Roy Diblik’s Grand Geneva Resort Garden in Mid-June

Last July, I visited Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, not to play a round of golf, but to check in on the Roy Diblik designed garden that they have out in front of the main building – you can read more about that <here>.   This past week, I took another look at the garden, this time in Mid-June.  While there where many colors showing in July, shades of purple dominated the palette in Mid-June.  In the photo above, the globular flowers of Giant Purple Allium (a Dutch Bulb) complement the various shades of Blue Salvia.


In the foreground the monochromatic color scheme is set of by bright green masses of Sesleria autumnalis, Autumn Moor Grass. 

In the photo below the dark green strappy leaves of Allium ‘Summer Beauty’ weave in and out of the small gray-green leaves of Catmint (Calamentha nepeta var. nepeta.)  In a few weeks both of these will be in bloom with balls of pink flowers and a mist of white flowers respectively.


The garden in Mid-June of this year



‘Summer Beauty’ Allium and Catmint, in the foreground, with Purple Stachys ‘Hummelo’ behind, in bloom last July

The Purple Coneflower in the center foreground waits its turn to put on its show of flowers, while the Yellow Baptisia (Baptisia sphaerocarpa) is just finishing up and starting to set its ornamental bean-like seed pods.


Bowman’s Root (Gillenia trofoliata, now known as Porteranthus trifoliatus) is native to the Eastern half of the United States (including Illinois) and parts of Ontario, Canada.  Tolerant of Shade (naturally found growing in moist woods) is can take full sun as well.  American Indians used the plant extensively in their herbal medicines, which you can read more about at the University of Michigan’s website <here.>  The plant can reach heights of 2 to 3 feet or more, with an equal spread.  The Plant is covered with 1″ five petaled, star shaped flowers, the fall color is an excellent orange/red color.


Bowman’s Root behind some ‘Wesuwe’ Salvia



Green is also a color, not just a backgound to other colors, as displayed in the two images below:



Willow Leaved Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ along with ‘Max Frie’ Geranium:


Monarda bradburiana, a short, early blooming, native horsemint is surrounded by soon to be blooming yellow Threadleaf Coreopsis:


A mass of Giant Purple Allium among the native Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis) grass:


Mid- June Display

A similar view of the garden last July:


Early July display, last year

Prairie Dropseed grass (foreground, left) knits throughout the garden:



Geranium, Salvia, and Giant Allium, all in shades of purple:





Yellow Baptisia fading behind the bright yellow of ‘Moonshine’ Yarrow:


In another part of the property, prairie native, White Wild Indigo (Baptisia Leucantha) blooms in profusion, its grey leaves add an addition layer of interest to this easy to grow and well behaved Midwestern native:


Not too much going on in this little bed in Mid- June:


Lots of green in this bed in Mid-June

But the same bed a few weeks later, in Early July of last year, is a real riot of color – the garden is designed to change throughout the growing season with layers of color emerging as others fade.


A few weeks later, its comes to life with burst of color

And that is why I enjoy visiting gardens designed by Roy at different times of the year – it’s a great lesson in how to arrange plants so even when they are not in flower, the planting is still an interesting mix of textures and plant forms … at some point in the season though, each part of the garden, or plant combination, has its moment in the sun -just like fireworks on the fourth of July – each successive display is unique and awesome in its own way.  And just when you think you’ve seen the best, a new display explodes before you with another amazing mix of colors and forms.







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Roy Diblik Designed Garden at The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa



Opened in 1968 as a Playboy Club Hotel, the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired architecture of The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa lends itself well to the Roy Diblik designed entry garden.  Installed in 2005/06, the garden evokes a Midwestern meadow full of bright flowers and billowing grasses.  While not all of the 20+ species of perennials in this garden are native to the Midwest, most are not, Roy has shown, that “it doesn’t have to be all natives” to be sustainable.  The garden does reflect a growing need for sustainable landscape design and creates an emotional connection for the viewer through “Representation of Place,” as Roy puts it.


According to Roy, ecological plantings are where landscape design needs to be.  He would like to see an end to monocultures of Black-eyed-Susans and Purple Coneflowers, which too often leads to disease and death, as well as the “weed, woodchip, and replace” mantra of the landscape industry.  Instead, he would like to see well designed landscapes, consisting of stable communities of plants, that are sustainable and create a pleasant garden.

