After watching the video produced by the Northbrook Park District about the Heritage Peony Project, scroll down to learn more about the project!
The Northbrook Garden Club partnered with the Historical Society & Park District to preserve heritage peonies from the original Northbrook Gardens. William F. Christman Sr. managed the gardens from 1928 to 1945 on the former Sky Harbor Airport site. After Northbrook Gardens closed due to the expansion of the airport, Mr. Christman moved many of the peonies to his private garden.
Mr. Christman's grandson, Edward "Bud" Smith (pictured), has cared for the peonies for many decades. Mr. Christman continued to develop peonies with Brother Charles Rekamp at Techny's Mission Gardens. Brother Charles is well known for developing conifers, such as the Techny Arborvitae, and several varieties of daylillies.
This painting of the Northbrook Gardens was commissioned in memory of William F. Christman Jr., who was a member of the Northbrook High School Class of 1942. It is the only known color image of the Gardens in bloom. The hanger in the background is part of the former Sky Harbor Airport.
SOURCE: Northbrook Historical Society
The preservation project began with field work - LOTS of field work - at the end of May 2019. The peonies were hidden in an overgrown field. Little did we know the colorful, extravagant blooms and varieties that awaited us.
These are just a few of the NGC members & volunteers that started with hand weeding, trimming, and lopping of small trees in order to locate, mark and identify more than 150 peony plants.
Double whites began blooming at the original Christman/Smith farm house. These plants sent up buds at the end of May and held their long lasting blooms well into late June. They survived spring rainstorms and high winds.
Throughout his career, Mr. Christman took photos of peonies which were developed on glass slides. His grandson, Bud Smith, donated 400 slides to the Chicago Botanic Garden for restoration and preservation in their archives. Mr. & Mrs. Smith and several members of NGC gathered to view the delicate slides.
Left: Asa Gray, Double Pink, Midseason
Right: Apple Blossom, Single Pink, Midseason
Left: Baroness Schroeder, Double Whites, Midseason
Right: Auguste Dessert, Double Pink, Midseason
In September 2019, the Northbrook Park District sent a crew to the Christman/Smith field to start the work of transplanting the peonies.
The crew hand dug the 150+ plants in the back field. The peonies were transplanted in various parks throughout the Village, including the garden at the Historical Society.
A scoop was used on the front border of large peonies. Some of the peonies have been re-planted in the park nearest the site of the original Northbrook Gardens.
The crew taking out the last of the large double white peonies.
A full load of peonies headed to their new homes in the various parks in the Village.
It was a long, hot day but a very successful work day thanks to the partnership between Bud Smith and the Northbrook Garden Club, Historical Society and Park District.