A Shade Garden Comes into Bloom in Northbrook

When Van Zelst and this Northbrook family began working together several years ago, it was to simply complete a small shade garden planting project. Over time, however, the relationship has grown as the home’s owners began to imagine the possibilities for their landscape.

The heavily wooded property presented a tremendous opportunity to illustrate how shady areas can come to life with an interesting mix of plant types. The trees were underplanted with spiky astilbe, broad-leafed hostas, and dramatic hydrangeas, as well as ferns, heuchera, vinca and other shade-friendly perennials. Bursting with pinks, purples and pops of bright white, as well as a variety of green foliage in all shades, shapes and sizes, the environment is awash with color and texture throughout the warmer months. Each plant type grows in large, lush drifts, to complement the expansive scale of the property.

In addition to a breathtaking shade garden, the family has worked closely with Van Zelst to incorporate thoughtful hardscape additions. A new driveway, edged with tumbled concrete pavers, is a more appropriate complement to the house and gardens. An existing seatwall was extended to encompass a new mini-pool and fountain, all using stone aged to match the adjacent weathered stone. A new patio was crafted from large Jerusalem limestone slabs, creating an elegant outdoor dining room. What’s more, statuary, fountains, and meandering stone walls punctuate the shade garden to add personality and interest while guiding views through the landscape.

Like many North Shore properties, this one had landscape drainage issues that also needed to be addressed. Van Zelst engineers and experienced crews performed extensive work to divert water away from low-lying areas in the rear of the property, near a natural pond.

Each year, the family continues to contemplate more ways to enhance their shade garden and landscape. An outdoor shower and spa are next on the horizon, to add to the livability of their outdoor space.