A living carpet of foliage and flowers makes The Morton Arboretum’s Ground Cover Garden a favorite of photographers, artists, and home gardeners.
Broad paved paths lead to the garden from the Visitor Center, the Research Center, and the Sterling Morton Library.
The original garden was built in 1938. It is one of the most densely planted and diverse gardens in the Arboretum, with more than 350 types of plants. Strategically placed benches along the shady, winding paths allow guests to enjoy the beauty of this tranquil setting.
The Ground Cover Garden is planted with perennials and ground covers chosen to complement trees and shrubs. Look for areas showcasing a wide range of hellebores, hostas, hydrangeas, and ferns. With a number of mature trees in the garden, light levels vary from place to place, allowing guests to see what plants thrive in full sun, partial shade, or full shade.
Gardeners will want to take photos as well as notes: Signs offer valuable advice on choosing ground covers that are compatible with trees. Attributes to think about are flowers, foliage, size when mature, hardiness, light requirements, and pest and disease resistance.
The Ground Cover Garden offers delights and inspiration throughout the year. In spring, look for many flowers including Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica). In summer, find Asian fleece flower (Polygonum polymorphum). Autumn brings silvery seed heads to zebra silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’). In winter, enjoy the bright red berries of common winterberry (Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’). And don’t miss the massive beeches, with elegant, smooth bark and sweeping, weeping branches that add another dimension to the groundcover landscape.