Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden


Inspiring Garden Design: A Lake Forest Garden Mecca

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To refer to the North Shore of Chicago as a “a garden mecca” is an understatement…to include some of the most beautiful homes in our country, complete with their interesting stories. This Lake Forest property was to have been a gentleman’s farm for the Armour family in 1915 but only the motor courtyard, and a two gatehouse/garage complex, were built before WWI and the Depression interceded. Fast forward, in 2009 they became the perfect residence and palette for landscape designer Craig Bergmann, and his partner, Paul Klug. The gravel courtyard (above) is formal in design with boxwood cones, globes, and hedges bordered with German iris in spring and Russian sage in summer.

Working from 1920 photos of the original landscaping, coupled with his own creations, Bergmann has created a compelling montage of garden spaces…English country-style, with a twist. “I wanted to configure them formally but plant them informally.” The West Gardens feature double mixed borders planted with day lilies, phlox, hydrangeas, and red dipladenia covering metal obelisks.

Throughout the property are design and horticultural vignettes that include antique statuary, ornaments, and containers billowing with unusual plants.

Spires of foxglove accentuate the mixed borders in summer.

And a snowfall of pink crab apple blossoms take center stage in spring.

Great thought has been given to places to stop, to sit, to repose, all within a garden setting that reflects Craig Bergman’s horticultural talents. A variegated dappled willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro-Nishiki’) provides a dramatic backdrop to a stone seat.

In addition to the floriferous garden rooms, the oval shade garden provides a contrast with its calm, naturalistic settings, marked by a rustic arbor and path.

Their ramshackle planting mixes…which features brightly colored coleus, chartreuse Japanese forest grass, a golden Japanese maple, and silvery blue heart-shaped brunnera…have evolved over the years and provide habitats for insects and wildlife.

But it is the small dining terrace with which I am smitten, so cozy and yet with crucial design statements gracefully introduced into this petit space…a pair of urns overflowing with blue fan flower (scaevola aemula), a low, planted urn on line with the narrow water feature and tall, stone plinth supporting a dramatic bronze eagle…and the inviting space finished with a bench nestled between two clipped hedges (on the right).

My friend, Ben Lenhardt, Jr.’s book, Gardens of the North Shore of Chicago, has been the suitable close to my winter 2021 Inspiring Garden Design series. Debuting last fall, the three-years-in-the-making opus has been ranked by Amazon from time to time as #1 Best Seller in Landscape Architecture and Midwest Region Gardening. Fittingly for this Chairman Emeritus of The Garden Conservancy, all proceeds from his book are donated to this prestigious organization that protects and preserves gardens across our land.


All photos taken by Scott Shigley.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

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".

2 thoughts on “Inspiring Garden Design: A Lake Forest Garden Mecca

  1. Hi Bettie.
    What a gorgeous, beautifully maintained garden with those different colors and leaf shapes, the statuary, the benches, trellis, pathways, urns, all of it.
    The variegated dappled willow and foxgloves are lovely.
    Have a wonderful Sunday.

    1. You have such a good eye, Jody! So excited about YOUR upcoming new garden and your three Parterre Bench additions! xB

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