Thursday, July 24, 2014

Postcards from Newport: Green Animals

"Green Animals," a topiary garden and estate in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, belongs to the Preservation Society of Newport County. It's a short drive from the Newport Mansions but if you like gardens, it's worth a visit. The Brayton family's house is a charming, unpretentious museum compared to Newport's bombastic mansions. Some of the upstairs rooms have old-fashioned displays of antique toys and dolls. The lawn sweeps from the veranda down to the sea, with old specimen trees that good spots for for a shady picnic. But the stars of the show are the whimsical topiaries, a meticulously manicured collection of animals, geometric shapes, baskets, arched gateways, and more, grown from privet, boxwood, and yew.

Here you can see a giraffe and an elephant, two of the larger topiaries:

More topiaries, including a dog and a bird:

Two teddy bears:

Spiral topiaries and a bed of marigolds, with the house in the distance:

A bed of bright coneflowers attracts butterflies and birds:

The garden is full of old-fashioned flowers, like these orange-red day lilies, and herbs, in beds bordered by neat hedges:

Newport had an eye-popping abundance of blue hydrangeas when we visited last summer. I think it must have been a banner year for them. This year we saw fewer flowers, but I think we'll have to go back in August and see how it looks then for a fairer comparison. The bushes at Green Animals had some lovely blooms:

Grape arbors shade the garden pathways. I'd like go back later in the summer, when they are riper and ready to harvest.

Two well-dressed scarecrows guard the vegetable garden.

A fine old beech shades the house:

If you want to read more about Green Animals, check out Wikipedia. You can also watch Errol Morris's award-winning documentary, Fast, Cheap &  Out of Control (1997), which features the story of George Mendonça, one of the Portuguese topiary gardeners who created Green Animals.

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