10 Tips for Creating Your Dream Garden by Bettie Bearden Pardee

Today The Glam Pad is delighted to welcome back a favorite guest, Bettie Bearden Pardee, founder of Private Newport and author of Living Newport: Houses, People, Style and Private Newport: At Home and in the Garden.  Bettie has created one of the prettiest private gardens in the United States at her home in Newport, Rhode Island, which in turn inspired her to create the iconic Parterre Bench, a bespoke piece of furniture made to exacting standards by a fourth generation Newport craftsman.

Today, Bettie is taking us on a tour of her garden in spring bloom and sharing her inspiration behind the creation of the Parterre Bench. She is also sharing 10 fabulous tips for creating your very own dream garden. Welcome, Bettie!


By Bettie Bearden Pardee

One of the great truths to be revealed these past twelve months is the importance of the outdoors, especially the repose and solace to be enjoyed in a garden. As spring and summer start to unfold in Newport, my spirits are lifted as I anticipate the many beautiful settings that are part of the gardens here at Parterre, soon to be billowing with new blooms.

From the front courtyard urns…

to the roses climbing the side garden arch…

to the now famous four matched cherries fronting the Orangerie…

each venue reminds me that all beautiful gardens have something in common with the Parterre Bench.

Firstly, a garden and the Parterre Bench each have a story to tell. There is an origin to their beginnings. For us, it was building a new home to include gardens. My interpretation of a fanciful “Alice in Wonderland” bench that I chanced upon in an Irish garden would ultimately become the centerpiece of our Newport green paradise.

Secondly, the design of memorable gardens and the Parterre Bench are both nurtured by vision. This image that I had treasured for so long taught me the importance of manifesting my dream, no matter how long that may be (35 years!). I was determined beyond a doubt to have a garden bench that was unlike any other that I had, or to this day, have seen.

Thirdly, any project or undertaking, be it a new home, a garden, or a piece of furniture deserves and requires a commitment to quality. The meticulous details of designing the Parterre Bench were given the same level of workmanship as my husband and I put into our new home.

Photo Credit: Vibrant Optics

This bespoke piece of furniture is handcrafted to order, one bench at a time, to exacting design standards and specifications. And, we’re proud to say, made in the USA, in Newport, Rhode Island (not “off shore”). The material…Honduran mahogany; the size…a generous 62″w. x 63″ h.; the stability…2 1/2″ thick and 110 lbs; the intricacy…“capturing the grace of a flower and the flourish of a leaf.”

It has been thrilling to be part of the many celebratory occasions for which clients have chosen the Parterre Bench…to recognize a marital engagement, to accentuate the maze in a new landscape, to honor an anniversary, to decorate a wedding reception, to commemorate a house warming. Certainly, many are the opportunities to entertain at Parterre, all times of the day…and night. After all, isn’t life to be celebrated?

Vibrant Optics

Especially when it is your 95th birthday!

Photo Credit: Nick Mele

The many personalities of the Parterre Bench are to be enjoyed not just here in Newport but in other venues around the world, many representing different garden styles.

Bettie Bearden Pardee

Please do visit us at PrivateNewport.com/ParterreBench to learn more about, and to purchase, this iconic garden centerpiece.


1) Develop your eye…visit gardens; peruse books, catalogs, and garden magazines; scroll through Instagram and Pinterest

2) Create a Mood Board of your “likes” (or albums/boards on social media)

3) Look to the experts…many nurseries have consulting and design services/on-line catalogs illustrate garden groupings and offer the plants for sale

4) Manage your expectations…ask other garden owners, trades people for thoughts about budget

5) Don’t forget about maintenance…in time, money and availability of services

6) Consider the relevance of a garden’s entire design…style, hard or soft features, furniture, ornaments, containers, as well as plantings

7) The “bones” of a garden (form, shape, scale) are more important than ie.color (flowers are fleeting).

8) Everything doesn’t have to be done at one time… there’s merit in installing a garden in stages (and easier on the budget)

9) Be Brave! Take that initial step (noted interior designer Bunny Williams’ first garden was ordered out of a catalog)

10) Finally, “If you don’t have a place to sit, you won’t go into the garden.”

Thank you Bettie for allowing us to tour your exquisite garden, and for your tips and inspiration on how we can all create our very own dream garden! What a delightful way to start the week. 🙂

To learn more about Bettie, please visit her website and blog and follow @privatenewport on Instagram.  You might also enjoy the following articles from The Glam Pad…

Author, lecturer, garden connoisseur, former magazine editor and television host/producer, Bettie Bearden Pardee calls Newport, Rhode Island home, the inspiration for her most recent books on lifestyle and design, and her website, Private Newport. She’s also the designer of the Parterre Bench, designed for and named after her home on Bellevue Avenue.

Before starting Private Newport and writing two acclaimed books on her adopted home town – Living Newport: Houses, People, Style and Private Newport: At Home and in the Garden – Bettie led an 11 year career at Bon Appétit as a contributing editor producing “Entertaining with Style.” At the same time, she became the host and creative producer of a 13 part PBS series titled, “The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House.”  A design graduate of UCLA, she has received the Burlington Award for interior design. Bettie lectures extensively in the garden club and design world around the country. Bettie’s popular lectures on lifestyle topics include, “Entertaining, Newport Style….when Grace Kelly was a Guest;”  “Wit and Whimsy in the Garden;” and the recent, “Newport, A Fabled Destination,” premiered at Rosecliff as part of the Preservation Society of Newport County’s Summer Lecture Series, “Great Escapes.” She is a past president of the Newport Garden Club.


  1. I’d say number 5 should be number one. People plan gardens but give no thought to how much time its going to take to care for it. They either don’t have the time or interest in caring for the garden .

  2. The planting zone you are in, what will live in your particular area, what will grow is sun, what will grow in shade; heat, wind and rain conditions, etc. that you will be dealing as well as what is available locally, with all matter in your choice of plant materials.
    How much you can spend on materials and labor, and what the size of your garden is, what type of soil you have and how does it need to be amended, finding a superb landscape architect and an equally excellent drainage, irrigation & sprinkler system installed.

    And then a gardener who has the expertise and the interest in maintaining your garden properly, if it is not something you can deal with on your own, or want to deal with on your own as it can be really hard, back-breaking work.

    Getting a comprehensive materials and labor bid before you start – which nobody ever wants to do – is incredibly important. It may have you completely revamp your ideas.

    It’s not just the landscape architect fees, it’s the decorative pots/urns/planters, the possible birdbaths or fountains, the teak or wrought iron or wicker seating, the hoses and hose bibs, the pathway and tree lighting, the arbors and garden gates.
    the grading, the removal of old soil depleted of nutrients, cost for yards of new soil and how deep you want to go,
    the gopher baskets if there are gophers in your area,
    the bender boards along your pathways,
    the size of the plants you get – 1 gallon? 5 gallon? 15 gallon? plants. And what about for new trees 24″ box? 36″ box? 48″ box? 72″ box?

    It is endless. Not an undertaking for the faint of heart.
    Expect it to take months – if not a year or two from start to completion.
    You will get to enjoy your luscious, peaceful garden one day. Just don’t let your soft scape person put in an “instant garden” where in six months you have to replace annuals or perennials that have crowded others and look unsightly. Ask instead for planting to be done expecting a 5 year growth rate, if you have the patience. It will save you a hassle in the long run.


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