Gardens

Blithewold, located in Bristol, RI, is 33 acres of lawns, gardens, specimen trees, and historic stone structures. Walking the grounds, you may be drawn to the cool shade of the Bosquet (“enclosed woodland”), enjoy the solitude of the Water Garden, absorb the history of the Enclosed Garden, or be dazzled by the abundance of the Display Gardens.

The sweeping 10 acre Great Lawn and its views to Narragansett Bay is the perfect setting for over 500 different kinds of trees and shrubs. Taking full advantage of the stunning water views and country setting, Landscape Architect John DeWolf designed the landscape starting in the mid 1890s, in an informal style with touches of formal elements.

When walking the grounds today, you will notice a combination of historic and modern gardening. In August 1926, Ernest “Chinese” Wilson and Alfred Rehder visited Blithewold and to the owners’ delight these eminent plantsmen from the Arnold Arboretum were awestruck by the variety of plants they found. In a letter to her daughter about the visit, Bessie Van Wickle McKee wrote, “They were frankly amazed to find so lovely and interesting a place here and kept saying, ‘Why you have an arboretum here; we never dreamed there was a place like this’.”

The Great Lawn sets the stage for all the surrounding gardens:

  • the Rock Garden located within yards of the shore
  • the more formal North Garden whose lush, deep borders are the background for weddings  and other social functions
  • the Rose Garden where a centenarian Chestnut Rose dominates
  • the Enclosed Garden with its undulating lawn, curved pathways, and Summerhouse that looks out on one of the tallest Giant Sequoias on the east coast
  • and finally the gravel lane, once the service road to the dock, is yet another shaded, leafy walk to the Bay

Have you not visited in a while? We invite you to come to Blithewold--the changes of the last five years may astonish you:

  • Hundreds of feet of historic gravel paths have been restored, allowing easy walking to all the main garden areas on the property
  • The number of trees and shrubs in the collection has grown from 2000 to 3000
  • The Display Gardens feature an ever-changing exhibit of thoughtful plant combinations and designs
  • The 1901 Lord & Burnham Greenhouse was restored in summer 2005 and is now open to the public. The Bosquet (“enclosed woodland”) is undergoing a long-term restoration

 

    From Our Blog

  • Celebrating Our Arboretum (Oct 23, '14)
    There’s something very new and exciting going on this year in Blithewold’s Visitor’s Center during Christmas at Blithewold. Gail Read, Gardens Manager, Kris Green, Interpretive Horticulturist, and Betsy Ekholm, Horticulturist, have partnered with the garden volunteers to design a display to Celebrate Our Arboretum. Essentially, they are pulling different natural features from throughout the Grounds, preserving […]
  • A rabbit’s eye view with Noel Kingsbury (Oct 17, '14)
    We are so lucky that yesterday’s rain held off just long enough to take a ground-level tour of Blithewold’s gardens with British garden designer/plantsman/author, Noel Kingsbury. He showed us, plant by plant, exactly what to look for to help predict how different plants will behave in our gardens. He reminded us that plant growth falls along […]
  • Christmas at Blithewold “You Are Invited” (Oct 13, '14)
    Although Blithewold is closing to the public this week, it is anything but quiet around the Mansion. We are now preparing to get the Mansion dressed up for Christmas! It is a bit hard to imagine a snowy winter in the midst of this crisp fall weather, but our decorating volunteers have been prepping and […]
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