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Design By The Masters

Celebrate garden design in Riverside with FRED.

By Cathy Jean Maloney • Photography By Ron Capek • July/August 2012

What do you get when you mix landscape designers, artists, beautifully decorated garden planters, and… a birthday cake? The Planters on Parade kickoff for FRED, (Frederick Law Olmsted in Riverside Education and Design), held last April, showcased landscape design and, fittingly, the 190th birthday anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted, the “Father of American Landscape Architecture.”

Planters on Parade is a summerlong outdoor exhibit of 30 hand-painted containers planted by some of Chicagoland’s foremost landscape designers. Local artists painted the large terra-cotta planters according to “Harmony with Nature” themes espoused by Olmsted in his prospectus for Riverside. The planters will decorate Riverside’s downtown business district until the exhibit’s finale on August 18, which will feature a daylong symposium using the historic campus landscape of Riverside, designed by Olmsted in 1869, as the living classroom. The day will conclude with an auction of the containers.

Container design represents landscape design in miniature, and Planters on Parade offers an interesting contrast with the sweeping strokes of design genius in Olmsted’s Riverside plan. Many of Olmsted’s design elements for Riverside — curving streets to mimic the nearby Des Plaines River, abundant public green space, use of native plants — are sought-after ingredients in today’s sustainable designs.

Olmsted is noted for his naturalistic designs, and the residential area of Riverside reflects this. Homeowners are encouraged to plant native trees on the parkways and in their private gardens. But Olmsted also recognized formal design as appropriate in certain situations. His celebrated plan for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago included a grand Court of Honor with a formal basin planted with banks of rhododendron. This was offset by his Wooded Island, a masterpiece of naturalistic planting and design.

The Planters on Parade designs embrace a spectrum of creativity for what can be done with a 16-inch pot. Christy Webber’s plantings exploded with color and texture from orange tulips, pink hydrangea, trailing ivy and textured pussy willow stems. Vicki Nowicki of The Land Office showed a planter with a mostly-edible concoction of plants with ‘Golden Sunrise’ chard, various herbs, pansies, lettuce, cabbage and mint.

Hinsdale Nurseries, which donated all the containers, included evergreen specimens for structure along with colorful foliage from heuchera and hydrangea. American Gardens of Elmhurst chose colors that not only matched the containers, but represented monarchs, sulphurs and Karner blue butterflies to match their theme, “Dancing with Butterfiles.” City Escape went with tall dramatic focal points such as foxglove and delphinium, which can be planted in the garden once the blooms are spent. Lupfer Landscaping chose a sustainable theme with grasses, herbs and drought-tolerant plants.
All of these plantings are on display through August 18, and the enduring landscape design of Riverside is always a sight for sore eyes. Happy birthday, FRED!

Above: Joe Maschek and Jennifer Crump from Christy Webber Landscapes plant a colorful spring container trio.
Below: At sunset under the historic water tower, Riverside villagers gather to watch landscape designers create “Planters on Parade,” a showcase of landscape design on display all summer as part of FRED (Frederick Law Olmsted in Riverside Education and Design).


The auction and classes will be held at the Village Hall and Library and nearby parks on August 18. Hours for the classes are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the auction to follow. For registration and information, visit

Events include a free perennial divide, guided tours of historic Riverside, a panel discussion on “Olmsted’s Lessons for Today,” landscape design exhibits, plein air painters, a planted container auction, design competition awards, tours of Planters on Parade, tours of green parking, rain garden installation and more.


  • “Tips for the Mature Garden and Gardener” (Karla Lynch, Gardens for People)
  • “Garden and Home Style — the Perfect Match!” (Tony Lobello, Mariani Landscape)
  • “Curb Appeal” (Christy Webber designer)
  • “Using Trees and Shrubs in Design” (Sue Jacobson, The Morton Arboretum)
  • “Know Maintenance Designs” (Roy Diblik, Northwind Perennial Farm)

Planters on Parade designers:

  • American Gardens (Elmhurst)
  • Brickman Group (Long Grove)
  • Christy Webber Landscapes (Chicago)
  • City Escape Garden Center & Design Studio (Chicago)
  • Clarence David’s & Co. (Matteson, Plainfield, Lake Villa)
  • Hinsdale Nurseries (Willowbrook)
  • The Land Office (Downers Grove)
  • Lupfer Landscaping (Lyons)
  • Source 4 Design (Glendale Heights)
  • Triton College horticulture department (River Grove)