Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden


Exceptional Greenhouses

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An “Inspiring Garden Design” series would not be complete without a nod to greenhouses…specifically those that are graciously and tastefully incorporated into their garden surroundings. I’ve picked three of my favorites on our island.

One garden club friend’s new-ish home, designed by Madison Spencer, is right out of Georgian England.

The owner had two specific priorities in mind when she and her husband undertook this project… a greenhouse(!) and master suite on the first floor. And having had first hand experience with greenhouses on two former properties, she set about designing this one as a pro. Her goal was “a functional and aesthetically-pleasing building; a place to grow and experiment (not another sitting area with a few plants)” (feature image at top).

Honoring the principle of Georgian architectural style — symmetry —  a pair of curved arcades, with windows, lead from the main body of the house; one, of course, leads to the greenhouse. So it was imperative that this plant house emulated the main limestone structure, as well as the windows, doors and trim color.

The addition of pilasters is frosting on the cake!

This embracing crescent scheme overlooks the courtyard, now centered with a new folly ((off camera…perhaps a topic for a new post)? When asked what she would do differently,  my friend replied (as every woman has said about her closet)…”I’d make it bigger.”

In contrast to the formality of this greenhouse design and setting, another plant house captures the pastoral, sylvan landscape “up island.” Stepping stones lead you off to other inviting parts of the park-like property.

Set away from the old, shingled former beach-house-now-year-round-home, this greenhouse enjoys the same ocean view but is clustered with other necessaries (caretaker’s office and garage).

The stone courtyard for the three is a casual planting area where container plants and a Jacob’s Coat of low plantings vie for space amidst the stones.

The lichen-patterned stone wall on the water side shows off colorful tuteurs.

Lastly, another British conservatory adds chic as well as welcome space to the north side of Wm. K. Vanderbilt’s former firehouse, now the home to a young family. The requisite knot garden finishes the picture-perfect setting.

Just the place for a summer party.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

4 thoughts on “Exceptional Greenhouses

  1. I am having trouble choosing which one I like the best! However, the first one gets an extra nod of approval because, no matter the weather, your friend never has to leave the main house to get to her greenhouse.

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