By Barb Howell | Photography by Clint Farlinger
Geneva Lake’s south shore, about a mile from the Village of Fontana beach, bends ever so slightly to form a tip of land that is known as Rainbow Point. Whether approaching from the Shore Path or by boat, it’s clearly evident why this park-like setting with a garden so layered in color and texture is worthy of such a name.
Rainbow Point or “The Point,” as it’s fondly called by Joe and Tami Pringle and Joe’s mom, Jody, has been a part of their extended family for five generations. This summer marks 90 years since Albert and Ida Emery Ullmann built the white, cedar-shingled house that is nearest to the vast garden and lush lawn that runs down to the lake. Although the Pringles occupy this home, other relatives, including those from the Ellis, Ullmann and Kinnick families have their own homes on the property.
During the decades leading up to World War II, professional gardeners tended to the property, and they so exquisitely planted the garden with a rainbow of colors that soon this portion of shoreline became known as Rainbow Point. During the war, when helping hands were scarce, Jody and her father took over gardening duties. In subsequent years, hired help again maintained the property, but by 1980 the once spectacular garden was filled with mostly flocks and borders of annuals.
In spring 1980, however, a renewal of sorts was soon to begin. Joe and Tami were planning their September wedding on Rainbow Point and with Jody’s help they doubled the size of the garden from 30 to 60 feet and filled it with flowers. Since then the garden has continued to evolve and it’s been expanded to 150 feet in length. It’s planted and cared for by family members—no hired gardeners or landscape companies can take credit for this show-stopping display of color.
Each Memorial Day weekend for the last 15 years, the Pringles and their four children and spouses or significant others, along with Jody take part in what has become a family tradition. As Tami explains, flats of flowers are purchased from local garden centers, and then it’s “all hands on deck” as the family begins planting the hundreds of tiny annuals to complement the established perennials in the center of the planting bed.
“We tell each person to pick three colors they really like, find a spot and then go plant. It’s really like painting a picture,” she explains. “There is a lot of opportunity to be creative.” As the plants grow and fill in throughout the summer, everyone takes pride in how they’ve contributed, Tami adds. “Because we never plant the same way each year, the garden always looks different, except maybe for the marigolds that are planted around the perimeter to keep the deer away.”
In 2012, the Pringles hosted two of their children’s weddings on Rainbow Point and this October, another daughter will take her wedding vows there. “We’ll need to be mindful of what will bloom a bit later and keep in mind the color scheme of the wedding when we plant this year—we’ll have to be a bit creative,” says Tami.
Based on the beautiful garden that has hugged Rainbow Point for generations, creativity doesn’t seem to be in short supply for this family.