Throughout Project New Leaf, one of the most anticipated elements has been the new fountain, the crown jewel and centerpiece of the gardens located east of the Cantigny Visitors Center.

The Fountain Garden is also among the first Phase II construction areas to be completed, opening to the public on June 15. The adjacent Green Garden and Scallop Gardens opened recently as well. New and renovated areas set to debut later this summer include the Idea Garden, Octagon Garden, Rock Garden and Prairie View.

Eyes are drawn to the new fountain immediately upon exiting the Visitors Center to the east. The circular bowl and dramatic water plumes are reminiscent of the original fountain installed in 1968 when renowned landscape architect Franz Lipp laid out the Cantigny Gardens. That fountain, damaged by 41 years of Chicagoland winters, was replaced in 2009 with a contemporary water feature that resembled a “splash pad.”

Now, the classic beauty that Lipp intended is back. The bowl contains 5,300 gallons of recirculating water with seven rising plumes. Jets are programmed at varying intensities to create a changing water display about every 14 minutes. On the hour, all seven jets run at full power for four minutes. Plume heights are automatically adjusted for wind speed, ensuring that water stays in the bowl.

The Fountain Garden is already a popular gathering place. Benches invite visitors to pause and relax, and the fountain’s perimeter functions as a seat wall.

Carefully chosen plant material surround the fountain—all of it new except the eight shade-giving Merrill Magnolias, which were rigorously protected during construction. Those trees encircle the fountain in the garden’s “inner ring,” comprised of four beds bordered by 208 newly installed boxwoods.

Featured inner-ring plantings are Vinca ground cover and low-profile Allium, with more perennials on the way, including Fountain Grass. Flowering bulbs go in this fall.

The garden’s outer ring delivers more color. Selected perennials are Stachys (‘Hummelo’ and ‘Cotton Candy’), Gentian (‘True Blue’), White Coneflower and Lesser Calamint. Autumn Moor Grass and Prairie Dropseed also are planted, joining a dozen Merrill Magnolias that complement the mature specimens already in place.

Guests who attend an event after dark may see the new fountain illuminated, a spectacular sight. In addition, newly installed brick pathways with lighting extend farther east to the McCormick Allee and Prairie View, fulfilling Project New Leaf’s promise of bringing greater after-hours access to the Cantigny Park gardens and grounds.

This view of the new and third generation fountain is looking west, with the Cantigny Visitors Center partially visible. Photo by Jack Bannister.

The Fountain Garden from above, on June 21. Eight magnolia trees in the inner ring garden surround the water feature. Outer ring plantings are to the outside of the circular brick pathway. Photo by Lee Hogan.

The original fountain during its final year, photographed in 2009 by Jim Frazier.

Perennials await planting in the outer ring of the Fountain Garden.

The new fountain’s mechanicals include six 2-inch outer jets and one 3-inch jet in the middle. All seven jets are made of bronze. Six LED lights can be seen here, too.



Posted by Jeff Reiter

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