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The Wesley Whiteside Garden

The beginning of the five acre garden can be traced back to Wesley Whiteside's undergraduate degrees from Black Hawk College and Augustana College, and his graduate degrees from the University of Illinois and Florida State University. Wes was then employed in 1960 in the Botany Department at Eastern Illinois University at Charleston, Illinois. His purchase of farm land on the east edge of Charleston that became the garden was made in 1962.

The initial plan for the garden was to develop a collection of woody plants, especially those native to the eastern and southeastern United States. Perhaps best represented are the magnolias, not only many of the popular Asiatic representatives, but also all six species and three subspecies native to the southeastern United States, many of which have been neglected horticulturally. Probably no plant in the garden receives more comment than the native big leaf magnolia with an almost month long display of large white flowers in late May and early June.

Another noteworthy woody plant is the Ben Franklin Tree with a succession of three-inch white flowers for over two months in late summer and autumn. Discovered in 1760 in only one site in southeastern Georgia, it was last observed growing as a wild plant in 1803.

Other woody plants rarely seen in the Midwest include the silk camellia, the mountain camellia, the Georgia Plume, and the Alabama Snow-wreath from the southeastern United States. Also included is the Alaska weeping Cedar from the Pacific Northeast, the cedar-of-Lebanon from Asia Minor, and the false camellia, Chinese wax shrub, umbrella pine, and orjama magnolia from eastern Asia.

Additional components include plantings devoted to roses, hardy cacti, carnivorous plants (including several hundred Venus-Flytrap plants), wild flowers, winter-flowering plants, and an extensive collection of daylilies. Several goldfish pools provide planting areas for waterlilies and other aquatic plants.