Another Cantigny “garden room” has reopened following extensive renovation. This month we welcome back the Octagon Garden, a space named for its geometric shape and cherished for its ever-changing seasonal beauty.

The garden has always had eight sides, but it was not always called the Octagon Garden. In fact, it was Cantigny’s original Rose Garden, designed by renowned landscape architect Franz Lipp. The garden debuted around 1970 but the roses failed to thrive—they needed more sun and better air circulation.

The Rose Garden was therefore relocated, and the Octagon Garden introduced as a three-season annual flower showcase, a colorful tradition that continues today. However, the newly opened garden sports a cleaner look that raises the storied Octagon to the level of its upgraded surroundings, including the adjacent Green Garden and nearby Fountain Garden.

The Octagon’s centerpiece is a “domed” trellis with climbing wisteria. Senior Horticulturist Jackie Kosbab likes how the trellis allows visitors to see the whole garden from every entry point. This was not the case previously, when a weeping crabapple in the center restricted sightlines.

New hardscapes contribute to the “clean look” mentioned before, including planting beds edged in brick, and wider pathways. Kosbab believes the pattern of the bricks and brick selection give the Octagon an appealing old-time feel even though everything is new.

Additional upgrades include four new benches and improved drainage. Standing water on the pathways will no longer be an issue.

Kosbab, deeply involved in planning the new Octagon, recommended the elimination of perennial plant material.

“The back of the outer ring was lined with different perennials, making it hard to design around them,” Kosbab said. “The garden is now annuals only.”

As before, Octagon plantings will change out every spring, summer and fall. The initial plantings, completed on August 17, should delight Cantigny visitors through at least October.

Cold-tolerant annuals include orange and yellow pot marigolds at the trellis’s base. The inner ring, encircling the trellis, is dominated by chrysanthemums.

For a creative twist, Kosbab and the hard-working seasonal staff of Cantigny Horticulture arranged the mums in clusters. In each cluster, six mums of the same color surround a single mum of another color. When in bloom, each grouping will resemble a daisy-like flower. The inner ring mums are framed by white Alyssum (“snow crystals”).

The outer ring features an array of green and red Bok Choi (Chinese cabbage), Alyssum, Leonotis (lion’s tail) and Violas in multiple colors.

The Octagon Garden’s overall effect, Kosbab hopes, will stop visitors in their tracks. Think of it as Cantigny’s botanical stop sign!

From the air, the new designed Octagon Garden is unmistakable. The four beds closest to the central trellis will turn more colorful in the coming weeks. Photo by Lee Hogan.

The view from the Octagon Garden’s south entrance. A pathway separates the inner and outer rings of the garden, allowing close inspection of the plantings.

The walk-through trellis, as seen from the garden’s south entrance. As planned, Wisteria is climbing the structure rapidly; colorful pot marigolds are at the base.

Mum groupings in the inner ring (dark green clumps above) will add bright color to the garden for autumn visitors.

Outer ring plants include Alyssum and Viola.

The climbing Wisteria received an early start in July. So far it’s thriving, even producing blooms.

A weeping crabapple occupied the previous Octagon Garden. The new trellis in its place improves sightlines and creates inhabitable space in the garden’s center. Photo by Jim Frazier.


Posted by Jeff Reiter

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