Design, In the Garden, The Parterre Bench

Celebrating 20 Years at Parterre

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Parterre and its gardens celebrated their 20th anniversary this summer. And yet, it seems like only yesterday that we were creating our own little “paradise” on what had long ago been the Belmont estate. A very, very special piece of property on Bellevue Avenue that we purchased in 1994, graced with majestic old trees but an otherwise blank slate.

As Newport was a somewhat new home for me, I wanted to be very sensitive to one of the precepts of good design– honoring a “sense of place.” After much thought, we came to characterize our efforts as “a series of gardens in the French tradition…with an American accent and Newport sensibilities.”

Photo Credit: Michelle Pugliese for Private Newport

After 20 mind-bending years, certain garden truths reveal themselves. What a wonderful spot at which to arrive! Therefore, in the spirit of sharing, I’d like to pass along some of these perspectives that have guided my decisions. Along the way, you may hopefully pick up some ideas! As I’ve always said, this garden is dedicated to all those talented souls who were kind enough to share their gardens with me.

With only limited acreage of established garden to work with how do you satisfy your desire for creativity? Redesign — this spring we took a very deep breath and removed a large crescent beech hedge (it was not only too difficult to manage at 18′ high but becoming prohibitively costly to prune).

In its place went ilex ‘Steed,’ small-leafed holly bushes that were also evergreen (the beech hedge was deciduous). A new design based on my visits to Hidcote and other English gardens is happily on its way to becoming a centerpiece for the next 20 years.

What if you’re an obsessed gardener and missing a sense of “thrill” about your garden? Challenge yourself — step up the difficulty of plant selections and their use as design features.

Not often used for hedging, euonymous has become a mainstay for us…in all its myriad colorations and leaf size…from tall to short hedges.

I’m always on the lookout for unusual groundcovers and thrilled about our results with the divinely-colored silver dichocandra (it is most commonly used as a cascading container plant).

We defied the odds by using rose ‘Falstaff’ as a climber; well, actually a runner. A David Austin cultivar, his people were amazed that this proved so successful!

Where do you squeeze in ideas from ongoing travels and garden tours? Stretch your horizons!

No one gives more meaning to thinking outside the box than Prince Charles! A parade of these shaped hornbeams, backed by pruned hollies, dress up the entrance to his Highgrove gardens. Note the grass checkerboard detail between the hornbeams and hollies (do try to schedule a visit to his property in Oxfordshire; it is well worth it!)

And IF I had a vista like Buscot Park in the Cotswolds, I would hope I would be clever enough to play up its drama with a loooong allee’ of hornbeams.

Years ago I did dress up the cutting garden pear espalier with elaborate corner posts inspired by those at Villandry in the Loire Valley (a visit in 2000).

And finally, after 20 year, do celebrate the pleasure of accomplishing a long-standing garden goal or realizing a cherished dream. For me that would include…

Designing the Parterre Bench, which had been on my mental drawing board for 35 years. It’s a testimony, and reminder, to holding onto a dream.

Creating a new Woodland Garden from an approximately 1/2 acre slice on the southern side of our property. Originally an area of brambles, stinging nettle, wild rose and honeysuckle, it is now a beloved “secret garden,” a wonderful contrast to the rest of the sun-drenched areas. You immediately notice the drop in temperature when you enter this sylvan retreat.

Nursing the yew hedge (dividing the Black and White garden from the woodland) until it could finally be pruned into “architectural” accents.

Rustling up the courage to try out some seasonal tongue-in-cheek whimsy. My imagined engagement shower had a bride’s train (complete with floral headpiece) created from the wild tumble of autumn clematis growing out of a hedge at the pergola.

Designing and nurturing this garden has been a magical journey for me. Blessedly, I can look back in humbled awe at what had once been a leap of faith and is now a comfortably settled in garden and landscape that mirrors those dreams I had 22 years ago. Hope you’ll join me for the next 20 years of garden adventures at Parterre.

And to my two dear friends, Ginny Purviance and Julie Toland, who guided me so expertly in the design and installation of this creation…many mercis and a big hug.

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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".

27 thoughts on “Celebrating 20 Years at Parterre

  1. Thank you Bettie for sharing your story on how you created your beautiful gardens. It was an absolute pleasure to see it in it’s real form. Such a treat for me. Thank you again for all your inspiration. I’m a big fan:)

    1. Hello Sandra, it was such a treat to have you visit during the Flower Show. Don’t forget, I’m looking forward to your return! xBettie

  2. In the Whim garden, the area of low red brick wall with floppy ear rabbit statues, what is the big leaf vine on the column part of the wall?

