For the love of gardening

Fontana Garden Club celebrates 50 years

By Donna Lenz Wright/The Week
Photographs by Terry Mayer/The Week

(Published August 21, 2006, 10:04 a.m.)

The Fontana Garden Club first met as a group in 1956 with just six members.

Now with over 80 members, they celebrated their 50th anniversary with lunch and garden tours of Glamworth Gardens in Lake Geneva, the country home of Richard Driehaus.

"We keep growing, just like a garden should," said Sharon Conklin, first vice president. The club is always open to new members from anywhere around the lakes area, she added.

"The objective of our club is to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening, to aid in the protection of native plants and birds, to cultivate understanding and friendship among ourselves (and) to aid in the preservation of our lakes area heritage," she said.

In the past 50 years the club has worked to educate themselves and their community by donating books to the Fontana Library, where they have their own shelf for customer ease; providing trees and plants along Fontana Boulevard, the lakefront, Reid's Park and the Duck Pond; and volunteering for the Agape House in Walworth.

Each May the club holds a plant sale to raise funds for scholarships given to students studying the field of horticulture, Conklin said.

"This year we were able to give two $1,000 scholarships," she said.

The anniversary celebration was held at the breathtaking Driehaus summer home, a perfect setting for a garden club gathering. Driehaus opened his home and grounds to the group and provided them with lunch as a token of his ongoing support of all things in nature.

Driehaus Capital Management LLC is headquartered in Chicago and provides investment management services to institutional clients, high net worth individuals and mutual fund investors.

Driehaus also supports countless efforts geared toward the preservation of nature and history.

When Driehaus bought the estate in 1998, it was "ready to be bulldozed," explained Bonnie, who refers to herself the charwoman of the Driehaus estate. "He saved the place. When people saw it they thought he was crazy to take on such a large project."

Standing at the entryway of the home, it's grand appearance makes even trying to visualize it in such condition difficult.

Tables dotted the lawn, meticulously sculpted by Rick Herman of the Treasure Hut. The view of the front garden from Driehaus' bedroom suite window is amazing with flowers of pinks, whites and reds surrounding the water feature.

Lunch was followed by guided tours of the many gardens that surround the estate. Celebration attendees oooheed and ahhed as they appreciated the garden delights.

"I'm blown away," said Joan Stephenson. "I feel like I'm in a house in England."

Driehaus truly enjoys having his summer home used for gatherings of this nature, Bonnie said.

"Mr. Driehaus does everything he can to give back to the community because it's the right thing to do-and he means it," she said. "He wants the house to be used and enjoyed.

"He may be known as the Wizard of Wall Street, but I know him as a wonderful man who loves to laugh and plays a mean game of hide-and-seek," Bonnie said, referring to the games Driehaus plays with his daughters Tereza, 10, and Caroline, 8.

"We're honored to be able to celebrate our anniversary here," Conklin said. "This is a beautiful place with amazing gardens."



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