September is truly the most beautiful month in Newport, a perfect outing for a small garden picnic. And under the canopy of grand old beech trees, Alice and Jim Ross celebrated this first breath of fall where pattern was the order of the day. From the large lacquered paper umbrellas to the vintage tablecloths to the guest’s attire, the well-considered details reminded us of the layer upon layer of details which Alice masterminded when decorating their home, “Berkeley House” (featured in my book, Living Newport: Houses, People, Style.)
Multi-colored flowers anchored the base of the umbrellas in painted tin containers that were also vintage; celadon-blue French bistro chairs paired with accent colors in each of the cloths.
As we sipped iced tea and sangrias, with their parasoled fruit garnishes, the bounty of Alice’s newly re-designed garden beckoned us through the garden gates. I was reminded of her sage and refreshing impressions as a novice gardener…wisdom for all of us…which were recorded in a recent booklet for a visiting group of gardeners.
“When we first moved into our house, I was completely intimidated by our garden. I thought dahlias were colored daisies. Every now and then, I would pass through it and something would astonish me – the majesty of the old copper beech, the incredible loveliness of a perfect rose opening up – all of this glorious beauty, pressing forward without any direction on my part. So I started thinking, ‘If the garden does all this without my consideration, how much greater could it be if I start to really think about it…’ ”
“I stopped letting the countless variations of non-memorable Latin botanical names and the complex instructions for pruning clematis and hydrangeas daunt me, and I started imagining things. I got books and magazines about gardens. I jumped on board for various garden tours. I surfed the internet for images of gardens. When I traveled, I went to see famous gardens. I got advice from lots of people who know way more than I do. All of this exploring led to ideas!”
“The more engaged I became with the garden, the more joy it produced in me. I think it must be like the endorphins that exercise junkies get. There is just something so elemental, like a primal memory trace, that we humans get when we join in with nature. It now makes sense to me why God began with us in the garden.”
Stepping stones in the center island garden invite you to take a closer look at all the plantings.
The gardens also include a shaded place to sit and reflect.
The yummy dessert – homemade lemon pound cake and chocolate brownie cookies – were presented in a flat-basket that had a clever netted cover (wise thinking on Alice’s part…those pesky yellow jackets are a sure sign it’s September.)
Olive was a very popular guest at the party.
As I said, it was all about pattern…a tablecloth and a guest’s skirt.