Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden


Inspiring Garden Design: Rooms with a View

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New Orleans is well-known for its “Garden District” residential area, providing a king’s ransom (excuse my play on Mardi Gras) of gardens that inspire. While Harriet Nelson’s thoughtfully conceived creation (in partnership with René Fransen) is based on the guiding principle of exterior garden rooms, she has brought another twist to this concept. In 2000, when planning the garden, her goal was to create a different garden view through each of her home’s full-length windows.

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The successful and establishing cohesiveness of Harriet’s garden is accomplished with walls of Eagleston hollies and sasanqua camellias which both separate and contain the individual sections, creating beautiful screens that also insure privacy.

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A Pennsylvania bluestone path starts at the garden gate and encircles the property,  encouraging visitors to enjoy every different perspective of the formal, as well as less structured gardens.

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Color palettes found in the home’s furnishings are reflected in the plantings, a variety of mainly indigenous plant material. With the early spring that New Orleans is experiencing, her garden is now a sensual delight of eighteen camellia bushes and six varieties of azaleas, exquisite florals…

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And blooming fruit trees (fig, Meyer lemon, grapefruit, Persian lime, blood orange, tangerine, and a lemonquat). These more than satisfy her wish to have fruit available all year round.

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Her nod to those two features that characterize a New Orleans’ garden — water and patio/courtyard — is first, the small pond centered with a sculpture of her at age four.

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The other (no surprise that it is my favorite), her quadrant parterre in the patio that opens to the house’s garden room.

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This quirky parterre, with its “doughnut-inspired” shapes rendered in boxwood and the spiral-pruned Eugenia that centers this small space, plays off a scaling principle of good design — the eye is so intrigued with the shapes and curves that it ceases to notice the size of the space but rather how provocative and entertaining the design is. It’s a bit of tricking the eye so you don’t know where to look. And makes for an interesting stroll during a party with cocktail in hand.

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Gardeners are a gracious group, as Harriet Nelson well-portrayed in opening her garden gate to a friend of a friend from Newport. But another touching sensibility showed itself in some gardening notes she supplied me — desiring to have flowers blooming year round  not just to cut for her own home but to bring to friends who have had to give up their gardens…its own brand of southern hospitality.

Thank you, Harriet…

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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".

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