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Recreating that Vintage Garden


When it comes to old houses, it’s not often that you’ll find one with its original garden elements. Wood arbors and fences eventually succumb to decay. Styles change and homeowners may remove trellises, statuary and old concrete urns. It was a pleasant surprise then to discover that the original Victorian fountain was still present outside the 1872 home that is now the Baert Baron Mansion Bed and Breakfast up in Zeeland, Michigan right outside of Holland.

The illustration below is from the 1884 Ford County (Illinois) atlas. The house is similar in style to the Baert Baron Mansion, but note what’s out in front — a cast iron fountain. These water features graced many “luxury” homes owned by weathly Victorians from the 1870s on, but many are long gone, the victim of changing fashions.

If you’d like to learn more about vintage-style gardens and popular Victorian plants, check out the class, “Create a Vintage Garden,” on Saturday, Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. to noon at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle. In this class, you’ll draw inspiration for your own garden from the history of home garden design. We’ll look at how residential garden design has changed over the past century — from carpet beds to cottage gardens — and we’ll take the best of those design ideas and heirloom plants to show how you can create an old-fashioned garden of your own. For more details or to register, visit The Morton Arboretum or call 630-719-2468.

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I applied commercial compost and hardwood mulch to an area where I am establishing a small garden. I did a few soil tests on the area and the results indicated the nitrogen was depleted. I intend to spread a bag of dried blood to rectify this problem When is the best time to apply the dried blood?

I want to raise the level of my lawn as much as 2 feet in places. I now have a large quantity of somewhat composted wood chips and I am wondering if I can use them as fill to raise the ground level and provide a good soil in which to sow a lawn.

Is it possible to plant and grow Italian cypress in the Chicago area? Are our winters too severe for it? If they are, is there an alternative conifer that will provide a similar look?

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