Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden


Inspiring Garden Design: Parterre in the Snow

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I’ve been wistfully looking back at snow images from the last two to three years, a spectacle we’ve missed so far this month. Of course, with such tempting images at hand, I decided that a winter garden post is a deserving addition to this “Inspiring Garden Design” series.

For me, the outstanding point about the garden in winter is that you can see its “bones” (which in gardening jargon means read the design). Adding a dusting of snow then becomes the proverbial frosting on the cake. This is why I love being in Newport for the first two months of winter — the dreamy appearance of my garden, and its structures, and the design truths they speak through bare limbs and branches. Worthy images for any gardener to reflect upon.

A helpful hint: Viewing a design from above — whether it is a second floor window, rooftop or low drone photograph — is instructive, giving you another perspective.

Snow highlights the strength of a design (like the carefully considered curve of the yew hedges coming off the stone pillars). This is particularly true in a formal garden, like Parterre, with its focus on geometry and proportions.

Perhaps a seemingly obvious point, but worth a mention — since snow doesn’t read as a color, your eye is not distracted and the integrity of the design is more easily understood. Here, the yew hedge is clearly the important western-facing border of the large Winter Garden.

Entryways and pass-throughs (ie. into our woodland) appear more defined, their romantic detail always adding so much charm to a garden.

The Orangerie, fronted by four standard cherries (Hally Jolivette cultivar) that almost look as though they’re clothed in their early spring blossoms. The use of evergreen shrubs (euonymus, berberis, holly, box) under the cherries allow us to enjoy the design of the geometric parterres.

Plant material trained against a wall, or as a free standing espalier, provides another opportunity to appreciate the benefits of this design motif.

Creatively pruned hedges take on humorous aspects bedecked with snow.

Is it any wonder that my first choice of a tree form is weeping, or “pendula,” as in the cherry in the corner of the Winter Garden.

Don’t overlook the merits of accessories as part of the overall winter scene. The six wooden Versailles boxes (custom designed to scale with the garden and house) are purposefully left out in the winter so that we can enjoy the snow highlighting their detaisl.


Hope these images have helped make the point about the many merits of looking at a garden in the winter, especially when it is dressed in snow.

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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".

7 thoughts on “Inspiring Garden Design: Parterre in the Snow

  1. Was out early this morning checking one of my construction sites to be sure that the cold had not wrecked havoc. Now, back home sipping hot coffee, enjoying your winter gardens and being toastie warm again. You ceratinly designed the most magnificent gardens!

    1. Thank you, Stella, and glad you’re back home and toasty…while looking at less than toasty images. Cheers,Bettie

  2. OH, Bettie, your fabulous pictures and words in your blog have captured my heart once again. My label for your garden would be: “A Garden in Grisaille1

  3. I have always felt that snow is the perfect canvas to showcase the beauty of nature, homes, and animals–everything just seems to stand out against winter white–and your lovely garden certainly depicts that. Thank you for warming my heart on this very cold January day.

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