Initial Thoughts

Parterre’s New Woodland Garden Part 1

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There’s nothing like completing a years-in-the-making-garden to give one a new lease on life!

While each of Parterre’s existing gardens are tweaked each year, the Woodland Garden didn’t truly deserve the “garden” designation; I’d throw in a few plants every now and then, but for the most part I just let it be… a collection of various hostas and other obliging shade plants. But mostly it was a collection of tall, thickly congregated European Little Leaf lindens existing from the former Belmont estate (which, I must say, are an elegant start).

Then 2 years ago a mini wind tunnel whipped through this part of the property, taking down a massive old gingko which demolished trees, thick shrubs, and ground covers in its path.

However!…it opened up enough areas to the sun that it was apparent that struggling to create a beautiful space would no longer be a chore. Not only would I have the delight of creating a new garden (that I had not done since 1999 when we moved into our home) but the woodland garden is in sharp contrast to the rest of the 3 acres which are totally open to the skies.

So I’ll set the scene in this post, and then Part 2 will be a bit of Woodland Garden design 101, with the special details that make this garden “zing” for me. At almost a half acre it’s a long narrow space which benefits from the interest that shaped borders provide.

The 2 entrees to this space are intentionally small to convey a sense of secrecy, and thusly, intrigue. The east entry is through an arch in the yew hedge separating it from the green and white garden.

The west entry is outside the main garden’s gate, through a narrow path at the right of the Dovecote.

A burm, put in many years ago on the largest bed running the length of the garden, allows the layering of plant material to add a major design note.

Sunlight filtering through and picking out the tips of the ferns and hostas is a welcome image; it had always been so dark in these spaces (and under the old Gingko)!

Every garden deserves a bench; a few years ago I decided to paint the existing antique black metal seating my favorite shade of “French blue” (in hopes that this gesture might get me a big step closer to completing the woodland).

Parterre…here’s to the next 25 years!!

See you next week for Woodland Garden design 101. In the meantime, have a safe and glorious Labor Day Weekend.

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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".

10 thoughts on “Parterre’s New Woodland Garden Part 1

  1. I love it.All it needs is a mother in law suite put in for me! LOL Bette it’s fabulous!

  2. Reading this is like eating a layered green salad and discovering it has one delicious surprise after another. Despite Mother Nature’s angry appetite, Bettie, you see your “salad” as half full, not half empty. I view it as 25 more years of tastiness!

  3. Simply lovely. The greens bounce off each other with such interest. I can’t wait to read more about this beautiful garden.

    I truly enjoy your blog posts!

  4. MY LADY,





  5. Dear Bettie,Your Labor and Patience in your garden of love bring blessings from above. In His grip, Bonny

  6. Bettie,
    What a great project to transform the space into a woodland garden! How satisfying! I love how you were informed by how the fallen Gingko let in some sunlight and took it step by step from there. I look forward to Part 2. Please include your thoughts on hosta as I have never appreciated them.

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