This past Saturday, Judy and I picked up Beckee and Daniel to go see the trolls at the Morton Arboretum. The trolls, up to 30′ tall, are creations of the Danish artist Thomas Dambo.
However, when we got off at our exit, we discovered a long line of cars stretching down the road waiting to get in. We sat in the line for 15 minutes or so, then decided that the trolls would have to wait for another day.
We thought about alternatives in the area, which was Chicago’s western suburbs, and remembered Cantigny, which none of us had ever visited. Cantigny is the former estate of Col. Robert S. McCormick, a wealthy politician and former owner of the Chicago Tribune. His reactionary spirit lives on in the Trib’s more rabid editorials. But it’s nice that his estate is now open to the public.
Unfortunately, we learned that most of Cantigny’s gardens were closed for renovations until next year. A formal garden was still open to the public, so we spent some time wandering around.
Here’s a picture of Daniel taking a picture of Beckee.
Overall, the garden was pleasant, but not too exciting. Many beds filled with colorful annuals. There was too much boxwood for my taste, and that boxwood smell was distinctly noticeable. I did like the borders lined with profusely flowering Geranium ‘Rozanne’.
And we were impressed by this big old oak tree, though stumped as to the species.
The Oak’s underplanting was very nice – variegated sedge (maybe Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’?), together with urns filled with colorful Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides).
Orange Zinnias and blue Salvia – have to love the colors. That’s McCormick’s mansion in the background. There’s a tour every 30 minutes. Daniel and Judy really like that sort of thing, but we decided it was getting too late in the day. This decision caused me to quietly rejoice.
This planting of Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) surrounded by Boxwood does not work. Not because most of the Little Bluestem has fallen over – I kind of like the windswept look, but it doesn’t go with the Boxwood. Maybe it would if the grass stayed rigidly upright, but obviously you can’t count on that.
The corner with Prairie Dropseed (Sporobulus heterolepis) combined with Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is much more effective.
A very pleasant pond with a gazebo in the distance. I appreciated the naturalistic shoreline with aquatic plants.
I like Coleus, but I wonder at the amount of time it must take to maintain these smoothly clipped paramecium-shaped Coleus beds.
Cantigny includes a military museum (dedicated to the Colonel’s unit from World War I), which we didn’t see, but we did visit the Tank Park. The Tank Park is a park full of … tanks. Little kids were climbing all over most of them. Beckee thought that looked like fun.
Coincidentally, the day we visited was the day when Cantigny was hosting a gathering of amateur Revolutionary War reenactors. Here they are getting ready to demonstrate firing replicas of two cannons from that era. There was a full-scale battle scheduled for 3 PM, but we didn’t want to stay that long.
It was kind of fun to see the park and gardens full of people in 18th century dress. There were men, women, and children – at least it was an inclusive family activity. For thousands of Americans, this is a hobby pursued with devotion. I wonder if the same is true elsewhere. Do people in Europe get together to reenact the English Civil War or the Battle of Waterloo?
We didn’t get to see the trolls, or the main gardens at Cantigny, or the mansion, but we got to spend a few hours with Beckee and Daniel, which was the main purpose of the day. What we saw of Cantigny makes me feel a second visit would be worthwhile, at least next year when the main gardens are ready. And the trolls are around through 2020, so we will definitely make another attempt to see them.