|Cantigny Park’s Oak Colonnade, a key part of Project New Leaf, is complete. The new pedestrian walkways and civic scale allée of oak trees at the front of the park will serve as a dramatic and unifying landscape element for generations of visitors to come.
The Colonnade features parallel rows of oak trees on a north-south axis planted in front of the Cantigny Visitors Center and running south to the First Division Museum. Each row contains 24 trees. Butterfly Hill overlook, also a new feature, rises just beyond the Colonnade’s southern terminus. The iconic “Lion of Cantigny” statue anchors the northern section, standing guard in the new plaza outside the Visitors Center front door.
The Colonnade will become even more prominent as the oaks grow. When planted last spring, the trees were about 15 feet tall. Expected growth is 6 inches per year.
Readers may recall that our original plan called for a “Red Oak Colonnade.” That sounded good, given Cantigny’s Red Oaks Farm heritage, but Oak Colonnade is more accurate because the 48 trees are comprised of not one but four oak species: Chinquapin (Quercus muehlenbergii); Swamp White (Quercus bicolor); Northern Red (Quercus rubra); and Northern Pin (Quercus ellipsoidalis).
Todd Henderson from Cantigny Horticulture said the four varieties should all grow about the same in shape and form.
Planting multiple species also offers some protection against disease. Oaks are generally long-lived and disease resistant, but if one species were to die off, most of the Colonnade would remain intact.
The surface under the Colonnade is turf grass complemented by canoe-shaped flower beds designed to add bright color to the Colonnade in three seasons. Arriving visitors will enjoy a bold tulip display this coming spring, followed by colorful summer annuals from the Cantigny greenhouse.