Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden


Through the Garden Gate

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Humor is such an important antidote to this “journey” we all find ourselves on. And I had to look no further than my own garden and the pair of frogs (oops, grenouille) that top the limestone posts of the gates leading into the main garden. Like many stories, this one was made even more meaningful because it started with disappointment and ended on a very sweet note.

It was 2008, and I was in the Hamptons on a Garden Conservancy Tour; before returning to Newport I stopped at one of Long Island’s’ famed nursery centers, Marders. By chance, there in the shop was the perfect accent for the garden gates that had been eluding me since we’d built our French-style home in 1999 — a pair of stone frogs, the perfect size and coloration. The only problem? Marder’s just had the one pair…and of course, they were sold.

Those frogs lingered in my mind for years…what was more perfect, or cheekier, for a French house, with a French name (Parterre) than a pair of “grenouille” (frogs) greeting guests as they entered the large Winter Garden.

Fast forward a few years and I was making a late spring stop at my favorite Rhode Island nursery, The Farmer’s Daughter. Surprise, surprise! Having given up on ever finding the perfect decoration for the gate posts…there were the frogs!

As we do at Parterre for “special” occasions of the gardening kind, we all gathered around for the mounting ceremony. But one big question had to be answered…which way should the frogs be facing (or, as we also needed to consider, which way should their derrieres be facing). It was either the front lawn, where guests usually enter the Winter Garden…

or facing into the garden itself, where guests would be circulating. Given that this garden also has a fountain pond, we decided that the dear frogs’ first priority would be accessibility to the water. And so, they now face the oval pond.

Their primo position assures that they will be seen throughout the seasons, from both the house as well as my studio office on the second floor…always eliciting a smile and a welcome bit of humor. In early December for a first white dusting of powder.

In February, when the winds are swirling the snow around and their presence becomes even more prominent.

And, in the soft light of an early spring morn.

So ends this happy tale. Wishing you a healthy and safe journey through this crisis. And warmest appreciation for your many, many comments on my Easter post.

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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".

13 thoughts on “Through the Garden Gate

  1. I love this story about finding the frogs. I can relate to looking for something for years and then coming across it.

    1. Can’t we all!! That’s one reason I decided to go forward with it, especially at this point in time…B

  2. L`histoire des deux grenouilles, est tres amusantes en cette belle journée de printemps
    Merci pour cette promenade intersaisoniere.
    C`est le nom que les Anglais donnent aux Francais: Froggies.
    Caterine la grenouille

  3. I love this story, Bettie! And of course your amazing gardens! Finding the frogs was true serendipity!! 💞💐

    1. Yes, a meant-to-be moment, and aren’t those the sweetest kind. LOved sharing it with my Private Newport family! Be well, stay safe xB

  4. Your frogs, (grenouille), are just wonderful. Bettie, please tell me what the charming cylindrical shaped structure with the conical roof at the corner of the hedge is called? Many of your garden features have a whimsical quality to them, but aside from anchoring the hedge, does it have another purpose? Thank you, and I always enjoy your garden posts.

    1. HI lisa, so good to meet another member of my Private Newport family!
      That building is our “dovecote” (another whimsical name) for a tool shed/pool mechanics hold all…which we’ve outgrown.
      I’m so glad we have it as it only came about because I asked our wonderful architect to have a look at our garden design before we went ahead with construction.
      He sneaked this into the drawings! xB

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