Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden

Wit and Whimsy in the Garden

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I just welcomed my first garden visitors of the summer, the lovely ladies of the Virginia Robinson Garden in Beverly Hills, led by my dear friend, Jeanne Anderson. Their gracious thank you gifts touched me deeply, but there was one that  really tugged at my heartstrings — tablecloths inspired by the iconic  wallpaper of banana leaves in the famous Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel. How many lunches, cocktails and dinners I have enjoyed in that special setting (starting with my father’s surprise 50th birthday party when I was a little girl.)

This note of whimsy set the tone for the garden trooping we did over their three days in Newport. Perhaps it was because I’m always of a certain mindset that wit and whimsy should be a part of everyday, every garden, every home. In fact, one of the gardens is located at a seaside home appropriately named, “The Whim” (it is their stone toadstools and moss-covered table that are our feature image above).

In the same fairy-like garden, a stone bench hides among the azaleas and hostas.

“When pigs fly”…why not?!

Enveloped in baby pink wisteria, the eagle’s verdigris patina is a striking contrast.

Playful stone bears, in different states of repose, add a whimsical note to an aged, multi-trunked cherry tree.

Rabbits (copied from those at Chateau-sur-Mer, here in Newport) act as sentries at the entrance to the recessed garden at The Whim.

Finishing our visit to this seaside garden…aren’t you just longing to walk the narrow path, open the old wire gate and run across the lawn to the water’s edge?

Persian accents, inspired by the Generalife garden in Granada, Spain set off the first pool at Bellevue House (don’t miss the “goldfish” in the lotus fountain).

Under a vast spreading fern leaf beech, an altar composed of a lantern atop a stone pedestal resting on bleached river rocks awaits visitors walking along the moss path.

A dear friend’s playhouse, designed for grandchildren, but which she used much more often than they did.

Photo Credit: Mick Hales

In the Black and White garden at Parterre, a boxwood is purposely designed to recall a brioche.

In a French garden doesn’t one need some grenouilles? 

At Parterre, the perky fellows are topping the gate posts, appropriately facing the Winter Garden fountain.

I hope these images inspired you to add a note of wit and a touch of whimsy to your garden — or to continue down this path.

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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".

5 thoughts on “Wit and Whimsy in the Garden

  1. My heavens! I’ve never heard of the Virginia Robinson gardens until now. It completely caught my eye, as it is my late mother-in-law’s maiden name 🙂

  2. Thank you, Bettie, for such a magical post! A touch of whimsy in an awe-inspiring garden just adds an extra layer of delight! Thank you for sharing your wonderful pictures with us.

  3. What a wonderful trip and delightful experience! You were a perfect hostess!
    Thank you!

  4. Wonderful, fun piece, BettieLove. Funny you should mention that marvelous wallpaper. Am redoing a bathroom and it is top choice for the wallpaper — at the moment. Xxx M

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