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National Public Garden Day offers inspiration for spring plant combinations

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National Public Garden Day


Chicagoans who took advantage of free admission on National Public Garden Day (May 11) to one of the areas public gardens, inspiration abound. Noticeable spring plant combos for sun, shade, containers, prairies and shorelines provided ideas for the home gardener/landscaper.

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For a sunny shoreline or native garden, Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) mixes beautifully with the ephemeral Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia), Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum), prairie grasses and later blooming native plants. The umbel shaped flowers of Golden Alexander bloom through May and June and attracts butterflies. The attractive dissected foliage provides texture when not in bloom. A spring ephemeral is a plant that disappears when done blooming. Shooting Stars, with their white to pink to lavender flowers, poke up through other plants in May and June. Interplant Shooting Stars among later blooming grasses and plants so that when the foliage disappears, holes are not visible in the garden. Prairie Smoke is one of those plants that everyone falls in love with once seen in bloom. These little guys should be massed for the ‘smoky’ effect, at the front of a border.

Another combination for full sun is the simple mingling of May Night Salvia with Golden Showers Coreopsis. These two perennials have a long bloom time with the purple spikes of Salvia contrasting the gold, daisy-like Coreopsis.The wispy, delicate Coreopsis foliage mixes with the more leafy Salvia, providing a nice textural effect.

The combination of a mature Copper Beech (Fagus) tree, under planted with Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) and Max Frei Geranium is a stunning combination. Here, purple-leaved branches drape over a shade-loving Poppy, while bright, mounding Geraniums fill in where the shade line stops.

For sun to part shade, Molly Milton Doublefile Viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum) makes quite the statement with its snowball-shaped white flowers. Even more so when paired with a mass of Pigsqueak (Bergenia cordifolia) for extended seasonal interest.

Inspiration for one’s own garden is just one of the benefits of visiting Chicagoland’s public gardens. Go visit one and see what else awaits.




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