Bouquet of Field Trips Remembered
Check out Photo Albums of the Road Trips we've taken in 2013.

Mettawa Manor, Members took a FABULOUS tour of the property of Bill Kurtis and Donna La Pietra.

Mettawa Manor -- July 31, 2013

report by Eve Jacobs        (* * * Press F5 to restart the pictures * * *)

Our Day at Mettawa Manor

The day was overcast, wet and looked like rain was coming as we drove through the woods towards Mettawa Manor.  We’re feeling excitement to be having this private garden tour. We were greeted by Kathleen, the Gardener, who instructed us to head inside the Manor. As we entered we were graciously and warmly greeted by Donna LaPietra and Bill Curtis. We went into what was once the formal living room, now used as an entertainment area. A large, gothic-style room, with a rounded, cathedral ceiling.   Donna explained the order of the day, first being, breakfast, then a short video and garden tour.  We each received a handout with map detailing the grounds.

We made our way to the kitchen where we met Josephina who had a lovely assortment of muffins and breads along with coffee, tea and Bill’s honey from his bee hives. Bill was at the end of the long serving table chatting with members as they helped themselves. As we made our way back to the living room Donna gave an impromptu tour of some of the rooms.

We dedicated this garden walk to one of our longest standing beloved members, Char Schwan, who had recently passed. Donna gave a short talk and we watched a video on the story of Mettawa Manor. The house and grounds were built in 1927 as a wedding gift to Elizabeth Covington. She occupied the house until her death in 1990 and then Donna and Bill became the second owners of this magnificent estate property. Since that time they have worked to restore, freshen and create new garden areas.  The area now being some 65+ acres! They are true gardeners at heart and enjoy rolling up their sleeves and getting into the dirt.

Door prizes were given away to the lucky recipients; Meri Finocchi received  books authored by Bill; Bill Kurtis on Assignment and The Prairie Table Cookbook. Rick Sanders won 3 bottles of Bill’s honey from his hives and Sandy Kalas won a mirror on a long, foldable spike, used to look at the insides of flowers that hang down. Donna proclaimed we would all go home as winners today with cookies.

Bill began golf cart tours of the property, while some walked the grounds or toured the house with Donna. Like an old friend, Donna took us from room to room sharing their life at the Manor. She talked of the history of the room’s, the changes they had made to them, and the decorating stories. The Dining Room was painted by an artist, a serene outdoor scene encompassing all the walls of the room. It is an extension of the outdoors brought inside. I loved the ornate plaster ceiling, original to the Manor. The charming breakfast room with a delightfully set table beckons one to explore the teapot collection and other ceramics. The butler’s pantry holds many more collections of the couple. As we ascended the grand staircase a melting feeling ensues from the gentle hue of the golden wall color.  We loved the two-story library overlooking the walled garden. Donna shared her photography collection with us and many interesting stories.

Wandering the sunken lawn through the walled garden one sees Butterfly Bush, Joe Pye Weed, Russian Sage, Purple Coneflower, Red Monarda, Purple Phlox and Salvia bordering each side.  The softness of the Lamb’s Ear waiting to be touched.  Onto the antique wellhead surrounded by boxwoods and flowers. Then the Golden Garden with flowers in the golden and yellow family.   Bill drove us through the restored tall-grass prairie in full bloom.  We are greeted by Purple Liatris, Goldenrod, Prairie Dock, Culver’s Root, Rattlesnake Master, Wild Monarda and more!  Bill with his soothing and recognizable voice explains they have three distinct eco-systems here: tall grass prairie, a savanna containing thin oaks and oak/hickory forest.

Bill proudly tells us about all the clearing they have done and they are pretty much a buckthorn-free zone! We come upon the tree house and then the bee hives. We stop at the mounds to disembark and we all take individual pictures with Bill and he is charming and good natured. We make our way back to the house via the Circle Garden and Potager. A perfect day for the ladies of the Shire and one gentleman….

We thank you Bill and Donna for your gracious hospitality and generosity in sharing your beloved Mettawa Manor with us. We truly appreciated and enjoyed seeing your home and being in your gardens. An experience we will never forget!

Lake Forest Garden Walk -- June 27, 2013

Report by Eve Jacobs     ( * * * Press F5 to restart the pictures * * * )

A beautiful, sunny morning it was as we drove over to Lake Forest and arrived at the home of Master Gardener Cappy Johnston. A surprise continental breakfast was set-up on an adorable child’s picnic table. We grazed on cookies, coffee and juice while we chatted away. Cappy gave us a history of the home; it was originally the gardener’s cottage for the mansion on Illinois. And the yard consisted of a fruit orchard. It is a fairly dense wooded property located on a ravine. The ravine is currently being replanted with native plants that are found in the local ravines. After rebuilding the house, Cappy turned to the garden and with all the shade eventually got the “Hosta” bug. Her website can attest to that! We were provided with a map of the property and the location in groups of all the varieties of hosta. All 371 of them! Walking through the upper ravine area and to the backyard is a peaceful and zen-like experience. The top of ravine and backyard have several different seating areas which makes the environment relaxing and serene. What one can do with Hostas and creativity is amazing! What I enjoyed most were the old, antique cement containers with more Hostas in them! And the wrought iron furniture and various other pieces of garden art are well put together. And how about the miniature raised bed Hosta garden. I am sure everyone found a new Hosta they would like to add to their garden and some interesting ways of showcasing them in your garden. 

