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Great Gardens: Arcadia, Lake Forest, IL

By October 1, 2010November 22nd, 20118 Comments
by Val Khislavsky

Enjoy this look at Arcadia, a blog reader’s garden that she has been developing for a quarter century and was kind enough to share with us.

A bench shaded by a bald cypress provides pond-side refuge at Arcadia. Photo: Robin Ann Carlson.

A garden over time reflects countless hours of brainstorming, planting, dividing, re-arranging, and of course, the inescapable weeding. But the rewards for the gardener, be they literal or spiritual fruits, are worth every bit of effort. Gardens over the course of many years are lived in, played in, worked in, and perhaps most importantly, well-remembered places of inspiration for their child and adult patrons alike. The garden spaces and aesthetics themselves may change, but the garden as a whole remains a caché of memories and experiences, some private and some shared.

We’ve been fortunate enough to meet and know a few gardeners whose landscapes reflect a lifetime of creativity and care, and are quite enviable to say the least. There is a richness to each of the landscapes that can only be achieved over time as they have been added to and refined, year after year.

A semicircular brick terrace radiates out from the house. The curves are echoed in the shapes of the garden.
Photo: Robin Ann Carlson.

Our first featured garden, Arcadia, belongs to an avid gardener near Lake Forest, Illinois, who wrote to us with stunning images of her landscape meant to reflect the Grecian ideals of “pastoral simplicity and idyllic settings.” Designed by landscape architect Anthony Tyznik, the landscape has been developing since 1984 when the owner and her husband built a Bauhaus-inspired passive solar home and created the landscape around it. The elements of the landscape are tied together via a lawn that sweeps around the house “like a meandering river.”

“Water Girl II” by Nenne van Dijk adds playfulness and elegance to the garden. Photo: Robin Ann Carlson.

Arcadia reflects the owner’s interest in art collection. A bronze sculpture, “Water Girl ll” by Nenne van Dijk, was purchased at Chelsea in 1992 and joins several others in the garden. It sits in a small water basin that empties into a stream that then flows into the pond. Transplanted skunk cabbage lines the stream, accompanied by royal ferns and marsh marigolds. The garden owner also invites local artists to paint by the pond in the summertime.

Hydrangeas frame a view of the pond and gazebo. Photo: Robin Ann Carlson.

The landscape architect Anthony Tyznik designed a kidney-shaped pond on the northwest corner of the property. It is lushly planted both inside and around, and teems with wildlife: “Dragonflies hover over the pond in summer, small fish spawn in it, ducks land on it, a few staying to raise families.” The plant life inside the pond includes Iris pseudocarus, pickerel weed, chelone flowers, and others. Yellow floating heart is an uninvited guest, although when weeded out makes great material for the compost. Some of the plantings around the pond include trees like Silverbell, Amelanchier, and Nyssa sylvatica, with an understory composed of shrubs (azaleas, spice bush, oakleaf hydrangea) and perennials (May apples, solomon’s seal, celandine poppies and others). The owner describes the pond as “a tranquil and thriving part of the landscape.”

The fenced vegetable and annual flower garden, which boasts sweet peas in summer and sunflowers in each corner in August. Photo: Robin Ann Carlson.

Throughout her garden, the owner of Arcadia employs the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which, in her words, “tolerates imperfection, [but] is not the same thing as ignoring it.” Another significant garden influence has been May Watts, a long-time ecologist and educator at the Morton Arboretum whose classes the garden owner attended before training as a Master Gardener a the Chicago Botanic Garden. She also credits Julie, “whose seminars at the Botanic Garden and early book on garden archetypes so greatly influenced [her] gardening.”

Nenne van Dijk’s “Seesaw” invites visitors into the May Watts reading room. Photo: Robin Ann Carlson.

Although she is now in her eighties, Arcadia’s owner is still refining elements of her landscape. Inspired by Julie’s Contemplative Gardens, she has paid homage to May Watts by creating a reading room across from the Bauhaus façade of the house in an area of previously empty lawn. She had only thought of the reading room and the Nenne Van Dijk “Seesaw” sculpture it contains in the last two years, but the space is now “a synergistic and harmonious part of the garden.” The owner has been guided by a patient approach to gardening: “In my experience,” she writes, “gardens reveal themselves slowly.”

Stay tuned for more gardens that delight and inspire!

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Anne Brewer says:

    So lovely and serene- just what a landscape and garden should be. Thank you for sharing.

  • Frederick Perez says:

    “Gardens reveal themselves slowly” ,now those are words of wisdom. Those shots truly reveal that wisdom. Beautiful.

  • Val,

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute to a talented woman and her lovely landscape. I am honored to know that my writing and teaching influenced its design.

    JMMDS is so lucky to have you in charge of making our posts so elegantly composed and so informative and well-written as each one is. More to come!

  • Anne Gillies says:

    Lovely and beautifully photographed… thanks to the owner for sharing her private haven… there is lots of inspiration in it for me, as for many others, I’m sure!

  • Wilhelmina Peters says:

    Lovely article, beautifully written and photographed—Thank you Julie…

  • Laurie Danforth says:

    I enjoyed this well-written entry and look forward to reading about other gardens. I am continually amazed by the diversity of artistic and spiritual expression possible in one’s love for plants and the natural world.

  • Ann Carton says:

    thank you Val and Julie and her readers for your interest and kind complements. Ann

  • Lightopia says:

    What a wonderful garden. Just looking at the pictures made me calm and serene, I can only imagine what it is like to actually stroll through that garden. Great Job!