The Lurie Garden in October 2018

August and September were busy months, and I’m afraid that I neglected my Lurie Garden posts. But now I’m ready to get back on track with October.


Actually, before I get into October, I want to mention one outstanding feature from the past couple of months. Namely, all of a sudden, there were Bottle Gentians (Gentiana andewsii) blooming everywhere. I took the picture above in September. Sadly I don’t have anything that shows just how many Bottle Gentians there were. Believe me, it was LOTS. I always think of Bottle Gentian as a finicky plant, slow to establish and spread. But it must be pretty happy at Lurie Garden.


As with a lot of other plants, the Bottle Gentian bloom period began and ended early this year. The picture above was taken a couple of days ago. Those brown things poking up out of the white Calamint (Calamintha nepeta) are what’s left of the beautiful blue Gentians.

Overall, the Lurie Garden’s larger Light Plate has shifted into that period when the grasses and foliage make up a patchwork quilt in soft shades of of brown, red, green, and gold. The hot dry weather over the last couple of months have made a lot of the fall color more muted than usual, for both trees and perennials.


Even so, there is enough color to stimulate the gardener’s eye. Among the grasses, there’s the dark red of ‘Shenandoah’ Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).


How come ‘Sheandoah’ doesn’t display this kind of color in my garden?



While the seedheads of Switchgrass reminds me of floating mist, Prairie Dropseed’s make me think of the tiny sparks given off by sparklers.


Here’s another view.


Little Bluestem ‘The Blues’ (Schizachyrium scoparium).


The taller Little Bluestem ‘Blue Heaven’.


This is Blue Gramma Grass ‘Blond Ambition’ (Bouteloua gracilis). I’m sorry, but I think this is a weird plant. Makes me think of levitating disembodied eyebrows.


I forget what this grass is called but it looks good catching the light against a dark green hedge.


There’s lots of Fountain Grass ‘Cassian’ (Pennisetum alopecuroides) in the Light Plate. Fall is its best season.


In the Dark Plate, ‘Karl Foerster’ Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora) has softened to light, golden color.


Arkansas Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) is Lurie Garden’s star plant for foliage in fall and winter. The needle-like leaves gradually transition from green to gold.


Seems like the staff have discreetly edited out a bunch of the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) that had been popping up all over the Light Plate. They were kind enough to wait until after the Monarch migration, so no eggs were harmed. There’s some nice yellow foliage color among the plants that remain.


The fall foliage of Prairie Spurge (Euphorbia corollata) brightens up a corner made somber by dark stems of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).


But if you look closely, you can see that the Purple Coneflower seed heads are animated by foraging Goldfinches. Too bad these birds have put on their dull winter plumage.


Everything isn’t seedheads and foliage at Lurie Garden these days. There are still big patches of Calamint, buzzing with bees even in October.


There are drifts of cheerful Asters in the Dark Plate, though I forget which species is in the above photo.DSC_0399

This one is Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense).


The Tatarian Aster (S. tataricus) is tall and distinctive – and so upright!


Here’s a close up of the flowers. By the way, do not make my mistake of calling them “Tartarian Asters”. That would be an Aster originating from the land of the Tartars, known for their famous tartar sauce as well as steak tartare.



A big patch of Toad Lilies (Trycirtis formosana) blooms near the Tatarian (not Tartarian) Asters.


Here’s a close up of the flowers. I tried growing Toad Lilies, but they all got munched by rabbits.


Finally, there are Goldenrods in bloom, mostly ‘Fireworks’ (above) but also some ‘Wichita Mountain’.

Sorry this has been such a long post, it’s just that there is always so much to notice in this garden. October is a good time to visit Lurie, there are fewer people even as there is just as much to see.

I’ll be curious if November will make the autumn colors of Lurie Garden more muted or more intense.

42 Comments on “The Lurie Garden in October 2018”

  1. Levitating disembodied eyebrows? . . . How do you even know what that looks like?
    These goldfinches are interesting. I know nothing about them, but they are interesting when they show up in the garden because they do not seem to have a season or a schedule. I know they must know what they are doing, but it seems so random. They are gone now, and I do not know when they will be back.

  2. You gave me a giggle this morning when I read ” levitating disembodied eyebrows”. Those eyebrows are exactly what I like about this plant. Tartarian aster are my favorites. I love their stature, the clear yellow centers against the blue. I think they are a wow that not many people plant. Of course the Bottle Genetians are also a wow. I saw them growing for the first time when we were on the mini blog fling up in WI this summer. They are outstanding no doubt.

  3. For anyone in despair due to lack of redness in Panicum ‘Shenandoah’, I think Panicum ‘Cheyenne Sky’ would deliver you from such despair. In my garden, it reliably starts turning red in early summer, and is all red by the fall.

  4. The bottle gentians look pretty terrific even in their drying-up stage; it’s easy to imagine they were a real delight in full blue bloom against the clouds of calamint. Their success at the Lurie probably owes something to informed siting, and maybe even more to generous planting and patient attention.

    A plant being slow to settle in is often balanced by long life once established. If that’s true for these Lurie gentians, you’ll be able to pencil in a reminder to get more wide bloom shots on your 2019 calendar and beyond.

  5. Hanging around you gardeners always brings revelations. It never occurred to me that there could be cultivars of grasses. I must say, they’re all put to good and beautiful use in this garden. I’ve never seen the toad lilies or the Tatarian aster — both are quite beautiful.

  6. Don’t apologise Jason – the longer the better! I always enjoy seeing your posts on this garden. I love all the grasses of course, but am also very taken by that fresh green Amsonia foliage. I had never heard of a bottle gentian before. A curious flower!

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