We then drove over to a historic area of town to the garden of Suzanne Boren. What is a small lot 75 wide and 150 deep contains not one blade of grass! It is excellently landscaped with trees, shrubs, perennials, natives and annuals. One is basically walking through a large garden connected with paths, plants and seating areas. Interestingly, we got to see the before picture with nothing planted – Wow it’s just unbelievable what Suzanne has created here! The spectacular highlight of this property is the 2 car garage in the backyard which was turned into an entertaining/dining area and a potting area. Chic, sophisticated and welcoming is the feeling here. The furnishings and art are perfect for the setting. The upstairs features another furnished room which beckons the spirit. Outside of the garage contains a lovely seating area beckoning one to relax away the day away amongst the potted plants! I could had just sat down and stayed all day! One can see why this gardener was featured in Better Homes and Garden and Chicagoland Gardening. I think everyone got some great ideas to enhance their own backyard entertaining area. Perhaps one of our members will turn their garage into a magnificent relaxing party space. 

After this our tongues are to the ground in awe but we must take in sustenance at the Grille on Laurel, right around the block. We feasted on lunch and relaxed in a private room, just really another lovely day with the ladies of the shire……and one gentleman.

Our Day at Cantigny -- July 17, 2013

Report by Eve Jacobs     ( * * * Press F5 to restart the pictures * * * )

A beautiful, hot day was upon us as we began our day at Cantigny, the country estate of Colonel Robert R. McCormick. We started off in the Visitor’s Center and watched a short film of the history of the 29 acres including all the events and activities that this property has to offer. We walked thru several picturesque gardens on our way to the McCormick Museum Mansion where we began with a film on the biography of Colonel McCormick, the former Tribune editor and publisher. Our house tour given by Glenn was most interesting as he provided us with many facts about the house; furnishings, history of the property and stories of Mr. McCormick’s family and two wives. 

Upon leaving the home we then had a walking tour of the Formal gardens given by Jackie a Horticulturist. We started out past the lovely terraces alongside the house and a 300 year old Burr Oak tree. We walked our way through the Arbor garden to Gold Pond, breathtakingly beautiful. The Octagon Garden planted with colorful annuals and the Green garden, restful and peaceful. Jackie gave us much information on the various gardens, the individual plants and the changes they have made in the gardens over the years. Most all of the plants are grown in the greenhouses on the property. As hot as it was we refrained from walking into the Fountain garden! There were several gardens we missed; Rose and Idea gardens which will have to wait for another field trip! 

After the tour we headed into Le Jardin, the onsite restaurant surrounded by gardens. Cooling off, we lunched on soups, sandwiches, salads, lemonade and ice-tea. Did I mention how hot of a day it was? Afterwards, a stop in the gift shop and some ventured over to the First Division Military Museum and more gardens. A few of us checked out some excellent local garden centers’ in the area: The Growing Place and Planter’s Palette. We just can’t seem to get enough of plants! This stunning property is definitely worth a visit this summer. Check out for more information on events and activities, including a golf course. Thanks to all of you who came…girls who just wanna have fun… plus one guy!

Milwaukee Domes -- January 31, 2013

Report by Eve Jacobs      ( * * * Press F5 to restart the pictures * * * )

Our Day at The Domes, Miss Katie’s Diner & The Milwaukee Public Market A rather cold morning greeted us as we headed up north to Milwaukee. But we warmed up quickly as we excitedly began our tour of the Mitchell Park Conservatory known as the “Domes.” Paula, the Educational Coordinator, began our day telling us about the history of the three large Domes, noting they are a total of 1 acre under glass, and each dome is 140 ft. across by 85 feet high! It is the world’s only conoidal [shaped like a cone] glass house. Each Dome has approximately 2,200 panes of ¼” thick wire-glass originally imported from Germany. 

We began in the Show Dome which changes themes 5 times a year. The current theme is “The Circus is in Town”. A paved walkway took us around the center of the dome which showcases several trains, a miniature circus, carnival and street scenes, and animals. The center featured a pond complete with waterfall. Thousands of small scale plants prevailed along with many miniature Azalea bushes trimmed to look like trees, all in brightly colored full blooms of pink, white and red. Surrounding the outside of the walkway are large tropical trees, shrubs, and plants. It was fun to see the Oscar Meyer Weiner train, bringing back memories of youth! Paula gave us some samples of fruit from the Jaboticaba Shrub which we all tried at lunch. A tasty sweet/sour fruit! 

Our next stop was a behind the scenes tour of the greenhouses and staging areas. We even got to check out the area that holds all the plants which get confiscated through U.S. Customs! We then went through The Desert Dome, which houses plants from the American Southwest, as well as Africa, Madagascar, South America and Mexico. To our delight we found many plants and trees we’ve not seen before. Excellent examples of cacti , succulents and agaves abound in this Dome. Onward to the Tropical Dome where we learned about “the top 10 plants that have changed the world.” Many beautiful orchids are in bloom as well as various other tropical plants. There is even a “sausage fruit tree” which has long dangling fruits that look just like a sausage. How fitting for Milwaukee! There are several species of birds, fish and even a world of insects living here. 

After our stop in the gift shop we headed to Miss Katie’s Diner, a real hoot of a place! We feasted on blue plate specials of meatloaf and turkey along with omelets, soups, salads, sandwiches and homemade milkshakes. Rick had the heartiest plate of pulled pork nacho’s I’ve ever seen! Afterwards we headed to the historic 3rd ward to the Milwaukee Public Market. All kinds of specialty gourmet offerings are here from candies, cookies, spices, flowers, liquor, seafood and ready made food items. I purchased a bottle of Black Cherry Balsamic vinegar from Italy which is to die for! Everyone had a great time . . . another fun adventure with the gals who love to garden! Thanks to all who came and enjoyed!

Thank you for your continued participation and support!

Eve Jacobs
Field Trips Coordinator