Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden

8 Oops! in the Garden

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Confession, as they say, is good for the soul — well, this was certainly the year to take a few (no, a lot) of gulps as regards the garden. And I know I’m not alone. It was wet everywhere I traveled in the spring — from Huntsville, Alabama to St. Louis, Missouri. And continued through a Newport summer… on into fall. Good yes, but maybe too much of a good thing?

Last year’s blog, “Planning Your Summer Garden: 9 Oops to Avoid, ” was wildly successful (no surprise). So I’m following up with a 2018 confessional along with lessons learned. For starters, this was the year for big projects, which became literally bogged down with the amount of rain.

The Orangerie is the centerpiece of the garden and very special to me personally as it was a surprise Christmas present from my husband when we were building our house.

Oops #1: Drainage issues within this part of the garden (lesson learned) finally necessitated redoing the walls and re-stuccoing the exterior and re-painting the interior (three times).  On the bright side — it’s good for another fifty years and is already on my calendar for many summer 2019 entertaining dates.

Photo Credit: Maaike Bernstrom

Having seen and loved pergolas in so many old European properties, I assumed (naively) that they lasted for centuries or, at least, decades. Not so!!

Oops #2: Weather differences are  one big reason, and when you factor in carpenter bees, twenty years is a long survival rate. We used fir this time rather than the original cedar, which is harder and may make it more difficult for the bees to be so busy burrowing tunnels through the beams. But even if that is the case, the pergola will only be good for (hopefully) twenty more years. Really?

I’m so glad I have this picture from last fall of this narrow bed of brilliant blue caryopteris beauties. Their unusual chartreuse leaves are also what prompted me to throw caution to the wind and plant ten of them!

Oops #3: Caryopteris (a woody-type perennial shrub) is not known to be long-lived; our short but severe cold spell this winter (without snow to provide a protective blanket) killed off all ten. Plan going forward? I’m planting an all chartreuse bed of hostas…at least I can still enjoy my favorite shade of green.

The weeping beech… So spectacular! So Newport! Of course, we had to have one here at Parterre. And we had just the spot – the seemingly large plot of lawn in the back courtyard.

Oops #4: I didn’t fully appreciate the size of a mature version of this prized beech cultivar. She’s just a pre-teen and soon will be three times as wide as she is now (hope I’m not saying that about myself someday)! What about the driveway?…and the hedge?…and the rose garland? Know the mature size of a tree when considering your placement.

Oops #5: One of the pleasures of planting trees when the house was finished twenty years ago is to watch them grow to maturity. The Japanese maple at the entrance to the woodland has served that area well…but she, too, has outgrown her location. Luckily, it can be easily moved to another site on the property (unlike the weeping beech). Looking on the bright side,  in essence we have enjoyed another phase of gardening — treating  Parterre as a nursery!

Euonymous is a treasured, and a much-used plant seen in many forms on our grounds (even Martha Stewart pointed this out when she visited).

Oops #6: The deer do love it, but of course they hadn’t started frequenting our end of the island twenty years ago so this wasn’t factored into the original planting selections. But the more important Oops! is that a specific cultivar of any plant may not be readily available when you need to replace it.

Stepping stones have their own kind of romance. Here at Parterre they are the path leading to the formal garden gate which starts you on your visit through the gardens.

Oops #7: We’ve had challenges trying to find just the right plant to grow between the stones as this area is in both shade and sun. I guess we’ll to have to be realistic and go back to grass (not as unusual, but a reliable given).

The Winter Garden’s oval pond is not only a signature of this property but a water feature that is first to be seen after entering our library. The sound of its thin 12′ plume of water hitting the surface is a favorite summer memory.

Oops #8: No wonder deer were working their way past the maze of walls and hedges to our interior garden areas — we were the watering hole of the neighborhood!! So far, “Liquid Fence” has proven to keep them at bay. But we do have signs that they have been here, so we must always be vigilant in keeping up regular applications. Fingers crossed!
(The bamboo poles in the pool give squirrels an exit strategy after falling in when they, too, are drinking from the “watering hole”).

Frankly, I’m a bit exhausted. It’s been a roller coaster ride weather-wise in 2018, so I think I’ll stop here with the Oops. But on a bright note — and major surprise — all that rain is probably the biggest factor in the AbFab fall that we’re experiencing (see my recent post, “Bellevue Avenue in Fall Color“). Onward and upward…

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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".

10 thoughts on “8 Oops! in the Garden

    1. Oh so true, Dallas. Once we learn that universal truth, life in the garden is so much easier! Happy Thanksgiving, Bettie

  1. Dear Bettie, I cannot believe there could possibly be even one oops in that divine garden! All the best to you! Ann Davenport

    1. Dearest Ann, how wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for the lovely compliment, but, alas, reality can be hiding behind the bushes…
      Have a glorious Thanksgiving with your family and send them all my best, xBettie

  2. Bettie,
    I have used moss between paving stones. If kept watered or damp, it will survive a long time. Direct hot sun
    could over heat the paving stones, so keeping them wet or damp will help preserve the moss.


  3. Oops do not alter you spectacular garden one bit. Every picture of your garden fills me with peace…and longing to have such a place of beauty to enjoy.

    1. What a beautiful note, Bobbi.Thank you! Fortuntaely, I’m a big believer that gardens are a work in progress, so I’m not shy about garden “wardrobe malfunctions.”
      And anything that might prove helpful to other gardeners I want to pass along. Have a delicious Thanksgiving! xB

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