A Natural Transformation
Though the has area changed, the home really hadn’t until the last decade. More than seven years ago, a total rehab was started—this was when the Lemonis family first caught a glimpse of it. “It doesn’t look anything like it did. We saw its evolution,” Ila Lemonis explains. “I couldn’t think of a more inviting feeling than the one this house gave. We loved the property; we absolutely loved the house.” Soon the only facets that remained from the original structure were the façade and the dining room ceiling.
As construction completed, Ila wanted the exteriors to match the home’s comfortable sophistication. There was no garden, only post-construction remnants, some grass, and a thicket in the backyard dotted with oak trees. “I knew I wanted a beautiful garden here, this house deserves it,” Ila says. After hearing numerous outstanding recommendations from friends, Ila got in touch with Rocco Fiore & Sons and after one meeting, she and her husband knew the company was the right choice.
The project was started with a few drawings, which illustrated the plan for everything on the grounds, from hardscape to landscape, gates to fountains. As things progressed, the plan would be tweaked on walk-throughs to make space for new ideas. After nearly a year, the project was completed, creating multiple outdoor “rooms” on the property. “Each [room] has a different flavor to it, yet there’s a continuity between all of them. You can see a relationship between them and certain plant materials repeated throughout,” describes Drew Johnson, a landscape architect at Rocco Fiore and the project’s manager. These different gardens created individual vignettes around the property, each with seating areas—exactly what Ila wanted for entertaining guests.
Another priority of the Lemonis family was privacy. With the six other houses sitting around the property line, it wasn’t an easy task. Evergreens were strategically planted and as they grew and filled out, the Lemonis family almost forgot the homes were there. “We like our privacy and we like to give [the neighbors] theirs as well,” Ila explains. “Now we have it, so once you drive down our gravel road, it really is an escape.”
After Drew and his team tackled all of these challenges—creating the separate garden spaces, screening the neighbors, as well as fixing drainage issues—and designed a spectacular garden, it caught the eye of the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association (ILCA). The association awarded the property a Gold Award for its construction this year. “It was a fantastic achievement,” Drew proudly says.
Though the garden isn’t brand new for the Lemonis home, the landscape is constantly changing from season to season and year to year, keeping it an exciting and beautiful process to follow. “There’s always something new to see here,” explains Drew. “Whether it’s the spring bulbs blooming, the crab tree bearing apples, or the seasonal color we get from the different trees, it is in constant flux and growth.”