John Hughes' gardens prepped for public viewing

The 2015 Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens goes beyond the expected display of great interior design, architecture and landscaping. This year's visitors get to see the home of the late movie icon John Hughes Jr., who wrote and directed films like "The Breakfast Club," "16 Candles" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

Hughes died in 2009 at the age of 59, and his widow, Nancy Hughes, has donated the home to Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. The home will go on the market June 1, listed with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services for $4.825 million.

Edwin Hill Clark, also architect of the Lincoln Park and Brookfield zoos, designed the 21-room English Tudor mansion in 1929. The interior design will be featured in next week's Daily Herald Home & Garden.

Here is how landscape designers attacked the challenge of the estate's 2 acres.

Schmechtig Landscape Co. of Mundelein refurbished a bluestone terrace and flagstone retaining wall between the home's living room and the rear yard.

"The most challenging part was trying to remove the black spots on the existing bluestone," said Rob Schwarz, landscape architect with Schmechtig. "We power-washed it, tried two different stain removers and power-washed it a second time without much success. Hopefully, these stains will look age appropriate for the property."

To revitalize this sunken terrace, the company created an accent rug of bluestone chip framed by a cut bluestone border. This creates textural differences and sets the stage for the ornamental urn, filled with seasonal plants for viewing from both inside the house and the grounds. A perennial border surrounding the space will mature to provide textures, colors, fragrance and multi-seasonal interest.

In a garden with two patios off the home's garden room, foyer and library, a fire bowl, rather than the expected focal point such as a fountain or statue, adds a contemporary twist to a traditional garden, said Carrie Woleben-Meade, director of design for Mariani Landscape of Lake Bluff.

The fire bowl also provides the critical element of giving the family a reason to get out and enjoy the space, she said.

Mariani staff collaborated with Frank Ponterio Interior Design of Lake Forest to create an area so rich with plants it will have visitors thinking "English Garden."

Homeowners looking for tips for their own yards will notice how the layout and hedges help organize bouquets of perennials and annuals that celebrate the spring season.

And while this estate is close to Lake Michigan, it also has a pool. Fertile Ltd. of Chicago has filled containers around the water with cool green and white arrangements, mostly hydrangeas.

Premier Service of Lemont opted for beds of pansies along the home's drive and entrance pots of blue hydrangeas and ivy.

The sunken terrace in back has been refurbished with bluestone chip framed by a cut bluestone border.

If you go

What: 2015 Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens

When: Now through May 17; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends

Where: Visitors must park and take the free shuttle bus, which runs from the north parking lot between Westminster and Scott at the East Lake Forest Train Station, 691 N. Western. On weekdays, it also runs from Christ Church, 100 N. Waukegan Road.

Tickets: $35 in advance; $40 at the door.

Benefits: Lake Forest Chapter of the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago


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