Chicago Botanic garden has a massive diversity of plants and garden spaces. We were able to find a few plants that we'd never seen before which is always a nice bonus. It's nearly impossible to see everything in this garden in one trip so it's definitely worth going back several times during a season to see how the garden changes. I hope to do that next year.
Maybe I just wasn't noticing them, but there seems to be a distinct lack of Japanese maple varieties at CBG. I've been to smaller gardens in harsher climates with far more of them. Really not sure why this is. This is one of the very few I saw, a nice dissectum type.
Amsonia have become fairly hot plants in the eyes of botanic gardens and plant people. There are many new ones coming onto the market. This Amsonia ciliata was actually in the trial garden, but I didn't take any other amsonia shots there so I'm including it in this section. The habit was fantastic, a very compact mound of fine foliage. I need one (or several) of these.
There was also a mass planting of Amsonia hubrichtii. I bet it looks great in bloom and in fall color. But the rest of the year? Kind of meh. There wasn't much to set off the foliage texture other than a few trees. There were a few of these massive areas planted with different plants and our reaction to them was "why?" You'll see a few more shortly.
Aster tataricus 'Jindai' was one of the only Asters to receive a 5-star rating from CBG's aster evaluation a few years ago. It was easy to see why. There were some nice large groupings of this plant, flowers were in peak bloom, the plants were clean and nearly 5' tall. I've been meaning to add this to the gardens. Once I have room to garden again, I will be doing so.
There was a planting of the new button bush variety, Cephalanthus occidentalis 'Sugar Shack', that stretched 200' or so. I was happy to see it developing some red fall color. This one should be more compact than the species. I like button bush quite a bit, it's a great native shrub that's pretty tough. There are 3 varieties on the market now, and that's probably more than enough.
There were some nice groupings of Chasmanthium latifolium. This has always been one of my favorite grasses for its seedheads.
There were some great containers with conifers in them. This one included Bergenia 'Flirt' which I hadn't seen before. It's a compact variety with heavy flower production.
It was nice to see a Cryptomeria japonica 'Little Champion' doing well here; they're borderline hardy at best.
Fontanesia fortunei 'Titan' was a new plant to me. It was very clean looking and apparently gets white flowers. I've seen varying reports of hardiness. A couple sources say zone 4, I will have to try it out.
|Ginkgo biloba 'Troll'|
Another area of mass planting included Hakonechloa macra 'All Gold'. As much as we love Hakonechloa, we didn't find this particularly attractive as there wasn't anything to contrast with the grass and show it off. It wasn't ugly, it looks ok. Just not "WOW!"
|Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'|
|Heuchera 'Berry Smoothie'|
|Heuchera 'Dark Mystery'|
|Heuchera 'Dark Mystery'|
|Ilex verticillata 'Afterglow'|
|Juniperus chinensis 'Torulosa Variegata'|
We found a nice specimen of Magnolia tripetala. I love the large tropical looking foliage of this species.
Morus bombycis 'Unryu' was another plant I didn't know. This is a contorted mulberry and the leaves were massive. Again, I'm finding conflicting zone info. Also the nomenclature is unclear. Some list bombycis as a synonym of M. alba but the foliage doesn't seem to match as M. alba has much smaller leaves that may be simple to lobed.
Another mass planting consisted of Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail'. This was the most impressive of the mass plantings, but only because it was in full bloom. This area was also bordered by Carex muskingumensis. I'm thinking it had been somewhat dry as the Carex was quite brown. I think in summer when not in bloom, this area would be as meh as the others we saw.
|Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Firetail' and friends.|
|Picea engelmanii 'Bush's Lace'|
|Rosa virginiana hips with Pennisetum seed heads, a great combo|
|A rose, I didn't look for the tag.|
|Salix alba, a simple basic plant that really looked quite good.|
Salvia reptans West Texas Form. Another one that was in the trial but I'm covering here. This may actually be hardy here, these were really nice looking.
|Sciadopitys verticillata 'Cynthia Waxman'|
There were several low-graft Styrax japonica 'Fragrant Fountain' that made a really neat weeping accent among large plants.
Symphyotrichum pilosum was in peak bloom, looked amazing, and was full of pollinators. Really worth including in the garden. Another highly rated species in the trial.
I'm familiar with a few Thermopsis but had only seen pictures of T. chinensis before. This is a very early bloomer and not too terribly large.
|Thuja occidentalis 'Filiformis'|
That's it for hardy plants. Next will be trials!