A mystical garden awaits visitors lucky enough to visit Bellevue House

NEWPORT, R.I. — For a brief moment, it seemed possible that I was standing on a footbridge in a garden that was otherworldly, or at least out of a children's fairy tale.

Below was a pond filled with bright waterlilies with flowers saturated in color, as if they were plucked from paint and placed in strategic spots. But this wasn't an illustrated children's book that I accidentally wandered into. I was enjoying the 3.5 acre private garden at Bellevue House. 

The private residence  a Colonial Revival Mansion that was completed in 1910 – is owned by a Ronald Lee Fleming, a local benefactor in Newport. Fleming sponsors Daffodillion and often opens his gardens for fundraisers and performances. 

When I interviewed Donna Maytum, coordinator of the Newport Secret Garden Tour, before I had a chance to see the property myself, I was told the garden was "fabulous" and that “there’s a designer and architect who maintains it. His lot is an entire city block, and he’s always doing something new and interesting.”

This was the first garden I visited during the tour, and I spent close to an hour exploring all the features of this garden! I wanted others to see how fabulous it was too, so I shared a live video on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. 

Not only was the Bellevue House garden well-designed, but there was an underlying message weaved throughout. Monkeys were the designated garden creatures that visitors encountered, either sculpted out of wood, stone or metal. Upon entering the garden were two large carved sculptures by Justin Gordon, one (below left) which represents Jean Jacques Rousseau with the messaging "Looking for a new social construct" (playing off the 18th century philosopher's work, "The Social Contract"). In a previous interview with The Newport Daily News, Fleming shared that he strongly believes in a narrative garden. (To read more from that interview, click here.)

When you follow the path through the garden you'll first end up at the Sapphire Pool, which is part of the Arts and Crafts Garden. Notice the ornate lotus fountain. 

Sweet autumn clematis spills over the railing and beautiful planters filled with plants are tucked in to various corners of the garden. Sweet autumn clematis was definitely a signature flower in this garden, and many of the properties, during the Secret Garden Tour.

The view from the other side of the Sapphire Pool shows off the fountain and the water feature behind it (featuring the face of Pomona  more on her in a minute).

Continuing the tour through the garden brings us to the Pomona Sculpture in the American Renaissance Water Garden. According to the Secret Garden Tour handout, "Pomona establishes the metaphor of the Fleming family. The cornucopia breaks open and the waters run from the Goddess of Abundance along the Villa Lante style table to the granite head."

The arbors connecting the areas are magnificent, and of course, covered in sweet autumn clematis. The Tea House (lower left) contains a large arched opening at the top.

There was even a practical element to this luxury property: a vegetable garden.

I always like to take a peek of how others design their vegetable gardens. Despite the numerous ornate features, Bellevue House is no exception. Next to the huge greenhouse (that serves as a separate recreation/dining area) are tall, painted raised beds featuring edibles such as tomatoes, nasturtiums, kale, amaranth, peppers and beans. There's a lot growing in this small area.

Lower left is the sneak peek inside the greenhouse (which appears to be a newer addition to the property), and continuing across the property is an outdoor dining area (the cabanas), complete with a pizza oven.

And I've saved the best view for last. As you turn away from the outdoor dining area, complete with its own pool and hidden from view due to the rolling hills beside it, is a church cuppola from an old Massachusetts church. (Notice the monkey wind vane that ties into the overall theme?)

On the other side of the cuppola is my favorite feature of this immense property: the Japanese water garden, complete with the pond filled with colorful waterlilies.

The placement of bells along the footbridge appeared to be an important symbol, and when researching online, I found that in ancient Japan, bells were associated with protection.

This garden was one of the highlights during the recent Fall 2017 Secret Garden Tour. I will be sharing more photographs I took at other properties, all with unique elements, soon. For more information on the Fall 2017 Secret Garden Tour, click here.


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