Sunday, August 7, 2011

Allerton's Field Of Dreams

Betsy took me to Allerton Park, an estate in the midst of farmland and turned over to the University of Illinois by Robert Allerton, the heir of years of Illinois fortune making. There is evidence that the university has little interest in keeping up the form of this conservatively designed, peculiar formal landscape. It does, however, maintain 1500 acres of upland and riparian woodland which were impressive, if somewhat inaccessible to us due to mosquitoes and flooding. 

What most intrigued me was the sound of the cicada in the midst of this piece of central Illinois woodland, truly an island of trees in a sea of corn. I couldn't get over the remoteness of this estate, so out of place in it's current landscape of industrial farming.

They call this the fu dog garden.

This run was originally clothed in wisteria vines. It is now completely clothed in weeds -the vine: oriental bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus. The concrete and wooden tower in the distance houses cheap, gold-painted copies of the original statuary on black-painted plywood bases.

Most of the concrete columns are tipping, some arborvitae have been planted in semi-straight rows amongst the weeds.

Odd, no? The militarist pageantry is obvious in such formal language.

Nearer the house...

One room to the next, boxwood unhinged and, well, hinged.

Seems Mr. Allerton was fond of extreme verticality. It is present in most of his formal gardens. The original had tightly-trimmed hedging here, but I felt much relieved by its untamed state which lent a lightness to the space. 

Ugh, seems this red stripe of salvia just ain't working.

The statuary here is made of a concrete mixture or bronze and tends toward oddly-posed figuration.

 Death of a Centaur.

I think this one was called the Sun Singer.

I liked this hollow, although filled too much with daylilies. It led down to a man made pond, known to be one of the few cold water ponds in the region.

 The cold spring that feeds the pond emerges here.

Excuse the poor audio editing, as it has been looped. It was very difficult to capture the sound I wanted to reveal without picking up all the incidental noises like cars and horns and hammers. There is the cicada and then there is a more alien sound behind. Turn up your volume.


  1. i think what really does not work with the red stripe of salvia is all the nasty black plastic, sparsed punctuated by red salvia. who thinks that is attractive?

  2. not me. I think they intend to keep the weeds down, but the reality is heat, drought, shade, dead salvia.

  3. What a magical place! Very nice.

  4. The weirdness. I like the day lily vale, too.


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