Chalet Garden Evolution

Chalet has been located at the corner Lake Ave and Skokie Blvd. in Wilmette for 102 years. Throughout that century, a lot of things have changed and the world saw some incredible things; the television, microwave ovens, the computer, sliced bread, the internet, and the iPhone were invented. Man landed on the moon and the Cubs won a world series. Chalet saw changes throughout those decades too and we tried our hand in multiple ventures outside of the landscape industry. We were dealers of fine sailboats, mopeds, and exercise equipment to name a few. While some things kept changing, others remained constant and steady. We have always been refining our craft and learning from each other, while under the steady leadership of a family owned business.

As time rolls by and life changes, so do the gardens we design and install. One garden in particular has seen many changes over the years, the garden that borders the south and west sides of our retail store in Wilmette. It’s a unique space, a few hundred yards long and very narrow as it creates the border between a parking lot and the two busy streets. It’s a harsh place too, blasted by the summer sun and beaten by the winter winds. Salt spray from the busy streets in winter is a challenge as well. The garden has always been an opportunity to showcase our skill and the talented people who work at Chalet. We are lucky to have such a prominent location with great visibility.

For the last 10-15 years the garden has been primarily focused on annual flower plantings to provide bursts of bold color throughout the summer. It has always delivered on that goal, with large drifts of Begonia, annual Salvia, Coleus, and others stealing the show in the late summer and early fall. 

This display of annual flowers is beautiful but not sustainable. The plants require significant amounts of water during the hot summer months as well as additional fertilizer and soil amendments to thrive each year. This allocation of resources is not as impactful when you have small plantings of annuals in your own garden, but spread out over a stretch of a few hundred yards, the impact is exponential.

We are currently in the process of a re-design of the planting border. The new design will focus largely on sustainability and how to create a beautiful display of color and texture with perennial plants. 

The overall depth of the beds will also increase to provide more opportunity for large drifts of plantings. Since the garden is typically viewed from behind the wheel of a car at 40mph the planting displays need to be large and sweeping for one’s eye to take it all in. Prairie Dropseed, Russian Sage, Allium, Calamint, and Rudbeckia are hardy plants that do not require extensive care, fertilizers, or watering yet provide beauty throughout the summer and fall. The new garden is also being designed for winter interest. The grasses and perennials will not be cut back in the fall so they will shine all winter long. Dried flower heads of Allium, Coneflower, Liatris, and Baptisia will create contrast with the copper colors of Little Bluestem and Feather Reed Grass. The winter garden will also provide cover and habitat for wildlife. Pollinators will also love the new garden and will have the opportunity to feed on Butterfly Weed and Milkweed.

The new plantings will begin this summer starting at the north end of the property and will be phased in over time. I’ll be posting updates as we go along, but next time you’re in the neighborhood check it out!

Nate Robinson 

Nathan Robinson’s background in landscape design and project management allows him to see opportunity in any project. He partners with his clients to create spaces that fit the needs of their families, while also creating stunning visual impact. Nate is an Illinois native and proud graduate of the University of Illinois’ Landscape Architecture program. In his time away from the office, he enjoys hiking, landscape photography and spending time along the lakefront with his two Australian Shepherds.