Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden

A Favorite Container, Dressed for the Seasons

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When you have one garden accessory that is a favorite and takes you through all the seasons (no, I’m not speaking of the Parterre Bench) well, maybe it’s time to feature it on a blog. This handsome, heavy cement planter (purchased many, many years ago at the Philadelphia Flower Show)


is one of three that have been gracing the evergreen Korean box hedge in the Fountain Garden for 22 years (and please, if anyone knows where to locate more of this size, design, and composition, do let me know).

The first opportunity to use them comes in mid April, when the forced tulips start to bloom. This is a much anticipated moment…not only does it break the long non-flowering spell of winter but they look so majestic in this substantial container. Here, ‘Mirella.’ It is pure magic to experience this dual sign of spring when both the first tulip and the two matched pair of ‘Hally Jolivette’ cherries are showing their shell pink blossoms.

Years ago, I also planted blue muscari (grape hyacinth) at the base of the containers to add another note of color; they have been very faithful about coming back.

It’s not unusual for us to switch our tulip selects, given the wide selection available (or perhaps because some have not shown themselves to be as bountiful as needed). Another early bloomer is ‘Blushing Lady.’

The midseason tulips (like ‘Pink Impression’) come after the cherries have bloomed and the tall surrounding trees are coming into leaf.

The latest to flower are two new ones that I’m keen on (maybe I’m having a purple moment), ‘James Last’ and ‘Victoria’s Secret’. The fact that some have the propensity to “twist and turn” intrigues me, making them especially suitable for flower arranging!

The “shoulder” season in this garden, between the tulips and summer annuals, provides a chance to show off a plant that is new to the garden; hostas are always being switched in and out so placing them in this high visibility spot lets me give them a good consideration before planting them.

I mentioned summer annuals. After much trialing, we’re very satisfied with one or two coleus that 1) keep their color and 2) don’t burn out or become pink.

This last point is a big one since coleus ‘Campfire,’ a russet red, is what we’ve settled on. The first vision when you enter the Fountain Garden through the antique iron gates needs to be a knockout and red fits that bill! A further design decision was to plant the claret red David Austin rose, ‘Falstaff,’ to twine around the west-facing window of the Orangerie just down the steps from this hedge. These coleus take us through the summer and into late fall, not a small feat (if we’re lucky, oftentimes we can save some coleus branches to use on the Thanksgiving table).

And look how luscious and bountiful they become late in the season, making a dramatic statement against the ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas.

We’re now in countdown to the first outing for the tulips, for which I always plan to be in Newport. Hope you’ve enjoyed a bit of nostalgic musing about my favorite containers and viewing them “dressed for the occasion.”

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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".

7 thoughts on “A Favorite Container, Dressed for the Seasons

  1. Bettie, your knowledge of gardens, combined with your labor of love produces such beauty. Always a treat to see your gorgeous photos. Thank you for sharing with all. EE

  2. Beautiful! AUTHENTIC PROVENCE, WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA may have the pots. Look under garden planters under their website. Also…ATELIER de CAMPAIGN in California.

  3. Crazy, mad in love with these planters!!!Can you imagine if someone could reproduce them ??I’d pay anything!

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