Newport Home and Garden Channel Classic Gallic Style

Can a garden be chic? Of course, if it’s French like this one. The gorgeous plants, the skillful choreography of forms and textures and the inspired detailing had us thinking we’d crossed the ocean.

Well Appointed
Parterre — the private paradise belonging to author Bettie Bearden Pardee — is as charming as her books (the most recent: Living Newport: Houses, People, Style). The tony property, once part of an old estate, has been transformed into a series of garden rooms. Grand trees that were here when Pardee arrived, though, remain in place. Incorporated into the lush landscape, the trees — lindens, beeches, oaks — lend the French Normandy-style house Pardee and her husband, Jonathan, built in 1999, a nineteenth-century look similar to that of their pedigreed Newport neighbors. “The architecture seemed appropriate to the location,” says Pardee. “And the gardens — created in a classical French tradition — are an extension of the house.”


Fanciful Construction
Outbuildings — a dovecote and an orangerie — foster the idea of an estate and “provide scale between the house and grounds,” says Pardee. No idle beauty queens, the dovecote holds garden equipment and the orangerie is a spot for entertaining. The personality-filled structures step up the ambience, but it’s the plantings that steal the show.  Amid the assorted hostas, heucheras and boxwood stand twin obelisks of variegated euonyomus (an addition Martha Stewart didn’t fail to notice on her visit). Really, wherever you wander, there’s something to snag your attention, say, a specimen tree or an elegant perennial like African milkweed.
Since Parterre’s plan was originally conceived sixteen years ago (by local landscape designers Ginny Purviance and Julie Toland), Pardee has worked “to create the garden you see today,” she tells us. “We’ve used every inch of our three acres. We’re constantly pushing the envelope, experimenting, studying, researching. I’ve never found a garden tour I didn’t love.”

Decorative Elements
The harmonious plantings give order to the scene. The orangerie, for instance, is framed with a quartet of potager beds. At the heart of each, bursting into flower every spring stands a Hally Jolivette cherry. Its pale blossoms are forerunners to summer’s parade of white hydrangeas. In general, however, flowers take up residence in a separate cutting garden. “A British friend once explained as a gardener matures they’re less inclined to color and flowers and more inclined to shapes and textures,” says Pardee. Still, this talented gardener has chaired the Newport Flower Show, nabbed awards for her blooms and admits flower arranging is a passion. In that design vein, consider the wall-climbing cotoneaster love knot she created. Or, the stunning initial-entwined bench she devised to fill an arbor. No ordinary hue would suffice for those Versailles boxes either. Instead, Pardee cleverly painted them a custom shade she labels “Parterre Green.”

Artful Scheming
The French-flavored house and structured garden couldn’t be more compatible. So seamless is the transition, the wisteria-draped pergola (top and left) seems linked to both. Autumn clematis — one of the few inductees allowed to run rampant — trails along the terrace. To visually enhance the terrace’s length and provide greater interest, the bluestones — note, please — are set in a diamond pattern. Such ingenious touches are everywhere. A pot holding an unusual variegated fern set precisely where morning light makes it dazzle and containers of bright coleus peeking out of a dark hedge are only two. Why, even the rice stone paths that tie the spectacular setting all together are raked and perfect. “God is in the details,” Pardee says. Okay. But as for the tender care and endless masterminding? We’re crediting her.