Roy Diblik’s plantings are dense enough that weeds cannot compete with the perennials.  He also believes in keeping the soil lean:  “A lean soil supports fewer weeds.”  Additionally,  he feels that adding wood chips is not something that promotes plant health in perennials and should not be needed if they are happily growing in “closed, stable, communities.”   He does, however, occasionally use leaf mulch in some of his gardens, for example, his gardens at the Art Institute of Chicago get an application of leaf mulch every three years.


As can be seen in this garden, Roy keeps the plant palette limited (I counted approximately 20 species of plants), repeats many of the plants throughout the garden, and chooses plants the “respect their space.” 

Roy has mentioned in his presentations, that the designer needs to consider the size and habit of the plants 3 to 5 years after planting, and that gardens need two years of nurturing, before gardening can begin.  The old horticultural saying about perennials is that the first season, they “sleep,” the second year, they “creep,” and the third year, they “leap.”  Roy plants in expectation of the third year, and beyond.  But he is not a believer in “one and done,”  rather, a garden (or landscape project) should be thought of in phases, and changes or additions should be planned for, in time.


In the above picture we see approximately a half dozen perennials repeated, each grouping knitted into the next, not simply one grouping next to another grouping.  In the foreground, Allium angulosum  ‘Summer Beauty’ ties into the yellow ‘Happy Returns’ Daylily, which in turn runs into the purples of various Veronicas.  The seed heads of June blooming giant allium bulbs are still visable, and are part of the aesthetic of the garden.  The bright green grass, Sesleria autumnalis,  Moor Grass, fronts the walkway in the bed at left and complements the blue-green leaves of the Catmint, Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta, behind it.  The Catmint as well at the ‘Summer Beauty’ Allium can be seen repeating in the rear of this image, as well.  Spots of Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ add a touch of royal purple to the mix.


In the largest section of the garden, the mixture of ‘Summer Beauty’ and Catmint can be seen with a large swath of purple ‘Hummelo’ behind, along with the taller Purple Coneflower, the misty blue Russian Sage, and the yellows of the ‘Happy Returns’ Daylilies, Coreopsis, and Achillea.  In the distant background is Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’  Feather Reed Grass.  Various blue Salvias, past flowering in this photo, played a major color roll, earlier in the season.  Plant shape, texture, and height play as much of a roll in this composition as does the color of the flowers.


Above, Sesleria autumnalis,  Moor Grass; Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta,  Catmint; Salvia‘Blue Hill;’ and  Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo,’ growing together as part of a happy and beautiful plant community.


Sporobolis heterolepis,  Prairie Dropseed Grass; Allium angulosum,  ‘Summer Beauty;’ and Echinacea purpurea,  Purple Coneflower, intermingle nicely along the walkway.


The Plants Seen in Roy Diblik’s Garden

at The Grand Geneva Resort & Spa:

·        Achillea x hybrida  ‘Coronation Gold’ ‘Inca Gold’  Yarrow

·        Allium angulosum  ‘Summer Beauty’ Allium

·        Allium purpureum bulbs

·        Allium schoenoprasum ‘Schnitlauch’ Dwarf Chives

·        Amsonia orientalis ‘Blue Ice’

·        Baptisia sphaerocarpa,  Yellow Indigo

·        Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’  Feather Reed Grass

·        Calamintha nepeta ssp. nepeta,  Catmint

·        Coreopsis palmata,  Prairie Coreopsis

·        Coreopsis verticillata  ‘Golden Showers,’ ‘Moonbeam’

·        Echinacea purpurea,  Purple Coneflower 

·        Geranium x hybrida ‘Orion’  Hardy Geranium

·        Hemerocallis x hybrida  ‘Happy Returns’ Daylily

·        Kalimeris incisa ‘Blue Star’

·        Perovskia atriplicifolia,  Russian Sage

·        Rudbeckia fulgida,  Black-Eyed-Susan

·        Salvia  ‘Wesuwe,’  ‘Blue Hill,’ ‘East Friesland’

·        Sesleria autumnalis,  Moor Grass

·        Sporobolis heterolepis,  Prairie Dropseed

·        Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’

·        Veronica sp.  Speedwell




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