Part three of my garden tours through Rhode Island brings us to the famous Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr. designed Blue Garden. This garden owes its significance from its original patroness, Harriet Parsons James, Olmsted’s vision and its contemporary savior, Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton. The story of how this garden was rehabilitated from its long hidden original form is awe inspiring. I have included a video with the story at the end of the post, and is great for anyone interested in restoration, garden design or history. Plus it is way better at telling the story of the garden then I ever could.
The entrance to the Blue Garden is unmarked and if you don’t know where you are going, you would mistake it for a driveway of an area estate. The grand estate it once belonged has long ago been portioned off into lots, which the Blue Garden as the sole survivor of the estate’s other grand gardens. Once you select the right drive, you are greeted at the top of the circle drive by a meticulous greenhouse. The standards of the greenhouse construction sets the tone for the entire Blue Garden restoration/revitalization. Besides functioning as the welcome center for the gardens, the basement houses the filter system for the gardens water features.
I know the greenhouse seems like an odd item to lead the post with about the Blue Garden, however I love seeing the behind the scenes of a garden. I love the faucet and soap stone sink, and missing in the photos the trap door to the water filtration system in the basement.
The impact of the Blue Garden’s color saturation. We arrived prior to its peak color planting for the summer, but you can see the how the cool tones of blues and purples in large blocking with the continued reinforcement in pottery, bluestone, tiles and silvered cedar all work together to make your eyes feel the cooler blue.
At the far end of this photo is where we entered the garden looking past the blue tiled pool, formal beds and straight up the rill to the focal point arbor. Somehow in all my photos I missed taking one of the full arbor.
The house in the background here is a separate residence, so you can see how the garden has survived the development around it. However while in the garden, the home does not impede impact the space.
The blue glazed pots placed around the garden for additional saturation of blue. My favorite detail on these pots are the rounded oak pedestals the pots are placed. They are a small detail you might miss but give the pots a little more warmth and sense of belonging to their placement. The detail I also notice in the first photo is how the blue of the pottery brings out the blue of the stone used on the pergola structure.
The formality of the blue garden design is surrounded by more wild and natural spaces that are more in keeping with the location. These outside the hedges spaces where just as interesting to walk as the formal space inside.
All details of the garden are considered, including the color of the maintenance wheelbarrows. Wildlife’s affect on the garden is also carefully considered in the least obtrusive design. During off visit days, roping is used to keep the deer away and a beautifully crafted low fence keeps ground critters at bay.
Here is a detail of the low fence protecting the garden from critters. The simple design allows for both sturdy construction and ease at moving during open days.
Here is a great video to watch about the restoration project.
Finally, here is The Myerscough College reunion group from the weekend featuring myself with Myerscough College and Julie Christina. It was one of the best times touring gardens and reliving our time in England. I am attempting to get Ohio State to bring us back together to talk to the current horticulture students about how we all paved our own unique paths with our horticulture degrees. I think together we have a great message of entrepreneurship and finding your niche within a large industry.
Again a huge thank you to Julie and Blithewold Mansion for having us all out to speak and see the beautiful Newport area. I might fully caught up on garden tours from this summer to head out to Toronto for the APLD Conference. Will come back fully inspired, and ready to head into fall planting and designing.