New England vacation tours are incomplete without a visit to America's royal mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. The Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, The Elms, Marble House, Rosecliff, Green Animals Topiary Gardens, Kingscote, Hunter House, Isaac Bell House and Chepstow are all homes of the rich and famous families from the 19th and 20th centuries.
|Fountain at the Elms|
|One of the Classical Revival lower level gardens at the Elms|
|Green Animals Topiary|
The sumptous architecture was designed to recreate England and France's 18th century palaces and country estates. The Mansions' landscapes, bronze statues of gods, animals, and gardens were considered fine art. Called the "Eden of America" in the 18th century by Jeremiah Morse, an American minister and geographer, the perfectly manicured lawns and private gardens thrive with the New England climate and the labor of many servant gardeners. The majestic trees and palatial landscapes are a sight to behold.
One of the best days to visit the Newport Mansions is during the Newport Flower Show, sponsored by the Preservation Society of Newport County. The horticultural event is held the last week of June every year at at the Newport Mansion called Rosecliff.
|Rosecliff's magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean, ideal for garden vendors.|
Despite being a Florida landscape designer and gardener, the Newport Flower Show is one of my favorite gardening events of the year and I found myself lucky to be able to attend this year at the very last moment.
The flower show's theme this year was "Journey: Grand Vistas" with the emphasis on traveling to different continents was considered the ultimate introduction to society to finish one's education and cultivate sophistication. The floral designs, garden beds, container gardens, and outdoor rooms all showcased competition titles featuring various sights and forms of travel to national and global locations, such as The Grand Tour, Mr. Rockefeller's Carriage Roads, The Cannonball Express, Ellis Island, Route 66, Vintage Travel Poster, The Overseas Highway, and Par Class. Gardening clubs and horticultural professionals were all invited to participate.
|Grand Vistas Boat Display|
|Edwardian Travel Lady, topiary designed by Green Lion Weddings|
The 2014 Garden Club Challenge featured "A Postcard from..." vignettes using postcards representing national and exotic travel destinations, included Williamsburg, Virginia, Cape Cod, New Orleans, Yosemite National Park, Hawaii, London, England, Capetown, South Africa, the Azores, Norway, and New Zealand. Two first place awards went to Noanett Garden Club in Dover, MA, for their Hawaii postcard and to the Seaside Garden Club, Newport, RI, for their London postcard.
I enjoyed listening to whispers of "ooh and ah" at the creativity of the designers and overheard one show attendee describing the Hawaiian entry as flowers that can be grown in Florida. She was right. I know mailmen all over the United States would enjoy these mailbox gardens.
My favorite heart-stopping moment of the day was being able to meet P. Allen Smith, yes,P. Allen Smith, landscape designer, gardening celebrity, who was the guest speaker at an elegant private luncheon. As Mr. Smith discussed his landscape design education, he asked his audience about anyone visiting famous gardens at Hampton Court and Stourhead in England Charleston, SC, and Mount Vernon, I had to raise my hand. I agree with Mr. Smith that these gardens are a must for any landscaper's inspiration and design ideas.
|Agave americana variegated|
|My favorite garden vignette, A Painters' Garden by Crystal Brinson Horticulture|
|Teasing Georgia, First Place Award to Arthur Murphy, Newport, RI|
I loved finding garden accoutrements from Clearwater, Florida, like the amazing foliage waterfalls from Leaves By Jenney and the elegant and romantic Florentine planters and lifelike Great Blue Heron sculpture, from the original Frederick Church's masterpiece from Pennoyer Newman, in New York.
The Newport Flower Show 2014 was an outstanding success and a great opportunity to see incredibly creative vignettes and floral displays by professional landscapers and garden club members who should be professionals, horticultural works of art, and a view of the Atlantic that can only be described as breath-taking.
Make your plans now to come to New England and tour the Newport Mansions. If you're there in June 2015, don't miss the Newport Flower Show. I know I have it on my calendar to be there.
If you would like to see all of the displays and photographs from this year's Newport Flower Show 2014, click here.