Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden


Please Don’t Ask Which One I Love More

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Long before we decided to build our home, I had an obsession with proper proportion and scale in architecture. And, as an extension of that, the accessories and garden furniture (i.e. the Parterre Bench) that are seen in tandem with a house (above feature image). Sometimes, it’s only a matter of degrees, or inches, but as the architect Le Corbusier would say, “God is in the details.” Yes, there are the metal Versailles boxes from France but the dimensions weren’t right. I also wanted painted wooden boxes for a more relaxed feel.

Our incredible house carpenter (doesn’t everyone feel that way about their building contractor…I went through separation anxieties when he finally left) created these to my specifications. I had pictures and pictures of versions of Versailles boxes from trips to France. The two most prominent details for me were the “straps” (which required a bit of trompe l’oeil as the originals from Versailles allowed for one side to be opened and a tree placed within; our trees are lifted over the top) and corner finials. Of course, the treatment of the legs deserved attention; notice the gentle curve.

Over the years, they have been home to many horticultural “guests” — a pair of smokebush that were much too fragile in their standardized format;

sweet gum (Liquidambar) trees, that just couldn’t survive one harsh winter.

And now, we have a pair of young blue cypress (cupressus arizonica ‘blue ice’) that we shall enjoy until they outgrow their pots…and pears (in the summer).

One practical consideration since our boxes do not open on the side–the top is created in two triangles for covering the opening into which the trees are placed. This closure adds a wonderful finish element to the boxes, which seems to be a point of interest for many visitors.

These six Versailles boxes were the first garden accessory created in concert with our June 1999 move-in date. I remember so fondly identifying just the right shade of green for them. It was our first use of this particular shade, custom-colored, that we now lovingly refer to as Parterre Green. And, when the Parterre Bench arrived a few years later, she, of course, was painted this shade. I love our view from the library where the parade of Versailles boxes culminates at the bower for the Parterre Bench. One seamless vision of green complementing every shade of plant material and trees on the property.

They’ve survived amazingly well for their first twenty years, looking so gorgeous all seasons, but truly magical when covered with snow. However, I may just have to practice some good sense and cover them in the winter; I’ll be looking at custom fabric treated options soon.

Very honestly, if I had known how much I would adore these six boxes and their Fountain Garden companion, the Parterre Bench, I would have opted for building a home ten years earlier. But since I plan to be here for another twenty-five, I guess that’s enough years (and please don’t ask which I love better, the Versailles boxes or the Parterre Bench).

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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".

12 thoughts on “Please Don’t Ask Which One I Love More

    1. Thank you, this was a highlight of spring when they returned from a bit of “nip and tuck.” Happy June, stay safe! B

  1. What a beautiful post! I love your choice of green paint and the trellises are wonderfully fanciful! Your sensitivity to design makes your garden so magical and just perfect!

    1. Oh Chris, thank you so much. It’s easy to write about beauty and brings such joy. Be safe, xB

  2. Bettie, Your boxes and matching bench are so perfect…beautiful! My son and dil moved into their lovely French home not long ago. I’m sending pictures of your gardens to give them ideas. Hugs!

    1. Oh Bobbi, how dear of you…and how exciting for then moving into a new house. Happy summer and Be Safe, xB

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