The successful completion of the First Division Museum and Tank Park triggered an immediate refocus on the gardens and landscape aspects of Project New Leaf. Some of this busy construction zone is visible from Roosevelt Road.

The former Gold and Silver Ponds are transitioning to the Ecological Pond Garden. The waterscape will double in size within a more open parkland setting. A boardwalk crosses a section of the water and, unlike before, visitors will have access to the water’s edge. The boardwalk and steps leading to the water are finished. Crews removed a small employee parking lot on the west side of the McCormick House to enhance the parkland setting.

Some 12,000 native wetland plants are currently being installed around the pond. The plants will add beauty and help clean the water before it enters the local watersheds. Click here to see the Pond Garden coming to life via our live “construction cam.”

The Display Gardens northeast of the Visitors Center are also in transition. According to plan, the best features of the 1960s and 1970s gardens designed by Franz Lipp are being renovated and restored as we simultaneously improve the spatial organization of the gardens and add new features.

A key addition is the Illinois Native Perennial Border, a 350-foot linear flower garden stretching along the north edge of the main pathway that connects the Visitors Center to the McCormick House and other attractions to the east. The garden will celebrate the flowering perennials of Illinois, providing plenty of color and

Display Gardens diagram, with Illinois Native Perennial Border adjacent to the walking path running along the bottom. The Visitors Center is in the lower left corner.

securing ecosystem benefits related to water conservation, pollination and habitat function. In the diagram to the right, the perennial border is at the bottom, the “base” of the semi-circle.


The perennial border’s visual impact will be enhanced by a seven-foot high evergreen hedge along its northern edge. Two trellised gateways will announce entry points to the restored display gardens.

New path surfaces and ramps in the display gardens will make it easier for guests using  wheelchairs and strollers. The project also addresses previous circulation and wayfinding issues, not to mention pathway flooding after large storms.

The orange fencing seen in the aerial photo below is protecting the soil in the planting zones from construction traffic. Some new trees and shrubs are already in the ground, and additional planting will take place next spring. The Display Gardens and Pond Garden will open to the public in July 2018.

Phase One of Project New Leaf extends through next year. Work in 2018 will concentrate on the west (parking lot) side of the Cantigny Visitors Center.

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Posted by Frey Design

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