The Recreation of a Historic Garden

By Glen Madeja, Head Gardener

The renovated gardens have progressed tremendously so far this year. Based on research done by landscape historian Barbara Geiger funded by a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a work plan had been laid out for the entire property, focused on the gardens surrounding Willard House. Over the past few years, gardens were reshaped, inappropriate plantings were removed and donated to friends and the Lincolnwood Garden Club of Evanston for their annual sale, and new plantings were begun.

This year, there was actually quite a bit of work done during the Winter. Much research was done finding historically appropriate plant sources. Many are quite difficult to find as the plants used in the 1890s (our period of significance) were primarily native varieties as opposed to the selectively-bred cultivars generally found in today’s nurseries. In addition to the plants, two additional garden elements were constructed – a four-foot-high dovecote done by volunteer Sam Lewis (father of Rachel Lewis, former scholar-in-residence at Willard House) and a recreation of the urn base found in front of Rest Cottage in the 1890s. If you had passed by the House in previous years, you would have seen that the ladder trellis and wooden walkway in front of Rest Cottage had been installed earlier.

With both mail order and locally sourced bulbs, corms, tubers, and plants beginning to trickle in during early Spring, plantings began. As spring warmed up, the number of plantings shot up dramatically. In addition, a new wire trellis was installed in front of the Annex to support a vining honeysuckle. As the season progressed, the gardens continued to fill out.

As always, gardening is filled with challenges and trepidation. New plantings do not always survive the shock of moving from their nursery pots to the garden. We have had a fairly hot late Spring and early Summer which stresses many plants. And, of course, we have rabbits living on the property. While admittedly cute, they are very destructive garden animals. Rabbit repellent has been used (basically watered down mint or pepper oils) and we had to create cages for the four newly planted heirloom roses which are a particular favorite of rabbits.

We hope you can stop by and see the gardens sometime this year. As always, the Head Gardener will be happy to answer any questions you have.

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