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Provence on the North Shore

Provence on the North Shore

The grounds of a Lake Forest home have been transformed into a European Landscape reminiscent of the south of France. Developed in phases with strong influence from the homeowner, Chief Horticulturist Jim Osborne, Director of Customer Care Ed Furner and the Mariani team created an elegant and formal design that complements the architecture of the home, with a setting more typical of Provence than Chicago’s North Shore.

The first step in the multi-year process was to reorganize the existing landscape. “Starting from the rear of the property and working toward the entrance, we removed more than half of the plantings because they didn’t fit our new design,” said Ed Furner. “The developer used a very generic landscape when the home was constructed that really could not be incorporated into our plans.”

A major challenge was recreating French landscape styles with plants and materials available locally. “The client particularly liked the strong vertical lines of the cypress tree and clipped globes of rosemary and lavender common in southern France,” said Osborne. “We substituted wintergreen arborvitae for cypress because they are greener and boarder but present a similar effect. Existing boxwoods were regrouped and yews were added in the back for the clipped rounded forms in the landscape.”

The owners want pedestrians to get only a quick glimpse of the house, and the back of the property lacked privacy. Two large crabapple trees were planted in front to offer color in the spring and provide screening from the street.  The evergreens along the driveway were tethered, allowing them to grow downward and touch the ground, resembling mounds. In keeping with the wish for a restrained palette, green giant arborvitae and privet were planted to achieve a fast-growing landscape in the back. White is the only other color in the landscape, which is provided by both vines and annuals.

The major structural change was the addition of 90 yards of topsoil. “We created a grass terrace that sloped from the swimming pool towards the woods,” said Furner. “In addition, the majority of the plants we use don’t like a lot of water, so we added more drainage to the property.”

In keeping with the European style, all exposed soil in the gardens is covered. Where plant material could not provide sufficient cover, gravel is provided. This gravel is the same type used in the property’s walkways.

“As someone who is primarily known as a flower gardener, I welcomed the challenge to develop a green landscape,” Osborne said. “The owner’s strong sense of style was extremely helpful to our efforts, and I found the whole process very rewarding. Mariani, we believe, has created a unique property, even by the exceptionally high standards of the North Shore.”

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