Tidy Path  

Purple ‘Jackmanii Superba’ clematis scales a garden wall, greeting the Forsythes as they enter through a private entrance at the rear of the house. Boxwood hedges help contain flowering plants and keep paths free of dirt and mulch after heavy rains. Sandra’s kitchen window is to the left of the door.  

Sun Worshippers

“This was a great spot for a cutting garden thanks to all of the sun,” says Craig. ‘Summer Sun’ helianthus basks in July’s searing rays. Craig took care to choose flowers that matched the vintage of the 1920s house and reflected Sandra’s classic sensibilities, such as yarrow, snapdragon and hydrangeas. “These old-fashioned flowers might have been in the garden if it was planted in the 1920s,” he says.

Repurposed Playhouse 

A charming playhouse with cedar-shake roofing and white clapboard once beckoned children for hours of make-believe fun. With children grown, Sandra turned the house into a storage area for gardening tools and implements. Adults must duck to enter through a pint-sized door, but once inside, they can stand upright. Bergmann used antique door-stops shaped like baskets of flowers to adorn either side of the shed’s door. Seen in the foreground, spring tulips provide material for Sandra’s arrangements as soon as the ground thaws.


Reach For the Sky

Craig chose statuesque plants so they could be seen from afar ... through Sandra’s kitchen window. ‘Sunset’ coneflowers, ‘Terra Cotta’ yarrow and delphiniums have the necessary height

Brilliant Hues 

“The garden provides ideas of forms and colors that might look good together in a vase,” Craig says. ‘King Arthur’ and ‘Yankee Series’ delphinium mingle with coneflowers in Sandra’s favorite color – coral.


Blending In  

A soft, creamy, pinkish dahlia softens a stalk of bright purple delphinium.

Antique Irises 

These heirloom bearded irises were found languishing on another part of the property, where they weren’t getting enough sunlight, and moved to a more appropriate spot as part of the project. Craig says they may date to the 1920s, when the house was first built.

Beckoning Gate 

Robert Walker of Design Alternatives built the fence and gates for the Forsythe garden, which include custom hinges to allow this curved door to open smoothly. A circular-shaped gate pull lends an old-timey feel to the space. Wire mesh on the white fencing keeps rabbits and deer from feasting on the flowers, preserving them for Sandra’s arrangements.

What a View

The view from Sandra Forsythe’s kitchen window now encompasses a brilliant cutting garden framed by orderly rows of boxwood. The change, Sandra says, makes everyday chores like doing dishes feel like a luxury. Classic flowers and stately boxwood complement her 1920s home. 

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Charming Secret Garden

Near Chicago, a charming secret garden features lovely old-fashioned flowers 

Written by Kari Richardson
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Linda Oyama Bryan

Blending In  

A soft, creamy, pinkish dahlia softens a stalk of bright purple delphinium.

A soft pink dahlia softens a stalk of delphinium’s bright color.



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