Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On the garden meander

I managed to take pictures of just three gardens on yesterday's Rogers Park Garden Group garden "meander," not including the several dozen people in my own garden, which was on the tour. The walk started and ended with semi-public gardens. First, the lovely formal courtyard of Rogers Park landmark the "Casa Bonita;" if you drive up Ridge Avenue into Evanston, you know this building. It's the big white terracotta courtyard apartments just south of St. Scholastica High School, which is where the walk ended.

The Casa Bonita's blinding white courtyard and pristine central pool make you feel like you've stepped out of Chicago and into Mexico City; all that's missing are the palm trees. The sound of water, with two running fountains, sets the mood.

Further down Ridge, we got to go into the "sunken" gardens behind two of three wonderful Prairie School bungalows on the east side of Ridge, a decades-long desire of mine. From their front yards on Ridge to their backyards there is a 10-foot drop, so you get to actually walk downhill, an unusual sensation for a Chicago property. Both houses had ponds dominating the spaces, and Ridge-level decks overlooking them, creating cozy, shaded walkways for a hot day.

A spectaluar 15-foot-wide hibiscus with dinner plate sized blooms was a highlight of these.

My house was next; the best thing about being on the walk was how people really understood the "garden as canvas" aspect of the design, with at least one person complimenting the layout as "painterly." Thank you everyone who walked through for your lovely remarks. It was wonderful sharing my garden with you.

From my house the meander started meandering back towards the starting point, dropping into a shady back yard with several inviting seating areas and a free standing stone fountain that made me want to just sit down and drink a nice smoothie like the one below. The eye-popping centerpiece here was a Smoke Bush hedge--gorgeous.

The last 3 gardens on the walk were street-side gardens; a corner vegetable garden with a large lawn, another courtyard garden and the parkway gardens that were funded by an Adopt the Public Way grant that the RPGG gives out each year.

The walk ended at St. Scholastica's wonderful 14-acre property on Ridge. The Benedictine sisters there host a large community garden, a garden for the on-site monastery, 100-year-old concord grape vines, several fountains, a labyrinth, a grotto, and what must be several miles of woodsy and meadow walks as well as a regulation track and an athletic field. (Since my daughter went to high school here I was already familiar with this gem.) The Sisters invite people to come in and respectfully tour the gardens, on their own, any time.

Rogers Park Garden Group keeps their meanders (as they call them) short and compact-- you can do the whole thing in about an hour even if you stand around talking with the gardeners, and they feed you at the end of it. You must join the group to attend: a steal at $10, since they do several lectures, a huge plant sale and other events all year. Their next event is a tour of Rick Bayless' garden; to join and get tickets, go to their website.

Cucumber-mint smoothie
One large cucumber, seeded, cubed and frozen
coupla Tablespoons to 1/4 cup mint syrup, depending on how sweet you like your smoothies
1 cup raw milk yogurt
1/2 cup whole milk
honey to taste, optional (if you like your smoothies very sweet)

To make the mint syrup, combine a large handful of mint in 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 3/4 cup sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce to 1 cup. Strain (and discard the greens). Add a few drops of mint extract to punch up the flavor.

Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse until combined, then blend on liquify until completely smooth.


  1. Oh, I do love me some prairie style and bungalows! That purple smokebush is awesome, as is the hibiscus, which for height alone I mistook for hollyhocks. I like quiet water features, otherwise I always feel like I gotta go!

  2. I love meandering through gardens...what a lovely way to spend a summer day!

    That sunken garden is too cool!

    Just a reminder that we are getting near the end of the kinderGARDENS series and I'm urging everyone to link up as often as possible with their best posts. Soon the judges will be looking them over!

    Have a happy Thursday! Kim

  3. Sorry I didn't make the garden meander. I'm going to have to go up to your neck of the woods and see if I can photograph that courtyard garden. It is beautiful.

  4. MBT- It's right around the corner from me. Let me know when you come and I'll give you tour of mine, and a couple of my faves around the neighborhood!