Autumn, Gardening How-Tos, In the Garden

Ablaze in Newport: A New England Autumn

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Autumn is my favorite season. So all the more reason to make a priority of designing our gardens and grounds with an eye to those fall trees that like to “step up and get noticed.”  (I’m also passing along a link that provides additional wonderful options for fall trees; Gardenista.)

As you come into the driveway, three of Newport’s signature tree, the Beech, are breathtaking in their exuberance, while the much smaller 85-year-old Japanese maple shows off a potpourri of fall colors.


Japanese maples, with their striking sculptural quality, are a must-have for an elegant dose of color delivered on a tree that is appropriately described as having a lyrical grace.


I do love Japanese maples…all colors, shapes, sizes AND leaf structure. Our woodland was planted with a swath of these always reliable favorites to create a flame border in these wonderful months of October and November.


Autumn is all about shadows and the low angles of a soft sun. Amelanchiar, or Shadblow as it’s commonly called, is known for its striking yellow tones which echo the sun’s rays. Here, and in the opening image, the design plan called for a rather unorthodox planting scheme…placing the five Shadblows within the yew hedge.


A fall vignette with every color represented; the mounded shape of the weeping Japanese maple is echoed in the limbed-up, arching design of the white-flowered Callicarpa, or Beautyberry.


Cotoneaster serves many laudatory purposes in a Newport garden…in the fall, its small, russet leaves provide color while its red berries are a beacon for hungry birds; small white flowers in the spring clothe the entire plant and the rest of the year, this perennial asset has deep green leaves.


Red kale and rosemary, still withstanding cold nights, add a dressy touch to a side door collection of soft-colored pumpkins and gourds.


In the Orangerie, a striking combination of mauve, silver and aubergine characterize the begonia known, fittingly, as ‘Jurassic.’


Limelight hydrangeas, late bloomers which soon take on an autumn rose tone, are getting a good drink of water in the sink before being taken into the house for arrangements.

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The Orangerie becomes a full-time work space as the garden is being “closed for the season.” Both planned and spontaneous projects end up on the calendar, like turning a forgotten (and overgrown) Prince Rupert geranium into a standard or resurrecting a tired rabbit topiary.

“Benjamin Bunny” is a wire topiary frame, packed with soggy spaghnum moss and laced in place with clear fishing line. Once he’s been wrapped, secure him in the container by sticking 2 small stakes through his hip area and then into the container’s dirt. Plant the small-leafed euonymous behind the bunny and pull tendrils around the figure, securing with wire pins.


All the projects gathered for a “photo opp”… the pair of coleus standards (which will have doubled the thickness of their stems over the winter); the saucy Benjamin Bunny, who is all prepped and waiting for the euonymous to root in the moss, and the Prince Rupert variegated geranium standard.


And this past weekend, my godchildren enjoyed an afternoon at Sweet Berry Farm, a nice break from their autumn project in our woodland…building fairy houses in the base of our 150-year-old gingko tree.


May your fall be colorful and fun-filled also!

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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".

One thought on “Ablaze in Newport: A New England Autumn

  1. Bettie the Autumn color palette is so thrilling with beauty everywhere one looks. Thank you for these gorgeous images! By the way, do you have another book in the works?

    The Arts by Karena
    Artist Lesley Schiff

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