Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden

Gardens of the North Shore of Chicago

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For you garden lovers like me, I’m betting that a gorgeous, exceptional new book on our favorite topic is cause for celebration! Just published, Gardens of the North Shore of Chicago, is a three year body of work by Ben Lenhardt Jr., Chairman Emeritus of the Garden Conservancy. It is this respected organization that is the recipient of all proceeds from the book’s sales.

Ben’s own garden (below), with its mixed terrace borders that give way to ravine and knot gardens in the background, well sets the scene for the quality and breadth of this first book on gardens of the North Shore area.

The inviting text is taken to another level when paired with the exquisite photographs of noted landscape photographer, Scott Shigley. You will be thrilled at the large images that let you take in the many glorious garden details, inspiring horticultural material and landscaping ideas.

Gardens of the North Shore of Chicago is a long overdue book, focusing on the garden mecca of Chicago’s North Shore (the eight contiguous suburbs–i.e. Lake Forest, Winnetka and Wilmette) that all share the Lake Michigan shoreline and the extra plus of close proximity to this mid west cosmopolitan city. Four Garden chapters…Classic, Contemporary, Country, and Naturalistic…cover the creativity and diversity of this part of our country.

While many gardens of the North Shore were created at the end of the nineteenth/early twentieth century, most in the book have been installed in just the last forty years. Fortuitously, some of the original estate houses have survived to provide a sense of place and context for the new designs.

Clinola is a worthy case in point where the owners concept of “doing right by the house and landscape,” prompted a restoration and refurbishment that followed the footprints of the original 1927 garden landscape by Ferruccio Vitale. To direct this exciting project, Charles Stick was selected for his landscape talents.

A new eighteenth-century style French manor house also draws inspiration from the past horticultural ethos of these original suburbs introduced to this area.

Their gardens, designed by Deborah Nevins, are unique in the focus on principles of universal accessibility; this priority was carried out with smooth, broad paths, no steps and numerous seating areas.

With both national and international designers at the helm, one of the clearest messages from this book is strength of garden design. My image selections play up this point, for I wholeheartedly believe that success will always be eluding a garden without “good bones.”

All of the entries in Gardens of the North Shore of Chicago share excellence in design and horticulture. Their common theme? “The keen interest the owners have in their paradises,” as Ben observes. And the driving reason that he believes these owners have each created a “garden with soul.” Importantly, the last chapter in the book is devoted to the world class Chicago Botanic Garden, which deserves much credit for design inspiration and the high quality of these private gardens.

It has been such a pleasure to share a sampling of these exemplary twenty-five gardens with you. Please join me in wishing my friend and author, Ben Lenhardt Jr., warm congratulations. Now you can zip over to Amazon to purchase one for yourself (and those on your holiday gift list).

All photos credit, Scott Shigley Photography.

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

7 thoughts on “Gardens of the North Shore of Chicago

  1. Such a feeling of excitement to see “Gardens of the North Shore” in my email box. The Garden Conservancy has done an outstanding job in hosting their walks thru these amazing gardens. We have recently moved from the area but there were many years when my summer plans would depend o the schedule of garden walks. The homeowners would often be present and it was an experience to see the garden thru their eyes. But did Highland Park or Glencoe not make the book? HP is the less-mentioned “step-sister” on the North Shore.

    1. Oh Debbie, how lucky you were to live in this paradisical area! Thanks for passing along your first hand experience with some homeowners.
      From the table of contents, I’m assuming that the book included: Winnetka, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Mettawa, Glencoe (and Fredonia, WI). xB

  2. These gardens look like paradise to me!

    Do you know what plant was used for the spiral design on the stone building and how to achieve this ?

    1. Yes, I agree, these gardens are my version of paradise! Thats’ a trumpet vine on the left corner and pear espalier encircling the window. xB

  3. Bettie, what a glorious post! If there, I would plant myself in any of those gardens and never leave!

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