  3. Bettie, You have created a true paradise of beautiful refinement. How lovely of you to share your home with all. The photography is stunning as well. May you enjoy another happy twenty years in your home and gardens. Ellen Easton

    1. We are looking forward to the next 20 also…appreciate your comment about our “true paradise.”

  4. The photos are BEAUTIFUL!!! You’ve done an amazing job!! So special. Love the redone fence!!! Happy Anniversary! Big hugs to both of you xo

  5. Exquisite! How did you make that awesome house out of hedge? I’m having trouble getting mine to grow into an arch.

    1. I didn’t …that hedge is from Hidcote garden in England and the inspiration for myattempts. “Time shall tell.” I’ll be sure to do updates of its progress!

  6. Aaaahhh, Bettie, I loved Parterre as a baby, toddler, teenager, and now it is twenty and All GROWN UP!🤩🌲
    What a magnificent job you have done as a “parental” gardener. Just as all good parents , you have nurtured your child, given it its head, while laying down the rules. You have produced a element of beauty that you share with the world and we all thank you 🌺 love, The Tall R

    1. Tll R, Parterre loves your visits and your thoughtful notes…I love your reference to child rearing! Can’t wiat for London!!! xB

  7. Darling Bettie
    You were an inspiration many years ago in Los Angeles I remember and still have your two little books on entertaining. Your style and grace and impeccable taste shine through the Parterre you have created. With your big heart thank you so much for sharing your beauty and love.

    1. Oh Joanie, what a great memory you have…and I’ll have sweet dreams after reading this as I head to bed. Thank you for YOUR big heart in sending such a lovely note. xBettie

  8. I so enjoyed seeing your garden during Octavia’s jewelry trunk show. It was inspiring. As you may know, my grandmother, Mabel Hood Emerson, bought your neighbor Seaview Terrace, now called Carey Mansion, around the same time the Monroes bought Rosecliff. An entrepreneur who started several boarding schools in cheap real estate all over New England, Mabel paid $25,000.00 for Seaview and its 10 surrounding acres in 1948. She, and later her son, my dad, ran a boarding school in Seaview for over a quarter century. Beside Seaview, they used many -almost ALL, in fact- of the other assorted buildings along Ruggles Ave., including the recently sold Midcliffe, whose carriage house was our summer home for years. It was a classic case of re-using buildings in a way that helped save them. But I wanted to share another “use” of the old Belmont property. During my teen years, numerous friends used to come to visit me in Newport, often around the time of the Jazz and Folk Festivals, then in their heyday. If the one guest room in our carriage house, and all the sofas, were occupied, overflow guests were frequently sent up to sleep under a huge Beech that stood near the back -eastern- side of your garden. I’m ashamed to say that I had little to no knowledge of the Belmonts then, though I was already an avid E. Wharton fan, and later found it fascinating that Beaufort, in The Age of Innocence, was modeled on Belmont. Anyway, I thought you’d find it interesting to know that in the economic downturn between the Gilded Age and the current Golden Age of Tourism, your exquisitely designed and perfectly maintained estate was a wild empty patch, scattered with beer bottles and cast-off underwear, and served as a “natural hostel” for many of my beatnik/hippie friends during the late ’60’s and early ’70’s . . . I always get a little chuckle out of the memory, strolling up Marine Ave past your clipped hedges and elegant plantings.

    1. What a story, Mary! Thanks, I shall add it to my archives of local tales and lore which may someday become a blog of its own.
      It was lovely to meet you at the jewelry show…such talented ladies!!! Cheers, Bettie

    2. Hello Mary, and how lovely to have met you through Octavia. My goodness, all the interesting notes you passed along of our property and our neighbor’s!
      Luckily our plot had been cleaned up by the time we saw it in 1994. So only you can truly appreciate the “before and after.” Happy you had a chance to see the new and improved acreage. Cheers, Bettie

  9. So Breathtaking! It fills my heart with more love for you looking at your creation…your baby, now mature, is a marvel to enjoy & remember…love how you’ve taken from your travels & experiences & shared with us in your amazing garden. Whew!

  10. The dedication to your fascinating website is always appreciated .
    Discoveries of great gardens everywhere.
    Details on how to manage plants and design
    Very inspiring. Very uplifting.
    Thank you.

    1. Inspiring and uplifting…that’s saying a lot. Thank you so much for sending these thoughtful notes along! xB

    2. Aah Caterine, who could understand this dedication to gardening and other pursuits more than you!
      We need another lunch to chat about the gardens you have seen in your travels. I’m so honored that you find the blog posts “uplifting and inspiring.”
      Many mercis! xB

  11. Thank you for sending these beautiful and inspiring photos. It brings back great memories of our wonderful trip to Newport!

    Robin Branstrom

  12. I am sure you will not rest on your laurels, but you surely could do just that and enjoy your and nature’s work.

    1. I’m already putting plans for the next 20 in place!! Nature doesn’t sleep, why should I (ho ho).

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