The spaces immediately north of the Cantigny Visitors Center are filled with variety, from the Rose Garden and White Garden to the always colorful lower display garden closest to McCormick House. For colorful annuals, the Octagon Garden is a must see — a true “garden room” — and the botanical diversity of the Rock Garden should not be missed. Plantings along the pathways connecting the gardens offer plenty of visual interest, too. If you are a home gardener, be sure to stop at the Idea Garden for a little inspiration!
Inner Ring and Bur Oak
Colorful and unusual annuals draw the eye to this central space in the upper display gardens. Non-fruiting grape climbing on the trellises provides shade for the bench seating below. This garden section closely resembles Franz Lipp’s original 1960s design, although the bur oak was replaced in 1990.
This themed display, inspired by Sissinghurst Castle Garden in England, showcases white flowers and complementing gray- and silver-foliaged plants, accented by “lighthouse” towers crowned with bird houses, and stone birdbaths.
Lower Display Garden
Historic statuary representing the four seasons punctuate this garden featuring Franz Lipp’s geometrically shaped flower beds and pathways. The statues were moved to Cantigny from Colonel McCormick’s former residence in Chicago. Visitors (and photographers!) will enjoy a spectacular spring bulb display in this space, and colorful annuals in the summer and fall. Entry is promoted by a staircase connecting to the upper gardens.
Pollinators are integral for the reproduction of 90% of plants. The native plants in this garden support diversity in our ecosystem, and plantings here demonstrate Cantigny’s commitment to supporting vital pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Perennials include salvia, beebalm, black-eyed Susan, coneflower, hyssop, and blazing star.
Seventy-two plant varieties, including many native Illinois flora, are showcased in this 200-foot linear flower garden bordering the main east-west garden path. The perennial border is organized by height and color spectrum, with an emphasis on flowering perennials. The north side of the garden is defined by a seven-foot-high evergreen hedge, providing a handsome backdrop for the border flowers. Two trellised gateways define openings into the main display gardens.
Named for its geometric shape, this “garden room”—once the site of Cantigny’s original Rose Garden—is a three-season floral showcase featuring annuals raised in the Cantigny greenhouse. The Octagon’s centerpiece is a “domed” trellis with climbing wisteria. Brick pavers define the wide, welcoming pathways and provide a clean edge for the plant beds.
“Calm and restful” characterizes this understated garden room adjacent to the Octagon Garden. Plantings are simple and monochromatic, sharply contrasting with the colorful displays nearby. Five Royal White Redbuds arise from the brick-edged circle beds.
The historic Cantigny fountain—installed by Franz Lipp in 1968—was carefully recreated in 2019, providing a lively visual anchor at the center of the gardens behind the Visitors Center. Benches invite visitors to pause and relax, and the fountain’s perimeter functions as a seat wall. Eight Merrill Magnolias offer spectacular spring blooms and ample summer shade. The trees encircle the fountain in the garden’s “inner ring,” comprised of four beds with boxwood borders.
The garden’s outer ring provides color with perennials such as Stachys, Gentian, White Coneflower and Lesser Calamint. Autumn Moor Grass and Prairie Dropseed join a dozen young Merrill Magnolias that complement the mature specimens already in place. Fountain jets are programmed at varying intensities to create a changing water display about every 14 minutes. Guests who attend an event after dark may see the fountain illuminated, a spectacular sight.
North & South Scallop Gardens
These gardens, flanking the Fountain Garden, are named for the scalloped bed edges. This calming area with audible water features shade-tolerant plants.
This secluded, keyhole-shaped space offers a shady retreat with seating. Honey Locust, Douglas Fir and Eastern Redbud are prominent. The predominant green foliage receives accents of color from bulbs such as daffodil.