Garden.

lmg redbud7

There are some unusually large old Redbud trees.

Flowering Dogwood
Flowering Dogwood

On my second visit, the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) were also at their peak.

lmg cornus3 dogwood

I know these are very common trees in some parts of the country, but I think they are strikingly beautiful. Springfield is right around the northern edge of their hardiness range. In Chicago they are a risky proposition.

The dangly flowers of Carolina Silverbell look like they should be making a tinkly sound.
The dangly flowers of Carolina Silverbell look like they should be making a tinkly sound.

Along one path Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina) were blooming.

A mass of Virginia Bluebells along a woodland path.
A mass of Virginia Bluebells along a woodland path.

There were also lots of woodland wildflowers to be found, including masses of blue and white Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

False Rue Anemone carpeting the forest floor.
False Rue Anemone carpeting the forest floor.

In many places the ground was carpeted with False Rue Anemone (Enomion biternatum).

False Rue Anemone
False Rue Anemone

Here’s a fuzzy closeup of the flower. The leaves remind me of Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis).

lmg phlox

There was also a lot of Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaritica), and sometimes I caught whiffs of its sweet fragrance on the wind.

lmg stream1

Many more wildflowers could be seen, some already blooming, others not. I hope to visit the Lincoln Memorial Garden every week or so through May (and maybe later, depending on my travel schedule) so I can post more updates.

52 Comments on “The Lincoln Memorial Garden in April”

  1. Great! Lovely to have planted just natives , each flowering such a delight among the forested landscape. Did you read the book ” Founding Gardeners” , by Andrea Wulf ?( Did I mention this to you in a comment prior, sorry to repeat if so). Your walks around Lincoln Park reminded me of the book and our forefathers interest in plants and gardening. Love the Redbuds and the Carolina Silverbell, we have on growing in the display beds. Happy spring!

  2. I am in love with Jens Jensen and am jealous of your visit to the Lincoln Memorial Garden in Springfield–I’ve never seen it. I understand it was schoolchildren, in particular Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, who planted the White Oak acorns. I am disappointed that you didn’t include photos of the Council Rings For anyone who is interested, I recommend that you read Jens Jensen’s own book, Siftings, and his biography, Maker of Nyrural Parks and Gardens, Jens Jensen, by Robert Grese.

  3. I like how they used plants that are native to the states that he lived in. And those benches are fantastic! Such a wonderful garden…..just goes to show what can happen if you pull gardeners together. A very peaceful place as well. Have a great weekend Jason…Nicole

  4. What an inspired thing to do! I just love the Redbud and flowering Dogwood and the woodland plants are simply lovely! I bet you are missing your garden while working away from home so much…..still, this I a gorgeous place to reflect in while you are away!xxx

  5. You ought not apologize for the photo quality. I like the misty gentle quality of the light and the colours in them. And thanks for the introduction to the Carolina Silverbell. That is a new one to me and I think it is gorgeous.

  6. Lovely photos that capture spring. They remind me of something you’d see on an old postcard. The dogwoods have been spectacular this year. It has been too many years to count since I have been to Lake Springfield.

  7. Nice spot. I love the low impact development of the park and especially like that they planted acorns for oak trees. So many other parks seem to be focused on instant gratification and just plant a shipment of the latest red maple cultivar. Not my idea of showcasing the natural diversity of a region.

  8. Sad to say, I had to look at a map to figure out where Springfield is. I got closer than I realized at one time, coming down the Mississippi and visiting Hannibal. The garden is gorgeous. The dogwood is something we don’t see here on the Texas coast, although I’ve learned that it’s quite common in east Texas.So many of the wildflowers are different, too — like the Carolina silverbell. Your photos are so evocative. Even though we’re relatively warm here, we’ve turned a bit bland, and I’m eager for spring.

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