Cantigny– A Jewel in the Midwest

During the course of this blog, you’ll find me writing about various public gardens that I’ve visited over the years. I usually come away from these visits more inspired than ever because they are chock full of beautiful and creative flower bed designs, along with very imaginative ideas for both ground and container plantings.

This past summer I visited Cantigny, located in the Chicagoland area. I’d been there some years before, but had forgotten how truly beautiful it is. To give you a little bit of background about Cantigny, it is a sprawling, 500-acre park that is composed of vast formal gardens, two history-rich museums, and more. It had started off in the early 1930’s as an experimental agricultural farm owned by Chicago Tribune’s owner Colonel Robert R. McCormick. In 1955, landscape architect Franz Lipp was hired to design and build a world class horticultural garden. Today it is one of the largest display gardens in the Midwest with more than 160,000 annuals, perennials, ground covers and flowering shrubs and trees.

It was hard to know where to start because your eye is drawn in every direction with plant color and texture. They offer a number of different types of gardens including formal gardens, a rose garden, an idea garden, a prairie/savannah garden and a reflection point. One garden in particular took my breath away. It was a long, curving bed that consisted of drifts of 3 different salvia varieties (S. farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’, S. farinacea’ Fairy Queen’, and S. splendens ‘Flare’). The way in which it was planted, and the combination of colors rather gave the entire large bed a ‘Monet-esque’ quality. Some visitors were so enamored with the effect they wanted their pictures taken right in the middle of the bed. Apparently the bees and butterflies felt the same way because they too were in high attendance!

I also really enjoyed their Idea Garden that had a number of different creative designs for flowers, foliage and vegetables, all in an abundance of different settings.

I highly recommend making Cantigny a stopping point if you’re traveling near Chicago. Plan to spend at least half a day there, longer if you want to include the museums. We had lunch at their restaurant (quite yummy!), and their coffee bar was most enjoyable. Oh! They had ice cream too - can’t forget that! Click here to go to their website.


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