Organic gardener growing food and flowers, lovin' pollinators and birds.

Take a peek behind the garden gates of Newport

A scene from the garden at The Whim, from the 2017 Newport Secret Garden Tour.

Newport, Rhode Island, is known for its elaborate estates and historic homes — and its beautiful gardens. Visitors who take the self-guided Secret Garden Tour this weekend will get a glimpse of two estate gardens not seen in recent years: Berkley House and Clover Patch. Both gardens rejoin the tour after a four-year absence.

Eight of the nine gardens are maintained by professional gardeners, allowing attendees to view gardens that resemble the "lifestyle of the rich and famous," said Katie Dyer, publicist for the tour.

One of the many dahlias found at the home of Justin McLaughlin, taken during the 2017 Newport Secret Garden Tour.

Two gardens are maintained by their owners, including the garden of the new board chair Justin McLaughlin, whose garden contains 200 dahlias.

"Gardens change all the time, so even if you saw the same garden in the past, there is always something new," said Dyer.

One of the many views at Bellevue House during the 2017 Newport Secret Garden Tour.

Another garden returning to the tour this year is Bellevue House, where a portion of the property was under construction during last year's tour. "People who have been going back to see the garden should be ready to see it almost to fruition," she said. (The 3.5 acre private garden already offers plenty of eye candy, including a church cuppola from an old Massachusetts church and a Japanese water garden.)

The organic kitchen garden at Rough Point, taken
during the 2017 Newport Secret Garden Tour.
About five gardens that will participate in the tour this weekend are clustered near Kingscote Mansion, where attendees can check in and purchase tickets the day of the tour. Parking is available near the gardens, but attendees are encouraged to walk — or bike —between gardens when possible.

"The tour is ideal for biking — you don't have to worry about where to put the car," said Dyer. This weekend the Newport Secret Garden Tour is partnering with Bike Newport by offering discounted tickets for every biker who arrives on their bicycle to the ticket table during the tour. (Bikers save $5.)

Remember to bring your camera. "The weather will be cloudy — the threat of storms has gone away," Dyer said. "People who want to take good photos are happier with overcast days," she said, referring to the ability to capture brighter colors in photos thanks to cloud cover.

The tour is in its 34th year, and since 1984 has raised more than a million dollars for arts education in public schools on Aquidneck Island. One program that previous Secret Garden Tours have funded included a math movement activity for all second and third graders in Aquidneck Island public schools, in coordination with Island Moving Company, Newport's professional dance company. "The kids were so jazzed and so creative," said Dyer. "They were learning math while they were dancing."

If you go

When: Sept. 7-9, 2018
Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased the day of the tour at Kingscote Mansion at 253 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, R.I. for $25 (cash and personal check only). Tickets are $20 if purchased in advance — click here for more info. Group pricing is available. All the proceeds go to funding arts education in public schools on Aquidneck Island. 
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