Yesterday Judy got downtown and had a long-delayed reunion with the Lurie Garden. She was enchanted with its winter splendor, and took lots of photos with her phone.


Stalks of Milkweed and gleaming office towers both set off by the blue sky.


These tall grasses seem to be performing a synchronized ballet as they all bend forward before the wind. I think that’s Korean Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha). Update: My friend Jo Ana Kubiak who works at Lurie Garden says that this is actually ‘Dallas Blues’ Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).


Stalks of Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum) against the Chicago skyline.


Leaves of European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) tenaciously refuse to fall in the Big Shoulder hedge.


Funny how this grass seems to reflect light while the skeletons of Calamint (?) (Calamintha nepeta) are shrouded in darkness.


Looking through the Light Plate toward the Art Institute. This view just makes me happy. Love the Allium and Echinacea seedheads scattered throughout like little punctuation marks.


Seedheads of Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum muticum).


Arkansas Bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) still golden after months of cold.


A closer look.


These grasses just glow against the somber backdrop of the Big Shoulder  hedge. Judy is telling me I should mention the amazing mix of textures. Also what the great afternoon light when she was there.


Echinacea seed heads.

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Not sure what these seed heads are. Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)? Update: Jo ana also says this is actually Eastern Bee Balm (M. bradburiana) – so I was close.


To me, those basal leaves at the lower left look like they are saying: “I’m done. Wake me next spring.”


I think these are the remains of Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii). Somehow they look both elegant and shabby.


Milkweed memories: a pod in the upper left, with silky seeds below.


Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) glowing red in the afternoon winter light.

Retaining beauty into the winter months is a basic test of any garden. The Lurie Garden surely passes that test. It’s a quieter beauty, but not hard to recognize.

40 Comments on “The Lurie Garden in December”

  1. Just look at all the wonderful textures and shades of color! I was there about 3pm, and the low winter light was perfect.

    This makes up for two years ago when I was planning a late winter photo day, and then a thaw was predicted so they did an early mowing down of everything. I was so disappointed!

  2. Great photos Judy… the first photo of the Milkweed and the white office towers is stunning! The Lurie Garden in winter has a beauty all of its own….& I’m probably appreciating it even more as we have a heatwave here in Australia.
    Phones take amazing photos these days.

  3. I just love your year-round updates from the Lurie- its so lovely to see a truly 4 season garden still looking interesting and enjoyable fully into winter. I’m also happy for you that you don’t have the 1.5 feet of snow we already have! 🙂 Happy Holidays!

  4. The European beech leaves are so pretty. I recognized the bluestem, which still may be my favorite, although that Amsonia is delightful. I can’t remember ever seeing our Amsonia enduring through the fall and winter. I’ll have to look more carefully. Judy’s photos are beautiful; I’m really surprised at the lack of any harshness. I suppose it was that late afternoon light.

  5. This is beautiful–well done, team! I especially appreciate this because it’s unlikely I’ll ever get down to Lurie Garden in the winter (not a big fan of downtown Chicago during the cold months–it really is windy!). But never say never! As you so perfectly illustrate through words and Judy’s photos, there is beauty in a winter garden…even without snow!

  6. Is it just coincidence that it is the Big Shoulder Hedge? That is what we refer to those hedges that are pruned to be so much wider on top and narrow at the base, instead of narrower on top like they should be. I also know them as fat hedges.

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