How it started

Dr. Wesley (Wes) Whiteside was a faculty member in the former Botany Department at Eastern Illinois University (1960-1987) where he taught numerous students with kind and caring concern in subjects such as general botany, local flora, plant taxonomy, plant morphology and mycology. He enthusiastically shared his wealth of plant knowledge with students. Wes also was an active daylily breeder, and at least eight of his late blooming cultivars are available commercially.

Wes started his garden in 1963 from farmland, and transformed 5 acres into a diverse botanical garden and arboretum. The remaining acreage of his property includes his home, 2 acres of woodland, and remaining farmland. The property includes a winding stream that dissects and adds topographical diversity to the landscape. Also included on the property are ponds, sand areas, fountains and sculptures. Dr. Whiteside's wealth of knowledge was not limited to his property but also includes the history of many of the early plantings of trees on the EIU campus. His knowledge of the unique plant species, native and exotic alike, that rarely are found in nature or other Midwest botanical gardens, was of immeasurable value. His generous donation of plants and gardening knowledge helped many individuals landscape their own gardens. Wes was loved and admired by his students and gardeners with whom he shared his knowledge and plants.

Over the years, students, teachers, researchers, and a wide-variety of organizations have used The Whiteside Garden as a resource. Organizations using The Whiteside Garden include Eastern Illinois University, Lake Land College, Coles County Historical Society, Coles County Arts Council, Master Gardeners, The Great Rivers Chapter of the American Holly Society, and the Grand Prairie Butterfly Club.

The Whiteside Garden is unmatched as a local botanical resource for education and research. To ensure that The Whiteside Garden’s unique botanical, cultural and historical offerings are preserved and maintained for current and future generations, Wes asked EIU to develop his garden as a self-sustaining resource for education, research and outreach. This process has become The Whiteside Garden Project.

The Whiteside Garden Story 2014

The Whiteside Garden Story 2003

Golden Anniversary


On September 14th & 15th, 2013 The Whiteside Garden celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a Golden Anniversary celebration. Hundreds of people, from at least 12 states, attended the event. On Saturday, a reception was held at Eastern Illinois University, attended by Dr. Whiteside and members of his family, other Emeritus faculty from Eastern Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University President William Perry, and many alumni and community members. Following the reception The Whiteside Garden was open for touring. On Sunday, The Whiteside Garden was open to the public with a self-guided tour and special presentations on garden features including the Bog Garden, Pond Garden, Daylily Collection, Rose Cultivars, Butterflies and Butterfly Gardening, Ben Franklin Trees, and the History of The Whiteside Garden. Select any of the individual images below to scroll through larger versions of the pictures

The Whiteside Garden: A Photographic Essay