Design, In the Garden


The Little Black Dress of Flower Urns

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Many gardeners have a favorite “go to” container for our flower arrangements. They’re  like an old friend — reliable (water tight), accountable (whatever you arrange in them looks good), stylish (complements any room) and always there to help out in a pinch. Of course it comes with a story… but I won’t go into that now.

Such is my 11′”x 15″tall heavy cast iron urn. After twenty years of serving me well, I thought it deserved a shoutout. Scaled so beautifully to the proportions of our oval salon  it usually resides here most of the time. So I thought, “why not capture this old friend through the seasons?” And as I write, I realize that this container is not unlike the “LBD” (little black dress)…elegant even without accessories but truly comes alive when bejeweled…oops, beflowered. Enjoy!

For Valentine’s — branches of all-white apple blossoms embrace a red-feathered heart.

Then Easter — with fuzzy bunnies gathered underneath and Easter eggs hanging from the giltwood chandelier. The piece de resistance for this time of year? My favorite lilies, soft  yellow ‘Concodor’.

Early summer — what is sexier in this urn than an overflowing froth of chartreuse lady’s mantle?

Summer — blue and white is a winner all year long but these blue hydrangeas are such a Newport signature.

Fall — bountiful blooms of ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas almost overpower the urn.

And finishing out the year, Christmas — a “collerette” of cabernet red alstroemaria with  sprayed-red beech tree branches.

What is your favorite container…and how do you dress it?

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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".

11 thoughts on “The Little Black Dress of Flower Urns

  1. I agree that is my favorite shape for a vase or planter. Here, people call them medicis, after the gigantic urn made in Athens and now in the Uffizi. The pedestal! The curves! The wasp-waisted proportions (you made the LBD reference)!

  2. I have a pair of similar beloved black urns…. given to me by a close friend, who used them as centerpieces at her daughter’s wedding many years ago, and gifted several of them when the wedding concluded. Filled with “meaning”and often with simple topiaries and occasionally something more extravagant when the occasion calls for it!

      1. Like you, I adore champagne buckets, too…especially because they keep that wonderful bubbly nice and chilled!

    1. Now that’s the best kind of “favorite container”…not one, but a pair, and a reminder of a special event. What a lovely friend you have in that mother of the bride!

  3. Have a copper samovar that surfices as the go to same shape. Purchased in Istanbul market space so long ago. Seasonal from spring limbs to bittersweet…always works.
    Black dress, great analogy
    Didn’t you know- I always wear black –
    Georgia O’Keeffe

    1. Aaaah, then you have one more treat whenever you use your samovar… the memories of a wonderful trip.

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