The Lurie Garden in July

I wanted to capture the Lurie Garden while the flowers of early July, especially the Echinaceas, were still blooming their hearts out. Judy was out of town, so I took the camera to work with me a couple of days ago so I could take pictures during my lunchtime walk to the garden.


The route to Lurie Garden takes me past the Pritzker Pavilion, where the Grant Park Orchestra was performing one of its lunchtime open rehearsals. I didn’t recognize the classical piece they were playing, but it was something intense and emotional. It provided a kind of soundtrack for my stroll through the Lurie.

DSC_0757And then I was at the north gateway. I love the mystery of this threshold to the garden. No matter how many times I walk through, the scene that greets me on the other side is always a little bit of a surprise.

DSC_0573As on any hot day, people were taking advantage of the steeped rectangular pools along the boardwalk.

DSC_0582‘Shenandoah’ Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) stand out against the north hedge.

DSC_0596This unusual Digitalis is called Ruby Foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea). I don’t remember seeing it in the Lurie before – I wonder if it is a new plant they are trying out. One of the things I like about Lurie is that it is always evolving – partly through the competition of the plants themselves, and partly through interventions by the staff.

DSC_0585Anyway, I looked up Ruby Foxglove. According to the Missouri Botanic Garden website, it’s a perennial rather than a biennial foxglove. Also, it likes part shade – though it was growing in full sun at Lurie. The name comes from the flower’s interior veining.

DSC_0656This seems to be an excellent year for Echinaceas at Lurie. The masses of pink-purple flowers really stand out at this time of year. They strike me as an open, happy flower – a flower without secrets.

DSC_0614According to the Lurie Garden plant list, they grow a mix of Echinaceas, including Tennessee Coneflower (E. tennesseensis), E. ‘Pixie Meadowbrite’, Yellow Pollen Coneflower (E. simulata), and Pale Purple Coneflower (E. pallida). These are shorter species and varieties and I was impressed by the lack of flopping.

DSC_0661Pollinators were abundant on the Coneflowers and throughout the garden. Here’s a Red Admiral Buttefly I spied.

DSC_0684I noticed a lot of Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis) growing at the base of the Echinaceas and throughout the garden.

DSC_0601This is a plant which seems to have thrived and multiplied at Lurie without much encouragement

DSC_0671Here it is popping up among bunches of a golden-leaved bunchgrass – maybe Alkali Dropseed (Sporobulus airoides)?

DSC_0678Compass plant (Silphium perfoliatum) with its yellow flowers adds height to the mix of Lurie plants. It punches up from the ground and towers over its neighbors, who have mostly mounding habits.

DSC_0647It’s hard not to compare the Compass Plants to the tall skyscrapers of downtown Chicago.

DSC_0648Compass Plants seem to be attention-seekers, not above a little photobombing.

IMG_4175Another plant that seems a lot more plentiful at Lurie this year is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). This makes me happy. This is a photo Judy took last week.


DSC_0651The Milkweeds added some wonderful fragrance to the Lurie experience.

DSC_0608If you plopped the Lurie Garden down in some suburb it would still be a wonderful garden, but it wouldn’t be as exciting if it weren’t surrounded by the Chicago skyline.

DSC_0718It could be my imagination, but I think there is not as much Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Little Spire’) as there used to be.

DSC_0739The ‘Summer Beauty’ Allium (A. lusitanicum) is just starting to bloom. They look like drifts of fuzzy blue dots.

DSC_0677You could see that the feathery mounds of Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana and A. hubrichtii) are just barely beginning to turn that golden color that makes them such a star in the autumn.

You can also see that the many Salvias have not been cut back, and that the flower stalks have been allowed to brown. I think this is a good choice, as it provides a nice contrast for all the green and the colorful summer flowers.

IMG_4172I like the mix of blue Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) with Echinaceas. This is photo Judy took last week with her phone.


DSC_0603I’m surprised to see these ‘Purple Candle’ Chinese Astilbe (Astilbe chinensis) flowering in full sun, but I guess they like it.

