The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL has always ranked as one of my favorite places, even before I became plant-obsessed. The Children's Garden has enthralled my daughter since she could walk, and my little boy is exploring every corner these days. Their tree collections are just incredible, stimulating my analytical side with all those latin names. And taking a solitary walk through the pine forests, oak savannahs, and prairie often simultaneously takes my breath away while calming my senses and grounding my spirit.
Now is a particularly good time to visit the Arboretum, during their Nature Unframed: Art at the Arboretum exhibit. Two of my favorites are "Wall in Blue Ash Tree" by Letha Wilson, and "How Far Have We Gone" by Theodoros Zafeiropoulos. Wilson highlights the tree's intricate limbs and branches by building a wall to spotlight the individual branches. Zafeiropoulos selected a deceased tree, sliced it up, and created a floating path on Meadow Lake.
As a garden designer, the Arboretum is a wonderful place to find inspiration. The gardens are filled with unexpected yet perfectly matched plant combinations. And the landscapes are always changing. Visit the Schulenburg Prairie this month, and it will be completely different next. If you visit now, you'll see one of my favorite native plants in bloom - Geum triflorum, or prairie smoke. Take a look at the last photo below and you'll see why it's sometimes called "Old man's whiskers". In early spring, it's graceful nodding blooms are a rosy pink color. But it really earns it's common name when in the seed stage and a mass of the plants look like a smoke is hovering above. The foliage turns dark red in fall and is sometimes evergreen. A well-behaved native, it does not readily reseed. I've got some in my front yard raised bed; you should try it too!