Before & After: Chicago Train Embankment Garden

After putting on an impressive addition to the house, the garden was trashed (typical).  Not only that, but the train embankment for the Chicago Northwest Line was noisy and right there in the back yard.

NLH Architects solved a lot of problems for this couple with this clean multifunctional design.  A seat wall whose shape echoes the lines of the house creates a lot of space for entertaining.  But even more interestingly, (I think) is the planting that completely hides the railroad tracks.  (ahhhh….)

It’s not an evergreen screen, but it does the job just as well (especially in the summer).  They choose to plant a dense screen of rapid growing birch and viburnum.  It’s a cheaper option for sure.

The other nice idea to steal from this garden….the paving.  These unilock pavers are kind of  boring and heartless all by themselves, but with the addition of the lannon stone insets they suddenly have detail and character that they don’t on their own.

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rochelle greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.


  1. Pottering Around on April 8, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I’m not usually a fan of Unilock but have to admit that in this situation it does look nice with the lannon stone insets.

  2. Sally F. on April 8, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    AND the plantings probably helped with noise control! Perfect! (Or were the tracks no longer in use?)

    • rochelle on April 8, 2010 at 3:41 pm

      I think the tracks are in use….so def. helping with noise control!

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