Sometimes, a blank slate can be more challenging than starting to work from existing hardscape or design elements. That wasn't the case this Glenview homeowner, who had a clear vision and landscape design ideas from the start. The goal was to blend a serene Tuscany-inspired aesthetic with the graciousness of a high-end resort, and generously mix in the beautiful perennials native to the Midwest.
After taking ownership of the spectacular property, the original home was torn down to make way for an Italianate structure that was carefully designed to give the appearance that it had been built long ago. This also allowed the Van Zelst team to address potential drainage issues, diverting water toward the back of the property, and preparing planting beds with vermicompost, a treatment made with worm castings that provides excellent nutrition for plants. Only the old-growth trees and mature evergreens remained to be incorporated into the flow of the new landscape plan.
The homeowner and members of the Van Zelst design team worked together closely, referring to ideas and inspiration collected over years of travels to Italy, stunning California resorts and research into new hybrids and varieties of plants that thrive in the Midwest. The goal was to create something completely unique, eclectic and architectural, while ensuring that the space evoked a sense of serenity throughout.
The new landscape plan incorporates a variety of outdoor living areas—a pool and spa, welcoming outdoor kitchen and dining room, relaxing outdoor living room for after-dinner socializing, and thoughtful nooks and walkways.
Hardscape gives the landscape structure, with a wide variety of stone and pavers selected and applied in sometimes unexpected ways. Bluestone slabs beneath the outdoor dining area and around the pool feel cool and sophisticated, while a carpet of decomposed bluestone gives the seating area a more casual air. Granite, limestone, flagstones and clay pavers each come into play—all weathered or tumbled for an aged effect.
Throughout the warmer months, abundant perennial flowers, shrubs and foliage fill the property with a full spectrum of high-impact color. In addition, strategically placed shrubs and tall grasses add a sense of privacy and serenity to individual areas and make spaces feel more intimate. Oversized planters, overflowing with colorful annuals, add to the flow and complement the grand scale of the space.
As visitors follow the bluestone and clay paver pathways, there's much more to experience. A lush, green shade garden brings the area beneath the tree canopy to life. A raised vegetable garden is set apart from the bluestone walk by rows of dragon's blood sedum and playful marigolds that have the added benefit of warding off pests. Wanderers may also come upon one of several fountains incorporated into the landscape design—including a converted granite millstone and a transformed Indian planter received from a past client. The continuous trickle of water adds soothing sound and movement to the setting and invites butterflies and birds to stop by.
A favorite space throughout the spring, summer and fall, this Glenview garden, filled with beautiful landscape design ideas, is always in use. The pool and spa, with their incredible views and are home to daily gatherings of friends and family and the outdoor chef's kitchen means that the family is always ready to entertain.
As the house drew to completion, it was time to turn their attention outdoors. Hardscape, including a new circular driveway, flagstone and bluestone walkways, and bluestone and fieldstone patios were created to anchor the landscape. The existing design included nearly an acre of turf grass, which required extensive maintenance. In the new plan, most of the lawn has been converted to prairie or planting beds.
As avid gardeners, the owners also wanted a vegetable plot. A parterre vegetable garden was added behind the home. Framed by boxwoods, the parterre style offers a nice contrast to the looser, more undefined feel of the perennial beds.
The next challenge was to narrow down their extensive wish list of plants. Working with beautiful flowers and foliage day in and day out, it was tempting to bring in everything they loved. The couple settled on a New American-style theme, featuring abundant sweeps of perennial flowers and grasses. Not wanting to be too limited by a style, they gave themselves permission to stray from the rules whenever they saw fit.
Starting with long lists of potential plants, they began the process of elimination, honing the list to incorporate an ideal variety of colors, textures and sizes. Beds on all sides of the home were filled with bountiful plantings of hardy, colorful perennials, leafy groundcover and native grasses. Containers change from season to season and year to year with the owners' moods, often incorporating tropical plants that reflect their love of the islands.
The finished landscape is exactly the private, serene retreat the owners had envisioned. In the warmer months, they spend most of their time at home on the bluestone patio, taking in views of wildlife and flowers at the end of the day.