Design, In the Garden, The Newport Diary

Inspiring Garden Design: The Elms Garden through the Seasons

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Within the heart of Newport exists a truly remarkable reincarnation of an 18th century limestone French château, specifically the Château d’Asnières in Hauts-de-Seine, France, circa 1750. Fortuitously, the Elms is right up the street from Parterre, making drop bys so convenient. Of course, with each visit over the years, I’ve been prompted to photograph the garden’s pleasures greeting me that day. Reviewing my collection while sitting by a warm fire, it suddenly occurred to me that capturing the four seasons at The Elms would make an enchanting blog.

Situated at the back of the property, west-facing, with an emerald green lawn sweeping down from the stone terrace, is the piece de resistance of this fanciful property.

Photo Credit: Vibrant Optics for Private Newport

With a balustrade acting as a frame, the garden area’s promenade is introduced by a slight rise that imparts another element of grace to the overall scheme. A clipped line of evergreens forms a formal allée with a pair of limestone pavilions adding a dramatic statement.

I remember this late afternoon so well…the setting sun was casting a soft roseate glow on the incredible limestone follies and clouds were scuttling across the sky. It all seemed otherworldly and mystical and gloriously romantic, descriptions that well describe this site.

Aaah Newport, slipping into its most beautiful months, which for me are September and October, so we shall start with fall. What better time to show off the sunken garden, designed in 1914, the eye-catching centerpiece of The Elm’s grounds.

As November loses its colorful fall leaves, the majestic weeping beech takes on a somewhat macabre appearance, branches reaching out like claws to envelope the pavilion.

Winter provides a compelling opportunity to enjoy the contrasts to summer, when that clipped allée of evergreens are dusted with white powder or in the details of pillowy snow gathering in the curves of the pavilion’s verdi gris roofs and capelets of white top the formally clipped hedges (views sadly not seen by many as the property is closed at this time).

Summer in Newport begins in early June, when the sunken garden (restored in 1998) is planted out in a representation of the same parterres of the original design from 1914.

Photo Credit: Vibrant Optics for Private Newport
Photo Credit: Vibrant Optics for Private Newport

And wispy, fleeting moments like this can be captured instantly on a cell phone.

Remarkably intact due to the conservation efforts of the Preservation Society of Newport County, it is difficult to believe that this romantic horticultural and architectural treat is nearing 120 years old. Here’s to the next 120!

Photo Credit: Vibrant Optics for Private Newport

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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 “Inspiring Garden Design: The Elms Garden through the Seasons

  1. Is Margy Trevor Quinn living in her Mom’s house? Her daughter attended Potomac School with my daughter. Miss seeing her.

  2. Doesn’t light do the most wonderful things with color? Love all the comparisons of seasons and times of day. What lovely photography you have displayed.

    1. Bettie,

      Would you be willing to ask Trudy to have the balustrade railings cleaned. I think they detract from the beautifully kept and landscaped sunken garden. Marble House was recently cleaned and it looks so much better. Mr. Berwind would not have allowed or approved of his railings to look so dirty.


  3. This is all so beautiful, Bettie! Love the sunken garden and the old copper beeches. They are so magical when you stand underneath them too! They’ve always been my favorite trees in Newport. But, you left out spring as one of the seasons. 🤔🌺

  4. Bettie, Thank you for this wonderful, rare, informative and behind the scenes look of what I consider to be one of the most beautiful houses of all the Newport mansions. This one absolutely has it all! I haven’t been there yet but now at least I know what to expect. I have never seen any views of the Gardens that you revealed to the world. A most beautiful post and thank you for what you do and all the beauty you bring to everyone and the world. It is most appreciated . Keith

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