Visiting a Hidden Treasure - An Accessible Design in a Magical Garden

Members of The North Shore Garden Club recently had an opportunity to explore a secret garden.  This garden occupies two acres in Winnetka and boast features that were designed to create a beautiful atmosphere for an individual that had physical limits.  Its design features create accessibility so that an individual with any kind of assistive device can enjoy the beauty and magic of the garden walking through it and looking at it from inside.  The garden owner worked very hard to select a designer, Deborah Nevins, who could actualize the owner’s vision.  It is also hoped that some of the design features built in to this garden can be recognized as important and incorporated into public gardens and possibly large private gardens.


Listening to the story of how the garden came to be

Features include the following:


A wide path for two persons to walk or ride together.


Smooth paths, which drain rainwater easily to allow a walker and stroller to continue soon after a rain. 


A delightful variety of plant fragrances and colors to attract colorful butterflies and singing birds.


A woodland mini walk because woods are difficult to access with an uneven terrain.


Benches for restful viewing at strategic spots.


Markers that are durable and easy to read for both Latin and common botanical names of plants and trees.


A ramp or slope no greater that 5 percent incline.


The wide path in Spring glory

There are 9 outdoor enclosed gardens or outdoor rooms each creating a microclimate, which creates a visual sense of enclosure.


Listening to a story about the frog pond

In this magical garden residents of the house can see as many as 120 bird species, a fox family and mallard ducks that produce offsprings.


Members of the North Shore Garden Club

Within the garden there are plants have been selected to delight the eye and the senses and many are native plants.  This is a garden that can be enjoyed by individuals of any age or ability.


Jessica in the conservatory

The owner, an enthusiastic Francophile, travelled widely and explored many gardens.  This garden was influenced by the classic seventeenth-century French gardens of Andre Le Notre. This was the inspiration for the series of “garden rooms” that Deborah Nevins created.


Each beautiful surface or gentle dip in the land has been carefully planned and has a purpose.  The gracious and perfectly proportioned path is the just right for a wheel chair and a walking companion to enjoy together.  No bark or gravel path which are essentially a “do not enter” sign, rather a path of decomposed granite. 



A mini woodland trail offers an opportunity for individuals of limited mobility to experience the coolness and woodsy fragrance rarely encountered by someone that can’t navigate uneven terrain.


The members of the North Shore Garden Club who were able to explore this amazing garden were enthralled, even on a cold and rainy day.  It was a treat and it was inspiring to a group that is planning its own Centennial Garden Walk on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Tickets are available here. It will be interesting on the walk that will include beautiful gardens to observe whether any of them has incorporated some of the accessibility features of this garden.




Photos: Lee Frank




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