The Whim, Newport, RI - Newport Secret Garden Tour
February 18, 2011
Garden tours are always sources of inspiration for evolving gardeners and both spring and fall offers tours of some of the gardens of Newport, RI. Newport is a well known travel destination for the rich and famous. Perhaps not so much now as in the gilded age of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries but still, a more beautiful location is hard to find. This city by the sea offers historical properties located on the water with sweeping lawns, majestic views and lovely gardens. Not all of the homes are palatial but many along Bellevue Avenue are of grandiose proportion. There is a small garden tucked away on a side street which dead ends at the shoreline. The Whim is a privately owned garden with a modest house by Newport standards. The garden is a horticulturist's paradise. Billowing borders,shady nooks, and windswept coastline all are elements within the garden's gates. The narrow property extends from the road with the house sitting an arm's reach from the lane.
The tool shed
The postman must just pass an arm out the car window to reach the mail slot. The property was optimized for garden views one suspects and the lane is not well traveled keeping privacy intact. The narrow gardens on either side of the house expand past the back patio and while the eye sees to the ocean there are several separate garden rooms slowing the passage to the shoreline. I have visited The Whim on three separate occasions. An ocean property offers up a breeze at the best of times and gale winds at the worst of times and these currents are reflected in the ocean in the form of tranquil swells or crested, foaming waves. A garden must be designed with these elemental factors taken into consideration. There are walls and hedges built to provide shelter from the tossing and turning of turbulent air and sea spray which carries with it desiccating and sometimes injurious saltiness. The actual design features of combating nature are not immediately apparent to the visitor as all sensory systems are overloaded already with the content of the garden rooms. Each year the annuals change a bit. They provide a constant flush of color to the exuberant borders. The boxwood in the above border and its matching counterpart on the other side of the strip of lawn are clipped in an undulating pattern which is reflective of the waves in the distance and the breeze in the air.
The repetition of groups of plants provide a cohesive pattern punctuating these borders. There are grade changes from one level to another as the land slopes naturally toward the sea. Within each separate garden there are changes in the plant palette and there are also areas to sit and reflect. The Whim is a delightful garden to visit. I do wish I could see it in the winter with the bare bones of the walls and hedges standing in stark relief to the winter ocean. I will have to close my eyes and try to visualize. I don't know if the garden will be on the next Secret Garden Tour but the schedule is up and the dates posted here. It is a tour well worth the price and the proceeds go to benefit the Arts Education programs in the local schools. You never know who you might see at a garden tour. I hope to see you there in June.