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Media description of a private garden fund-raiser for Blithewold Mansion,
Gardens & Arboretum

The Gardens of Watch Hill

“Gardens Open for Blithewold 2000" is a two series private garden tour designed to benefit Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, a 100 year old 45 room mansion surrounded by 33 acres of botanical grandeur situated on the Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island.

The tours take place in June and August. This June series is in the Watch Hill and Weekapaug area of Rhode Island. The August series will be in Westport, Massachusetts on the 18th and 19th. A separate ticket is required for each series.

The adjoining communities of Watch Hill and Weekapaug are two of the most stunning areas in the already beautiful state of Rhode Island. Watch Hill is a charming Victorian village and has long been a favorite hideaway for famous visitors. Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks, Groucho Marx, Isadora Duncan and David Niven were all drawn to the beauty and privacy of this sea-side retreat.

Those ambitious enough to make the journey to these gorgeous coastal spots will be well rewarded as they make their way around the nine gardens highlighted for this very special private garden tour. Watch Hill is on a peninsula - the highest land south of Bar Harbor in Maine and therefore most of the homes enjoy water views. The gardens range from small but abundantly planted to large and lavishly landscaped. Almost all boast dramatic water views. Coastal and deer proof plantings are high on the list of many of the gardens featured.

Westport, Massachusetts, is a beautiful small harbor town in the southern most part of the state. Water views also play a prominent part in the varied scenic make up of this area. Gardening and horticulture are primary past times in this area and visitors are often heard to comment on the gardens viewed from the road. A private garden tour, however, gives you the opportunity to peek behind those garden gates.

You can set your own pace, leisurely or otherwise, as the tours are self guided with the help of a detailed map. Distances between gardens are shorter than they appear on the map. However, the map together with the directions should eliminate any confusion. At each location look for the pink and black Blithewold pennant.

To avoid congestion, and for your own comfort, please try to visit the gardens in a random sequence. Be a good neighbor when parking. With thanks from the Gardens Open committee, the owners of the individual gardens, and the communities of Watch Hill and Weekapaug.

THE GARDENS: Rain or Shine!

18 East Hills Road, Watch Hill
This family residence exudes warmth and hospitality in a relaxed informality. It is a year-round home which is unusual in this summer resort. The house, a large grey clapboard contemporary sits perched on a dramatically steep site. The gradient however did not daunt the owners or the landscape designer, Louis Raymond of Renaissance Gardening in nearby Hopkinton. The landscaping is extensive and many of the plants were chosen not only for their beauty but also for their deer-proof qualities. A pollarded grove of red-twig Japanese maples greets visitors as they turn from the driveway to the front of the house. A sparkling feature is the rose garden at the side of the house lightly enclosed by a waist-high fence on which is growing a lush ivy.

Bayberry Ridge, 123 Avondale Road, Watch Hill
This uniquely designed family house is fabulously situated on the shores of the Pawcatuck River and boasts a simply gorgeous view of Colonel Willie Cove, looking over at Connecticut on the far shore. The main house, which has a grey clapboard facade, stone foundation and green roof, was built in 1910 and is on the Watch Hill Historic Register and the National Register of Historic Places. A variety of herbaceous flower beds grace the lawn area in the front of the house. Recently it was discovered that the roots of a dwarf clipped hedge near the front door were crowding out the roots of the roses in a nearby bed. These family favorites were then moved from this site to a more accommodating one further out into the lawn area. The gardens also feature beautiful mature trees and sumptuous shrubbery.

9 Ridge Road, Watch Hill
“It’s not called Ridge Road for nothing.” This property is one of the most dramatic on the tour with the house sitting atop this steep ridge overlooking a private hidden pond. There is a feast of plant material to absorb - many different heathers, a beautiful specimen Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum), an equally gorgeous specimen Tall Stewartia (Stewartia monadelpha), day lily beds, a rose garden, a white perennial garden, arbors, a folly, a cottage garden - the list goes on. As you leave you will see in full view a huge, mature Hinoki False Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa crippsii). The garden was designed by Susan W. Plimpton in 1978.

Inglecote, 11 Westerly Road, Watch Hill
Inglecote tugs at the heartstrings. It is the oldest ‘farmhouse’ in the area - a low, warm, pale yellow house with an elegant up-swept curved roofline which accentuates the artfully controlled wisteria vines “supporting” the columns of the porch. This very private property has, in the back, one of the largest trumpet vines in the area, and an adorable enclosed garden of raised beds of different heights. The gardens happily occupy a great deal of the owners time.

Craigie Brae, 6 Aquidneck Avenue, Watch Hill
This beautiful house, built in 1890, is on the Watch Hill Historic Disrict and the National Register of Historic Places. It sits comfortably on its lovely site overlooking Fosters Cove on Little Narragansett Bay. The gardens were exquisitely designed by Susan Plimpton in 1985. Mrs. Plimpton created garden rooms to accommodate the craggy and varied terrain - among these rooms you will find a walk-through English Garden, a green garden with a small fish pond, then through an arbor overhung with Clematis montana you will see a wide perennial border across from which is a large herb garden featuring a knot design. Behind this are old-fashioned English roses. One marvelous feature is a mature Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) at the edge of the terrace. This garden is a regular on the Garden Conservancy tours.

Trespasso, 3 Lighthouse Road, Watch Hill
Trespasso is a large, comfortable brown shingle house with green shutters and white trim. You will be bowled over by the fabulous view of the Watch Hill Lighthouse and Napatree Point from the lovely huge terrace on which are a variety of designed containers. Coastal grasses are prolific in this lovely understated garden

Pomme de Mer, 7 Niantic Road, Watch Hill
What hits you first as you enter Pomme de Mer is the breathtaking view over the grasses and wetlands to Block Island Sound. But then your attention is drawn to the many different gardens within the larger 10-acre garden, all framed against this ocean backdrop. A heather garden, a new rose garden almost fully enclosed by a dwarf circular clipped hedge and a fenced vegetable garden are just some of the areas to look at. There are stone garden features, containers, and an exquisite small lush Hinoki False Cypress (Chaemacyparis obtusa ‘nana grisillus’) nestled on the terrace.

1 Meadow Avenue, Weekapaug
This immaculately manicured property boasts a gorgeous young Stewartia in the rear, well worth the visit just to see this. This lovely tree sits in the private enclosed garden at the rear of the house. The front of the house is elegantly framed with lush pacassandra and a mature shrub border that perfectly sets off the house and surrounding borders.

23 Chapman Road, Weekapaug
From the owner - “Just ten years ago there was nothing here but the swamp maple, junipers and big rocks.” Now there is a cottage garden with an emphasis on abundant summer bloom, an oriental garden is being created in the rear and features some unique shrubs, a small pond and an arbor made in part of bamboo. Newly planted clematis climbs on the trellis which stretchs all the way along the driveway. Sumptuously planted the huge herbaceous border in the front is home to some very unusual perennials including a variegated Brunnera macrophylla.