The natural and vernacular landscape plays a dominant role in shaping the character of Blithewold. Landscape designer and plantsman John DeWolf based his overarching concept for the site on the dirt roads, stone walls and gentle pastures of the existing vernacular landscape, as well as the dramatic waterfront site. His design reflects a widespread interest in America’s 17th and 18th century heritage that manifested itself in both the Colonial Revival and the American Arts and Crafts movements. The plan focuses on the sequential development of views from the approach road to the water and the use of vegetation to define and organize exterior space. It harmoniously integrates formal and naturalistic traditions in landscape design, and employs multiple design typologies to create varied garden spaces that are unified by the Great Lawn and framed by mature specimen trees and shrubs.
Bessie Van Wickle and John DeWolf shared an interest in exotic horticulture, continuing a tradition that was begun by John Rogers Gardner, owner of the site in the mid-19th century. They carefully considered location to nurture rare specimens, expanding the palette of materials that could be cultivated in the region, while also producing fruits and flowers to complement the estate’s hospitable lifestyle. Despite hurricanes and winter nor’easters that regularly downed trees, Blithewold is an arboretum and was recognized as such by the pre-eminent Arnold Arboretum in 1926.
The gardens, the Mansion and outbuildings are, together, an important antecedent in the development of the 20th century New England country home landscape. Bessie described her vision for “a park with distinctive features, using the house as a centre.” The original aesthetic intent, established in the Great Lawn and surrounding gardens and in the name that they gave to it, “Old English”, for “happy woodland”—was deepened by the design of Blithewold II after the first mansion was destroyed by fire in 1906. Built of stone salvaged from the site and mined near the Van Wickle coal quarries in Pennsylvania, the new house integrated Tudor and Jacobean details which were introduced to the United States in the 1880s but became most popular around World War I. Both the Mansion layout, with its kitchen, laundry and other conveniences, and the 1909 Garage, with its fueling and repair facilities, reflect the sensitive adaptation of medieval and 19th century precedents to meet modern needs. These buildings joined the 18th and 19th century structures to create the sense of a family retreat that had evolved over many decades and two generations.
Tuesday, March 31
- Sunday, April 26
Friday, April 03
- Friday, April 24
Daffodils at Dusk
Saturday, April 11
Newport Flower Show Events: Horticulture Workshop: Preserving America's Beauty
Saturday, April 11
Daffodil Days Walking Tour of Mansion and Grounds
Sunday, April 12
A Jazz Celebration of Spring
Monday, April 13
Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers
Sight for sore eyes
(Mar 27, '15)
Winter’s mess has me craving tidiness (I understand the whole spring cleaning thing now and have gone a little nuts clearing surfaces at home) and its palette of whites, greys, browns, and bronzy greens has made my eyeballs hungry for super-saturated rainbow colors. You too? I had both wishes fulfilled during one dark, rainy day yesterday. Betsy and I […]
The littlest things
(Mar 20, '15)
Pretty soon only the biggest bonanzas of blooms and armfuls of harvests will knock our socks off but right now, on the first official day of spring, it doesn’t take much to get us excited. Any evidence of the growing season, no matter how small, is huge. Especially considering there’s snow in our forecast today (ugh-gain), piles of old stuff jammed in […]
(Mar 11, '15)
Suddenly it seems like it won’t be too long before we see the ground again… Fingers crossed. Is winter on its way out of your garden too?