Design, In the Garden


Inspiring Garden Design: Sakonnet Garden’s Silver Fantasy

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Planning for my “Inspiring Garden Design” series can often start early in the prior year. This post is just such an example, the result of a trip May of 2021 to an extraordinary green oasis here in Little Compton, Rhode Island. Sakonnet Garden, a no-holds-barred, think-outside-the-box Willie Wonka fantasy, is the product of primo talented John Gwynne and Mikel Folcarelli. It has sprung from their imagination as well as their own hands (no “helpers,” except maybe a backhoe/tractor driver).Whenever I feel myself starting to doze off in the creative category, I scoot across the bridge to shake off my lethargy. It’s like a dose of smelling salts, head clearing and exhilarating.

A mere one acre, bounded by high walls of flat stone and meandering log end stacks that are the only separation from the main road, this is the garden where you duck under a series of copper beech arches into a circular stone “room” with a spouting fountain. Rather like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

Or try to find your way around a maze of planted chicken wire “branches” that snake their way between garden rooms.

And marvel at the multi-colored rhododendrons in late spring.

So, isn’t a Silver Garden the perfect addition to a winter garden series?! The entrance is bounded by one of the earlier mentioned stone walls just a few steps past the fountain.

As you trod the wooden boardwalk through this concise and petit garden, discoveries await.

The plant list may not sound too fanciful but the placement and juxtaposition of azaleas, lamb’s ear, tulips, hostas, and Japanese painted fern are brilliant.

As in grand artichokes paired with alliums. No holding back!

Throw in a few deep blue glass globes, a hammered silver octagonal metal garden seat and a pair of silver metal chairs recalling skeleton bones and you can’t help but be amused.

Additionally, you can always be assured that you’ll learn something or confirm a design principle, as when designing with light colors…you’ll be more successful by planting them against dark tones. Here, white alliums with deep copper beech…

or stretching to the sky with the tall, skinny evergreens.

And one defining design principle I’ve found to be invaluable is taking advantage of contrasts in plant selection. A perfect example is here in the shapes, textures, and shades of green which of course, in Sakonnet Garden, includes shades of silver.

When making your garden trip plans this spring and summer, you’ll for sure want to include Mikel and John’s bewitching Sakonnet Garden, where both mischief and talent are afoot.

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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".

4 thoughts on “Inspiring Garden Design: Sakonnet Garden’s Silver Fantasy

  1. What a cunning garden! It may be a “silver”garden that has mysteriously gained “magnetic properties” as it draws one from space to space. Your photography is so lovely.

  2. What a fantastical teat !! Very unusual, imaginative and another one of Bettie’s jewels from all of your scouting endeavors. Thank you for always brightening my day !

  3. What a fantastical treat !! Very unusual, imaginative and another one of Bettie’s jewels from all of your scouting endeavors. Thank you for always brightening my day !

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