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Fall Garden at Rhode Island’s Blithewold

Last week I visited Blithewold, a beautiful public garden in Bristol, Rhode Island, right on Narragansett Bay.

I have been there many times in the fall but this time was special, mainly because I was the only visitor in the garden. I was quite early.

I don’t remember the last time I drove down there in the fall so I was surprised to find so much color in the landscape as I walked around the thirty-three acres.

I am including below an earlier blog post about the use of native as well as exotic plants.

Blithewold provides an example of a garden that has done a superb job of combining both in its landscape that includes ten gardens.

[The following is from an earlier blogpost that I wrote on Blithewold.]

Native and Exotic Plants

One plant that caught my attention as I walked the property was the Harlequin Glorybower or Clerodendrum trichotomum.

It is a small tree, probably eight feet high, planted along the wall at the corner of the North garden, right near the house.  It’s a great choice for fall color since it forms brilliant blue berries surrounded by red calyxes by this time of the year.

Harlequin Glorybower at Blithewold in Bristol, RI
Harlequin Glorybower at Blithewold in Bristol, RI

I mention this tree because it is native to China and Japan, but it grows well at Blithewold, which boasts of many exotic plants.

In nineteenth-century America the hunt for newer plant varieties often supported a search of areas outside rather than within the United States, including China and Japan.

Through most of the nineteenth century, the seed and nursery catalogs considered native plants to be less desirable for the home landscape or garden than exotic or imported plants.

Garden historian Denise Wiles Adams in her now classic book Restoring American Gardens examined American seed and nursery catalogs from 1750 well into the early twentieth century. She found that there were one hundred and three plants listed continually in the catalogs. Although there were a number of native plants on the list, the majority were exotic.

Today the argument about the need to grow native plants is important, but American gardeners can still enjoy exotic plants in the garden as we have for a long time.

Blithewold proves an example of a public garden that cultivates both native and exotic plants.

I hadn’t been to Blithewold for over a year and noticed some renovations.   A visitor now has a greater area  for parking as well as a larger gift shop.  Great additions to an extraordinary public garden.

Always such a pleasure to experience Blithewold.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. The grounds and gardens of Blithewold are certainly worthy of this praise. Thank you for highlighting this treasure. It has been a struggle to maintain their excellence in this particular year. The horticultural staff has been stretched to its limits and deserves your applause.

    As a longtime supporter I thank you.

    1. Hello Virginia, I appreciate your comment. I can understand that the horticultural team has been stretched during this pandemic period. I too am just so grateful that the Garden is open, and some of the changes needed are now a reality. Best.

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