The Whiteside Garden started in 1963 by the late Dr. Wesley Whiteside, a botany professor at Eastern Illinois University. Dr. Whiteside taught numerous subjects such as botany, local flora, plant taxonomy, plant morphology, and mycology. Over the years, Dr. Whiteside transformed a portion of his farmland on the east side of Charleston into the botanical oasis we know it as today.
The Whiteside Garden is a diverse botanical collection covering approximately 5 acres of land and containing thousands of species and different cultivars of plants. The garden features an extensive collection of daylilies, magnolias, and hostas, as well as many rare, threatened, or unique plants to this area that are rarely, if ever, found in nature or other Midwest botanical gardens. Dr. Whiteside was known for his breeding his daylilies. At least eight of his late blooming daylily cultivars are available commercially.
The garden was Dr. Whiteside’s pride and joy. Under the terms of his will, the garden was to be preserved and maintained for current and future generations as a local botanical resource for education, research, and outreach. Along with the property, Dr. Whiteside left initial, though not sustaining, operational funding for the garden. “The Whiteside Garden fits with our overall mission. After all, Helen Douglas-Hart’s goals were to create natural places for everyone to enjoy. We now have three unique sites: Friendship Garden, which is more of an urban sitting park with an array of plant life, the Nature Center, with restored habitats of Illinois, and now a unique botanical garden,” says Executive Director, Gary Boske.
The Douglas- Hart Foundation is excited to support this unique asset in the community as it is unlike any other resource in the area. The Foundation would like to extend a special thank you to the entire Whiteside family, Eastern Illinois University, and the EIU Foundation for assistance with the property transfer. A big “THANK YOU” to all the volunteers who have helped maintain the gardens over the past several years and who continue to do so. Though the Garden will only be available for research, special events, and group tours by appointment this coming year, the long term goal is to open it up to the public.