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English Garden on The Prairie

A garden remodel turns on the charm

Written by Elvin McDonald
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    It took some nerve to tear up a yard full of plantings they'd lovingly tended for years, but that's exactly what Rosie and Bob Drucker did. After visiting gardens in England, they came back to their 80x100-foot lot in Wilmette, approximately 18 miles north of downtown Chicago, with fresh eyes. "We both have green thumbs and grow beautiful plants," Bob says, "but something was missing -- it didn't feel like a garden." That's when they called in landscape architect Douglas Hoerr (pronounced Hare), and the fun began.

    The Druckers' slate-roofed brick home had "cottagey charm" in Hoerr's estimation. "I envisioned a 6-foot enveloping masonry wall to enclose the garden and then worked out sight lines from inside the house. What would they be seeing from the rooms where they live and work? When combined with a rich horticultural overlay, this would achieve the English garden look they desired."

    Photography: Kritsada

    Landscape architect: Douglas Hoerr, Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, 850 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60607; 312/492-6501, hoerrschaudt.com.

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    When Hoerr showed the Druckers his design, they questioned, "Shouldn't things be curving?" His response was, "No. If you look at the great English gardens such as Hidcote and Sissinghurst, they are strongly architectural, which complements a billowy planting style. In other words, squared beds show off rounded plants." The new plan organizes the yard into three segments based on a north-south axis from the terrace to the back of the property: an allée of columnar beech trees framing a serene swath of lawn--which is shown here--a formal garden of three boxwood parterres, and a terrace with water features, all linked by intersecting cross-paths.

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    The view from the back of the lot to the gable end of the 1920s brick house was aesthetically pleasing, but looking the opposite direction, Hoerr saw what he politely refers to as "a pathetic garage." Bob's daughter, an architect, designed a new structure, which Hoerr sited on the other side of the garden to make a theatrical backdrop. The gable end of the new garage contains a dovecote.

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    Bob and Rosie found the water trough and staddle stone (aka "mushroom stone") in England.

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    As seen from the boxwood parterres, the flower border features white 'David' summer phlox, yellow snapdragons, roses, dianthus, and butterfly bush. Pink mandevillas grow on the arch.

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    The flower border that grows under the allée of columnar beech trees can also be seen through inviting handcrafted iron arches positioned at the cross-paths.

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    A water-lily pond replaced the "perennials & annuals" indicated on Doug Hoerr's original sketch. The splashing music of the fountain masks the sounds of suburbia.

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