Return to Mettawa Manor, Part I

Today Judy and I visited Mettawa Manor, the garden of Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra, as part of the Garden Conservancy‘s Open Gardens Day. This was our second visit, as we had been there in early June for an event organized by the Lurie Garden. You can read about that first visit here.


It was pouring rain when we were here last. This time there were clouds but no rain, and now and then even a bit of sunshine. Thus it was far easier to experience the many features of this extensive property, most of which will be preserved as open land through a conservation trust. (Though last time we did get a tour from Bill Kurtis in a sort of stretch golf cart.)

We parked with many other cars in an open field, then headed towards the gardens. The first thing we came to was an allée of River Birch (Betula nigra), which Judy and I thought made for a marvelous welcome.


The house at Mettawa Manor was built in the 1927. Bill and Donna have lived here since 1990.


We came to the walled garden after passing through the terrace and sampling a couple of tasty noshes. First thing we saw was a pair of borders separated by a sunken lawn. The borders measure 12′ by 40′ (!!) and contain a mix of annuals and perennials. A lot was going on that was not yet evident when we were here in June.


The borders were bursting with color, mostly red to pink with accents of blue. There were masses of Phlox, Bee Balm, Joe Pye Weed, and Queen of the Prairie. The blue was provided mostly by annuals, particularly Salvia and Ageratum.


I was taken with this plant and its Mallow-like flowers. I looked up the name but then promptly forgot it, unfortunately.


Hedges of Juniper provided a backdrop for the borders. Judy and I really liked how these hedges were pruned to have a slightly rough texture. And I’m sure the Cedar Waxwings appreciate those Juniper berries.




Beyond the borders there is this patio of fragrant Thyme. It’s very clever how the flowers of Tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) pop up from behind the stone wall.


At the far end of the Walled Garden there is an area of roses, clipped boxwood, and a fountain.


The interior of the boxwoods are planted with Angelonia.



Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) grows in profusion over part of the brick wall.

There’s a lot more to see, but let’s stop for now. In Part II, we’ll visit Mettawa Manor’s herb garden, tall grass prairie, and more.












31 Comments on “Return to Mettawa Manor, Part I”

      • The Easter red cedar IS a juniper, Juniperus virginiana. Those who live with it growing wild do not like it much, although garden cultivars are more popular in most regions than they are here. I happen to like it. It does not live here naturally, and the garden cultivars are quite rare. Thank you for asking. I did not intend to trouble you with it.

  1. An interesting visit, Jason. I think this house at Mettawa Manor looks enough old fashion, and the gardens especially walled garden I love the most. The combination of colors on the photo #4 is pretty, the garden itself is tidy and thoughtful.
    Thanks for sharing!

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