Behind the Private Gates, In the Garden, The Newport Diary


Strolling the Gardens at Bellevue House

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Up the street, exactly one mile from me door to door, is a historic house renowned as one of only two homes in America both designed and decorated by Ogden Codman, Jr. (1863-1951). Bellevue House and its three acre grounds also received the Codman touch when in 1923 a recreation of a Samuel McIntire late eighteenth century teahouse was added. It is from this whimsical garden building that Ron Fleming, the current owner for the past twenty two years, has taken inspiration. A noted preservationist, urban planner and author, Ron has approached his property with masterful strokes. As a big fan, I can say with conviction that this garden is the perfect design to impart the sense of pleasure in strolling and “taking one’s leisure.” Today, I’m presenting a selection of different summer blooms and flora within the framework of Ron’s beloved garden “follies.”

One of the first hallmarks of the grounds are the wooden gates and fences in their Federal Revival style painted the perfect shade of white. Late summer clematis greets us as we walk through the garden gate…

A wooden fence, whose detail is so elegant in its simplicity, provides a sense of occasion as you leave one path and step onto the emerald grass.

A Newport classic must-have, a second floor sleeping porch overlooks one of this estate’s many garden areas.

In place on the property when Ron purchased Bellevue House, the twenty-by-twenty-foot Teahouse, designed after the original by Samuel McIntire, is significant for representing American Federal architecture at its finest.

Two gracefully curved fences extend from the Teahouse, underplanted with seasonal flowers throughout summer.

Another view of this folly, with beds of white phlox complimenting the brilliant white Teahouse.

Another Federal architectural interpretation, known affectionately as the Reading Room, is embraced in early fall with ‘Bridal Veil’ clematis (so appropriate for the pink Parterre Bench).

In early summer, the dramatic laburnum (sometimes called ‘golden chain’) on the pergola fronting the small Reading Room is under planted with purple allium.

Handsome, sturdy metal armatures are the central motif of the new hornbeam allee, which provides a striking way to separate the large grounds.

Through one of the metal arches can be seen a newer folly, set off across a length of lawn.

Inspired by a Massachusetts church (again, originally designed by Samuel McIntire) the “cupola” is poised right on the edge of a small pond with water lilies.

Photo Credit: Mick Hale

The north-facing side of the cupola looks upon a lap pool, situated down a short set of marble steps.

Swimming in style! The emerald lap pool continues under a stone bridge and terminates at the latest addition to Bellevue House, the Nymphaeum, deriving its name from the ancient Greek and Roman sanctuary consecrated to water nymphs.

And our Bellevue House garden stroll will end here, its story to be taken up again in the fall with the Nymphaeum kicking off my new Architectural series.

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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".

16 thoughts on “Strolling the Gardens at Bellevue House

  1. More wonderful photographs! I especially like the tea house and reading room structures. Thank you for sharing the hidden beauty in Newport. Wish I was there!! Ellen Easton

    1. The tea house is the most scrumptious in person! Sadly, the hand painted old wallpaper had to be removed after so many years! B

    1. Thank you, Manuel, so happy to “meet” you and I’m thrilled that you’re part of my Private Newport family. Cheers, Bettie

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