Design, In the Garden


Wonky and Witty Sakonnet Garden

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A garden worthy of visiting twice in a summer, Sakonnet is testimony to the design truth that garden rooms increase the illusion of a property’s space. On not quite one acre of land, a visitor is treated to innumerable rooms that flow one into the other, creating a memorable experience…and many lessons in stretching your imagination. Very much the impression, I like to imagine, of falling down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole. You find yourself amused, intrigued, awed, inspired, and emboldened all at the same time. We have John Gwynne and Mikel Folcarelli, of Little Compton, RI to thank for this adventure!

Starting with the entrance of an allee of limbed up, cathedral-like cryptomeria.

To the total contrast that is the understated exit (feature image at top).

Not only does a stroll require a lot of twists and turns, giving the perceptions of a much larger garden, but there are a number of curved and undulating design elements that add an organic sense to the spaces, from ivy-covered chicken wire to stacked log walls that wind through and around the garden.

Even a tree contributes its note.

The yellow garden room, the most formal, in a very informal garden, (don’t miss the ball of honeysuckle at the entrance on the right) is surrounded by a broken circle of clipped evergreen walls.

While the contents provide creative thoughts for my still-in-a-state-of-becoming Woodland Garden.

John and Mikel are not snobs; the most mundane “found materials” are repurposed and used as garden accents.

A tall curved stone wall is the other obvious contained circular space at Sakonnet Garden, accessed through an arch of copper beech branches. Truly a stand-alone creation composed during some down time between international travels.

Who would think of letting kale go to seed to achieve these wonderful yellow flowers?

Or the intriguing Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty,’ a sexy take on the old-fashioned May apple. This sighting prompted a promise I made to myself to stop cogitating about and order this spring cultivar (despite the price)!

If only for the flowers hiding under the fab leaves.

Of course, there’s ‘The Balinese Temple’ right around the corner (which picks up the color of the flower).

Which reminds me that architectural necessities outside the gardens provide another angle on these gardening guru’s talents…their home and the singular gate that looks out upon their meadow.

A long, funky, antique garden bench from their (often) trips to France.

With European ginger and arum lily leaf allowed to “volunteer” under the seat…reminding us that Sakonnet Garden is a singular paradise where one is inspired to make discoveries and rekindle a zest for gardening.

John and Mikel are now taking reservations (a first!) to tour their garden this summer, so be sure not to miss this rare opportunity. Their website has all the details. Enjoy!

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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".

9 thoughts on “Wonky and Witty Sakonnet Garden

  1. Simply breathtaking, loved all the photos. The greens are so beautiful. I would love to grow honeysuckle but you can’t have southern flowers in Michigan. But since following you I have changed my tiny condo yard. I love English messy style, flowers and vegetables together. So pretty in my eyes.

    1. Thank you, Jeanne, if not honeysuckle then I’m betting there is a similar plant to honeysuckle that will grow in your area…we’re Zone 6B so not too “southern.”
      I agree with you about the :English garden” look! Happy summer, xB

  2. Sakonnet is my favorite garden! John and Mikel continually amaze me with what they have created and they never stop thinking of wonderful projects and additions. Such dear people. Thank you for featuring Sakonnet!

  3. Oh, it’s just wonderful! I love how they’ve allowed their imagination and creativity to just run wild. Among your many wonderful posts, Bettie, this may be my favorite. I’m curious to know if you have ever visited Prince Charles’ gardens at High Grove? I have not, but I understand a lot of whimsy has been incorporated into it’s design. Sigh…so many gardens, so little time.

    1. Yes, Lisa, I’m happy to say I visited Prince Charles’ garden in 2019; something I’d had on my wish list for a long time. It is indeed, whimsical, with so many personal details that he is intimately involved in. Hoping you may have a chance to visit some day…xB

  4. I find that after reading about all these wonderful houses and gardens I just take a deep breath and sigh….. In such a jumble up world I marvel at the beauty around us that no one seems to notice that much- but maybe that is why it survives! Thank you for your efforts to bring these pictures and information to us all. It provides a wonderful break from reality…………

  5. LUCIOUS, LUCIOUS, LUCIOUS!!!! In some ways this garden reminds me of the Bamarzo Garden in Tuscany…also wild and Wonky, but this ain’t no PUNK garden, but just makes me drool. I also wouldn’t mind having some green quadrafoil (sp?) earrings just like the cut outs on the gates.
    XOXOOXOXOX

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