Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden

Inspiring Garden Design: Island Charms

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A chance conversation during my brief lecture stop in Vero Beach, Florida resulted in a visit to a most singular garden. The “surprise” factor played out with the Dutch Cape style house being sited perpendicular to the street; on the left side, a manicured lawn stopped at an old, low stone wall, where the native mangroves (cloud pruned) completed the rest of the property down to the water.  Turning the corner, a small plot of blue iris was a hint of the color scheme to be found in the secret garden hugging the right side of the house.


Part of this garden’s charm for me was that it had plantings recalling a “bit of this” climate,  a “taste of that” region.  Not being able to label it made it all the more fascinating. And yet it looked totally authentic and at home on John’s Island. Also, there was much to elicit affection about its easy-to-understand design layout, which was sophisticated at the same time.

A wonderful, over-sized path — obviously designed to be one of the main features of the garden — made an immediate impression as you opened the metal gate. The large stones’ warm earth tones recalled nothing less than Dorothy’s yellow brick road, its curves drawing you on in to the narrow garden.


The color theme of green, white, blue and purple was in full bloom, from the smallest lobelia to the tallest Salvia ‘Mystic Spires Blue’. Granted, it is Florida but that doesn’t insure that the full spectrum of a design concept will be on display at the same time. How fortunate I was that the hostess, Dace Stubbs, had graciously opened her doors to me even though she had just arrived home from a trip.

One of the floral vignettes created for the garden was centered with a wooden lamp post and lantern; the pair of large containers on either side are planted with Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavendar’ with Giant Apostle’s Iris.



How heavenly — as was the four month old English cocker spaniel puppy that scampered around us, enjoying every tummy rub that she requested.



Each design addition carried its own weight. The glazed olive jar water feature, nestled into a bed of river rocks, anchored one bed…


Just as the faux bois chairs and settee provided a welcome conversation area just off the kitchen.


And a child’s chair (shaded by a blooming begonia), also carrying out the faux bois theme, finished a threesome vignette.


A stone mushroom added a bit of whimsy to its own little plot.


Two substantial plants…an umbrella pine hedge and Blue Mediterranean Fan Palm…make a statement in this narrow garden.


While that favorite color, chartreuse, sets off two begonias in different shades of green.


It seemed almost as quickly as we entered one gate we were exiting the other, just as the rain drops started. Off to cocktails!

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Thank you, Dace.

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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".

2 thoughts on “Inspiring Garden Design: Island Charms

  1. What a treasure to see this! Who says Florida doesn’t have diverse gardens? Loved the yellow bird house & all the special “follies”…Thank you , darling Bettie for sharing all this! You work so hard..lucky for for us since some of us don’t venture out much in PB winter….😘😘 to Clicquot & Blue

    1. Thanks for keeping up with me, Jane. It’s about time for you two to be heading north, yes? xxo Bettie

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