The heart of Mettawa's landscape is the walled formal garden that stretches out from the terrace at the back of the house. From there, stone steps lead down onto the sunken lawn, the perfect spot for viewing the twin 40-foot-long herbaceous borders that crown the ramparts on either side. Opposite the terrace, at the far end of the formal garden, is a boxwood-edged rose parterre anchored by a Venetian marble wellhead, one of the few garden ornaments that remain from the original garden. Backing the elegant little parterre are long double borders planted with irises and peonies, ensuring that this area nearest to the house is at its floral prime during the summer months. "You know," Donna offers thoughtfully, as she describes her garden-making progress, "when we started the garden we knew next to nothing, but we learned so much in the process, and that has deepened what the garden means to us."
A flagstone path through the parterre garden emerges through a wrought-iron gate into the orchard meadow, where daffodils, camassia, and other bulbs are gradually colonizing the ground beneath the tree canopy. Next to this area is the productive little potager, and next to it, the lavender-hedged herb garden. It is partnered by a cutting garden where annuals are grown to augment the bouquets gathered from other parts of the garden.
"Kathleen Roberts is our regular horticulturalist here, and not only does she advise me on the planting schemes, but she also does all the container plantings and flower arrangements when we are hosting special events," Donna explains, giving the first hint at Mettawa's other, more public side as a venue for picnics, formal dinners, garden tours, and other similar events that are a normal extension of her support for numerous Chicagoland charities and philanthropic causes. She's on the boards of many of Chicago's key educational and cultural institutions, including the Chicago Library Foundation, After School Matters, WITS (Working In The Schools), and Project Exploration.