Design, In the Garden

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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Sometimes just what you’ve been looking for may well be in your own  backyard. For me, that would be Boston (where we once lived for four years). So as I headed off to Ireland’s finest gardens I was reminded by a friend of the exquisite courtyard garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Why have I let that slip my mind?

This Boston jewel (built in 1898) is designed after a fifteenth century Venetian palazzo with three floors of galleries surrounding a courtyard garden and covered by a glass roof. Reflecting the museums collections of European, Asian, and American paintings, sculptures and decorative arts, the courtyard incorporates numerous architectural fragments spanning several centuries of art.

Given attentive care throughout each season, this world-class museum’s courtyard is worthy of a visit at any time of the year. Anchored by lush green “bones” (ferns, shrubs and palms), the courtyard can be hosting orchids in the winter, hanging nasturtiums in the spring, and Japanese-style chrysanthemums in the fall.

This effort reflects not only the namesake’s passion for gardens but the dedication and skill of the museum’s horticultural staff. The premium that is placed on maintaining a year-round show (most of the plants are grown in the museum’s off-site greenhouses) also speaks volumes about the singularity of the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum.

Wishing a lifetime of happiness to my friend and colleague, Caitlin Hill (Citrus & Cedar Consulting), whose wedding theme was ferns — and who, of course, had made a pilgrimage to this dreamy courtyard garden and reminded me of what I was missing.

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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 “Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

  1. Dear Bettie
    Enjoy keeping up with you via Private Newport. I think you are in Cashiers. Aren’t they the lucky ones!
    Best, Marjorie

  2. Bettie – and, if you are thinking of another piece on enclosed courtyard gardens, don’t forget the Frick in NYC: so tranquil and simple. Best to do soon, as it will be closing (moving some of its collection to the old Whitney (now housing some of the Met’s modern collection) on Madison Avenue for at least two years. We are just back from Wales, England and Italy. If you ever head to Tuscany, we have friends who have spent the last 8 years restoring a villa in Panzano de Chianti. They have done a wonderful job, with a lovely English/Italian garden installed three years ago. I’m sure they would welcome a visit from you if they are in residence as they don’t spend much time there – so sad. Best – have a great winter – Virginia

    1. The Frick, one of my faves!! And thank you, world traveler, for passing along the name of your Italian friends. I’m so readyy to have another houseparty in that magical country!xB

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