A key milestone in Cantigny’s ongoing Project New Leaf renovation occurs this month when the park’s display gardens reopen to the public. The fully redesigned and replanted gardens have been closed to visitors since fall 2017.

Brief opening remarks and a ribbon cutting are scheduled for Saturday, July 14, at 10 am. Guests may then explore the gardens with Cantigny Horticulture experts on hand to explain the plantings and answer questions.

“Our team looks forward to showing off the new spaces, which were more than two years in the making,” said Scott Witte, director of horticulture. “The gardens are fresh and new, but still reflect the vision of Franz Lipp, the renowned landscape architect who first designed and planted them in the 1960s and 70s.”

Located north of the Cantigny Visitors Center, the gardens feature several distinct elements:


  • Rose Garden. This display, featuring 60 different rose varieties, maintains the geometric pattern of beds and stone inlay walkways of the original Franz Lipp design. The space includes rose trellises, a gazebo, an open lawn for wedding ceremonies and a surrounding 7-foot privacy hedge of Japanese Yew.
  • White Garden.  This garden features a myriad of white flowering plants in a formal setting with Boxwood and Yew hedges.  A specimen Nannyberry Viburnum, one of the largest in the Midwest, is complemented by white trellis towers and decorative bird baths.
  • Perennial Border. This 250-foot-long perennial garden lines a newly lit brick pathway connecting Cantigny’s north parking lot with East side attractions of the property, including the McCormick House. More than 75 species of perennials and grasses comprise the wide variety of native and “nativar” plants featured in color waves.
  • Lower Display Garden. Historic statuary representing the four seasons punctuate this garden featuring Franz Lipp’s geometrically shaped flower beds and pathways. Visitors will enjoy colorful annuals and a spring bulb display in this space, entry to which is promoted by a new staircase connecting to the upper gardens.
  • Pollinator Garden. These beds are devoted to sustaining pollinator health, and to the important work of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and even flies! It’s also pleasing to the eye, with colorful plantings like Zinnia, Phlox, Eastern Beebalm, and several varieties of Coneflower, Hyssop and Milkweed.
  • Pond Garden. This 2-acre area, north of the display gardens, quietly opened in May. The pond is larger than before and now offers access to the water via steps and a boardwalk. Thousands of native aquatic plants planted around the edges add color and support local water ecology. A gazebo offers a shady rest stop along the quarter-mile walking path. In addition, by design, visitors to the Pond Garden now receive unobstructed views of the McCormick House.

“Besides beauty and functionality, the new gardens offer improved access for all Cantigny visitors,” Witte added.

The ADA-compliant pathways are wheelchair and stroller friendly, and new ramps facilitate movement between upper and lower levels. Pathways have been further enhanced by a new drainage system, brick edging (replacing metal edging), and stone dust pavement (replacing pebble pavement).

The gardens also feature more seating options, including a circular bench around a large and centrally located Bur Oak. Additional shade will develop when climbers such as non-fruiting grapevines, Clematis and Rose engulf the series of arching steel trellises.

Cantigny partnered with Sasaki Associates, an award-winning landscape design firm based in Boston, to plan and execute the garden designs. Featherstone, Inc., from Downers Grove, handled project and construction management.