By Anne Morrissy | Photography by Clint Farlinger
For years, Linda Learn would walk by a dilapidated house on Geneva Lake just outside of town and say to her sweetheart Andy Loughlin, “I could really do wonders with that house.” Then one day, Andy came back from getting his daily newspaper and said, “Get in the car. We’re going to go on a ride that will change your life.” Their dream house was finally for sale. So in 1996, Linda and Andy purchased the house and began an extensive remodeling project that lasted more than a year.
When they bought Willow Landing, Linda knew she wanted an English garden. But at the time she didn’t know anything about gardening. “I didn’t know an annual from a perennial,” she laughs. “I didn’t know anything about gardening. They probably just shook their heads at me when I walked into the greenhouse. I just learned by trial and error; it was quite an awakening.”
The challenge was made greater by the state of the property when they bought it. “There was nothing in the garden worth saving,” she explains. “We could hardly get back there.” When the garage was enlarged, a hill lined with boulders was added, creating a stairway to the back garden. Then Linda began planting, kindling a passionate hobby. She and Andy now keep a vibrant English garden they call “The Secret Garden,” as well as a tranquil shade garden and a lakeside garden. Linda tends to prefer to plant annuals, so she can change the colors and the design season to season.
The shade garden lines a path of stone pavers that ultimately leads to the Secret Garden. Linda says she loves the shade garden for its cool tranquility. A weathered stone bench provides a nice place to sit on hot days, and hostas and coleus line the path. But the true gem of the property is the Secret Garden. The focal point is a 19th century classical statue of a woman that the couple purchased at the Chicago Botanic Garden Antique, Garden and Design Show six years ago. The statue presides over a landscape of boxwood hedges and Carefree Wonder pink roses, which Linda loves because, she says, “They smell wonderful and bloom all summer.”
A colorful mix of annuals accent the display, but there’s one thing you will never find in Linda’s garden: orange. “I said no orange in my garden!” she laughs. “I like to go mostly with pink, purple and white, and some yellow. I love the colors to be softer and more pastel.”
However, her favorite flowers, bright pink impatiens, strike a bolder pose. The Secret Garden is made up of roughly six sections, and each section is also home to a petite fairy statue, which Linda also picked up at the Chicago Botanic Garden Antiques, Garden and Design Show. Linda often invites walkers and passersby to sit a while in her garden and enjoy the view. “The garden is just a really soothing, beautiful place to be,” she explains. “I wish I could garden all the time. It’s my relaxation.”
In front of the house, the lakeside garden frames Willow Landing’s beautiful view of the lake. It features marigolds, phlox and tropical annuals that climb the arbor trellis, where walkers on the Geneva Lake Shore Path often stop to take photos. The bolder colors complement the traditional white pier. And the lakeside garden also serves as a reminder to Linda and Andy of that fateful day they first looked at Willow Landing: it is the garden that Andy now passes through every day to meet the famous Mailboat and pick up his daily newspaper.
This home was featured in the Lake Geneva: Summer 2016 issue.
For more photos of our featured Lake Geneva homes, visit the Lake Geneva Gallery page.