January is a much anticipated month for me! I welcome some downtime after the excitement of the holidays to sit by the fire, reflect and plan for the opening of the garden in just three months. Therefore, January is also the month dedicated to my annual blog series, “Inspiring Garden Design.” Last year’s kicked off with a Parisian garden but this year I’m going to focus on Newport’s renowned horticultural legacy. My neighbor’s gardens will now provide ideas to borrow, lessons to learn, and tips to enjoy.
Appropriately, The Whim will begin this series, whose chatelaine, Oatsie Charles, just recently passed on to her garden in the sky. I’m convinced that one of the most compelling reasons she lived to ninety-nine was her love of, and passion for, her garden, a fact that has brought new meaning to my relationship with my green sanctuary.
As a brief background, The Whim enjoys an inherited provenance — the eight car garage/manager’s cottage, potting shed and greenhouse were once part of the Land’s End estate, former home of Edith Wharton. An emerald lawn took the place of the hurricane-demolished greenhouse and the garage became Mrs. Charles’ home.
Seven thoughts on how this esteemed Newport garden owner created her calm retreat on the water, while expressing her singular personality at the same time……
1. Divide up the space to create different areas, providing for changing moods and style. The Whim is a small “theater,” with different “acts,” from simple to a bit wanton to quiet contemplation.
2. Keep it simple. On many levels, it is often what you don’t do in a garden that speaks volumes (ie. the brick sides of the former greenhouse serve as backdrops to a mixed border, the foundation of the greenhouse now a dramatic sweep of green that seemingly meets the blue of the water).
3. Have a subtle theme. Whimsical statuary selections detail garden beds, create surprises around corners and dress-up stone posts.
4. Be creative in plant selections. Consider shape, color, height and pruning options (the large boxwood hedges anchoring the two mixed borders are cloud pruned to add a novel note of interest while the pair of wisteria trees add a commanding presence to the house end of the borders).
5. Don’t be afraid to include unusual options. The tall, skinny eremurus (foxtail lily) and pyramidal junipers punctuate the long borders and draw your eyes up to the sky.
6. Study the light at different times of the day. Until you’ve experienced your garden in the wee hours of morning, or the late light of sunset, you cannot appreciate how much plants capture and accentuate a garden’s dreaminess.
7. Include an existing building in your “decorating” scheme. The original, charming potting shed now boasts a “Whim blue” door in addition to its draping of pink roses and supporting side plantings, giving it a nestled-in feeling.
Thank you, Jerica, for sharing your personal images of the Whim’s garden.