So I had the good fortune to meet a fellow avid gardener recently. His name is Mike Miller and he lives in the adjacent town of Wilmette. He was nice enough to invite Judy and me to visit his garden. As soon as we pulled up to the curb, I could see that it was something special.
Mike, a middle school music teacher, and his spouse moved here six years ago. In the front garden, a dense mix of mostly shorter grasses and flowering perennials provides a canvas from which emerge taller perennials, roses, dwarf conifers, and Hydrangeas.
The plot has the benefits and challenges of full sun throughout.
I thought the parkway planting was superb. Here you can see hybrid Moor Grass (Sisleria ‘Greenlee’), Allium ‘Summer Beauty’, and Calamint (Calamintha nepetoides).
Another view, with Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis) in foreground.
Along the sidewalk opposite the parkway, more Allium ‘Summer Beauty’, Little Bluestem, and some kind of compact Fountain Grass (Pennisetum).
I thought this garden was very much in the spirit of Piet Oudolf’s Lurie Garden, not only in the choice of perennials but also in how the textures knit together so well. And yet it also had a good deal of originality, as became even more clear behind the house.
Everything was very lush despite our rough summer. Mike inherited an underground irrigation system, though it has been a mixed blessing as it was not designed for this type of garden.
Along the front of the house, I love this mix of poppy seed heads and a compact variety of Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum).
On the way to the back garden, here we are looking over Chinese Astilbe (Astilbe sinensis) and some sort of pink Japanese Anemone. Always a pleasure to compare notes with another plant person.
OK! Now we’re at the back of the house. The back is enclosed by tall fencing that keeps out the rabbits, though not the raccoons. There is also some hedging with Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis).
There are two water features, this small pond with goldfish, and a shallow fountain toward the back of the garden that enables songbirds to take a sip of water when they want to.
Looking back to the house. Judy was madly jealous of those big picture windows. There were two main seating areas, one closer to the house and in the open and another under a pergola with a movable screen for shade.
Mike mixes in a fair number of Hydrangeas, which glow in the afternoon sun. Among the varieties he favors are ‘Dharuma’, ‘Tardiva’, and ‘Little Quick Fire’.
The back garden plantings have more height to them. Here you can see the Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), ‘Karl Foerster’ Feather Reed Grass, and Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), among other things. Mike favors softer colors – blooms of pink, purple, white, and lavender.
When it comes to plants, Clematis are Mike’s chief passion. He grows hundreds of varieties, if you count the ones he breeds himself and is growing in pots. While many varieties in the garden sported a few blooms for our visit, we were well past peak Clematis season. I hope to return to this garden next year when the Clematis are in their glory.
Everywhere, Clematis are trained up tomato cages, arbors, and the surrounding fences.
This garden is laid out on an unusually deep lot, about 50′ x 170′. Toward the far back, beyond a wooden fence dividing the yard, the last quarter or so of the space is an extensive vegetable garden.
Though even here there are plenty of Clematis, especially on the vertical surfaces.
We spent about two hours in Mike’s garden, talking and taking it all in. There is a lot that this post does not include. Overall, though, I loved the balance here. There was a rich diversity of plant life combined with a unity of design, abundance combined with elegance. How great to discover a garden like this practically right around the corner.
The garden looks so lush!
Wow. Very cool, I love it!
I bet it even looks good in the winter and I want to copy that goldfish pond.
Wowsah! What a fabulous garden. It must have been quite the treat to visit it. I do have a question. What does he do with the fish in the winter?
What a lovely place to visit!
Oh you and Judy would have had fun looking around this garden! Very much in the Lurie Garden tradition. Lots of very interesting plants and grasses, and now you have a fellow clematis grower…there are so many plants you can compare notes on…. and living nearby, you can check in every change of season.
I enjoyed the tour, and compliments to the gardener, it is a wonderful garden.
Lovely garden. What a treat to find a fellow enthusiast near to home. I would love to see his seed- grown clematis.. I’ve never tried it myself.
How lucky to find someone with similar interests! His garden is bursting at the seams with enthusiasm. Amelia
I am in awe. I’m wondering how much his love of music enters into the composition. I really wanted to reach through the computer screen and touch a lot of the grasses, and of course I loved the show-off whites, but it was the vegetable gardens that completely blew me away. What a treat it must have been to visit there!
How fortunate you got to visit this beautiful garden. Wonderful use of grasses. I especially like how the Karl Foerster feather reed grass stands out. Was there even a hint of any lawn??
Amazing garden that shows a real passion for plants. I can only imagine the spirited conversation you two had. 🙂
Fabulous. Seeing this makes me want to start planting.
I agree with Judy … I need some big windows.
That is a fabulous garden. What a full sun treat.
WOW! If I tried something like that in my front yard, I’m sure the neighbors would report me to Neighborhood Code Enforcement. My backyard has a six-foot privacy fence, though, so anything goes.
Wow! That really is a gorgeous garden! Maybe you two can swap plants! Lovely post, great shots!
What a treat for you to find a fellow enthusiastic so close at hand. The shared interest in clematis is a bonus; I’m looking forward to more reports on your shared visits, and maybe shared plants.
Spectacular! Thanks so much for sharing.
That is an inspiration. Ditto on learning to create a new variety of clematis.
What a wonderful garden! And always excellent to find a kindred spirit.
The parkway area is glorious! We call them hellstrips here, which is on point to describe what occupies the majority of them. I love the meadow-y front garden and I wish I had a small fraction of Mike’s ability in growing Clematis. Thanks for sharing your tour.
A beautiful and well-designed garden – what a treat that must have been!
Always fun to find someone who shares your passion. I’m glad you found another avid gardener so close by, and a plant breeder at that. I kind of doubt this will be the only visit.
That is a beautiful garden, and wonderful you were able to visit. I have yet to meet another ‘plantsman’ in my region, with most friends and neighbours just growing veg and the traditional border plants. The use of grasses in the front (well, everywhere!) is inspiring. Hope to see that post on the Clematis next year too.
Oh, what a glorious garden!xxx
Awesome garden! It reminds me of some of the gardens we’ve seen at Flings. And a Clematis breeder…wow!
Wow – that is an amazing garden, together with the house it all looks so “in place”. I’m not normally a fan of prairie style planting, but the way it was done here really caught my eye an I’m really taken by it. It’s all abundant and full without being overwhelming or claustrophobic. I hope you both had a great time.
It’s always fun to hear gardeners’ exploration of other gardeners’ gardens. Thanks!
What a treat to visit such a great garden! Did Mike inherit much of the plantings? It sounds like he might have built this all up himself following his passions. Love clematis, hope he’ll share secrets for how to get them to be happy.
What an incredible garden! Visiting gardens is at the top of my list when it comes to things I’ve missed during the pandemic. I went to a trial garden a couple of weeks ago and, while I always love doing so, it was particularly wonderful this year as it marked the first garden visited in almost 2 years!
Wow. What a garden. I can see how the big windows would allow the homeowners to always have a good view of such a splendid garden. Thanks for touring and sharing, Jason and Judy.
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