Dreaming Of A Secret Garden (RI)

Article by contributor Bernadette Dostaler

If you are intrigued by secret gardens a visit to the Blue Garden in Newport, Rhode Island is in order. The Blue Garden was originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. for the vastly wealthy, Arthur and Harriet James, for their Newport estate, Beacon Hill House. It was designed as a secret garden, a hortus conclusus, hidden behind trees and shrubs. Mr. and Mrs. James hosted a glittering opening celebration called “The Masque of the Blue Garden” in August 1913. They hosted many Newport social events in the garden into the 1930s. By 1941, Mr. and Mrs. James had both passed and the property changed hands.

Over time the garden became forgotten, fell into disrepair, and was overtaken by weeds and invasive vines. The garden was purchased in 2012  and restored to its former glory by philanthropist Dorrance H. Hamilton (heir to the Campbell Soup fortune). 

Fortunately for all of us, the Blue Garden pergolas, reflecting pools. paths, lawn, fountains, and plantings of blue, purple, and white have been reclaimed and the garden is now open to visitors. Tour information is available on the Blue Garden website.  

A tour of the Blue Garden can easily be part of a day in Newport including lunch and shopping in Newport, a Newport mansion tour,  a stroll along the Cliff Walk, or a ride along Ocean Drive.

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