DSC_0607I love how the Lurie Garden is always evolving, never static. It changes from season to season and from year to year. There are an infinite number of details to absorb, and with the never-ending adaptations and adjustments it is impossible to be bored in this garden.

49 Comments on “The Lurie Garden in July”

  1. I find it difficult to believe astilbe blooms and thrives in full sun. This year my astilbe has burned up despite watering and it isn’t in the sun. It must be the variety. The Lurie is so lush as always. I can imagine the music wafting across the way. What a pleasant lunch break.

  2. We grew up in Wisconsin, and always hated Chicago (we were always having to drive around it or fly through O’Hare…ick). We recently spent 4 days there, and LOVED it. I think the Lurie Garden played a big part in our change of heart.

  3. Thanks for the great pictures and guided tour. You have reminded me I should walk in that direction! I love the sloping beds on different levels. You’re right, they are always changing things, time for me to get caught up. 🙂

  4. I loved reading your text and seeing the photographs. You were actually able to do it justice! I am a docent at the Lurie and it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. I will share your post in hopes this inspires more and more guests to come see something so completely unique and unexpected right there in the heart of Millennium Park.

  5. Thanks for sharing your photos and insights (and Judy’s too). I like the Lurie’s style of plantings, and have plans to add more of it to my own garden. Although I like most Eryngium flowers, I’ve never really liked Eryngium yuccifolium (maybe the lack of color), but they look great rising above the grasses, which gives me some insight on how to better use this plant.

  6. It really is a wonderful place Jason. I love the planting – they are so generous with space, allowing large groups of plants to make a real impact. And the backdrop does, as you say, make it even more dramatic. Those tall yellow Compass plants are great. Thanks for sharing. Love the photos!

  7. The Lurie is in my top 5 . I love the addition of the Digitalis, I don’t recall seeing those at all the last time I was there. I know exactly what you mean about entering the garden-I like to go in through the hedges on the Michigan Avenue side. It’s a wow moment no matter how many times I’ve seen it !

  8. It is really special! Your photos are great (as are Judy’s, of course)! I especially love the shots framed with the Chicago skyline. It’s so interesting to compare the effect of the Compass Plants in the Lurie urban setting with the Compass Plants towering above the UW-Arboretum native plant garden, or those found in the prairie garden at Lake Kegonsa State Park, in a more natural setting. They’re equally dramatic and fantastic in all three locations! There was some talk of meeting in Chicago for a Midwest garden bloggers meet-up, is that still on?

  9. What a wonderful post, such a superb wildflower garden. Even more precious given its urban environment. I visited Chicago and NY almost 50 years ago. Now it’s time for me to come back, to see the High Line in NYC and the Lurie Garden in Chicago. In the meantime I’ll just enjoy your posts.

  10. I envy your proximity to downtown. Compass Plant is probably too aggressive for the home garden, but in my experience, Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum is very well behaved.

  11. Enjoying this now-mature garden, and the geography-plant nerd in me cannot help but see how these prairie plantings are actually at home so near the start of the central prairies. Cannot tell Alkali Sacaton in your one photo…my guess is it will look much more lush there than here where it is common in the valley.

  12. What a beautiful space, I love seeing how much is going on and how well many of the native prairie plants do in a cultivated location. Amazing how it just keeps going from strength to strength!
    I’m not crazy at all about that pavilion.

  13. How lucky you can visit the Lurie as much as you want! Yesterday I happened to drive by some fantastic home gardens, front yards full of coneflower and rudbekia and who knows what else. So lovely and so inspiring, I had to rush home and work on my own yard. (You asked if I deadhead the ‘Betty Corning’ – no, never have. Let me know if you try it and whether it extends the bloom period.)

  14. I absolutely love the Lurie garden up against the Chicago skyline & I think all city dwellers need just that type of greenery…. and what a range of flowers! My cousin recently visited Chicago & I suggested she visit the Lurie garden after reading one of your previous posts. She enjoyed it.

  15. Those flowers are especially beautiful because they are growing amidst all those skyscrapers. Now I can feel justified in leaving two clumps of common milkweed among my perennials! If they grow them at the Lurie, who am I to argue?

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