Published May 22. 2013 4:00AM Updated June 13. 2013 1:27PM
To visit the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, is to be whisked back in time to what Mark Twain dubbed in 1873 the Gilded Age, a period of unprecedented economic growth in America that for some brought excessive wealth and lavish lifestyle.
Newport was the summer social capital of the nation during this time; a tour of the landmark properties of the era maintained by the Preservation Society of Newport County allows guests a rare and exciting glimpse into the high society of the Gilded Age.
One such majestic property, Rosecliff, is the setting for the 18th annual Newport Flower Show, which also promises to transport visitors to a faraway place in time — an exotic exploration of the East in this year's "Jade: Eastern Obsessions" themed show.
"This year's Newport Flower Show will invite visitors to
discover the mysteries of the East, where gardens, treasures, traditions and native plants all blend to create stunning beauty," said Andrea Carneiro, communications manager for The Preservation Society of Newport County.
From Friday, June 21 to Sunday, June 23, the 2013 Newport Flower Show will offer guests the opportunity to enjoy judged horticultural specimens and floral designs, special garden and artistic exhibitions, and free lectures and demonstrations focused on the beauty of this intriguing part of the world.
"All of the exhibits and entries at the show will have an Eastern theme, starting with the front lawn of Rosecliff, where half a dozen landscape and garden companies will create gardens with individual country themes: Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Cambodian," said Carneiro. "Our presenting sponsor, Bartlett Tree Experts, will also have a display garden on the front lawn, featuring a Chinese moongate and a
spectacular topiary dragon."
In the show's Lecture Luncheon Series, Hitomi Gilliam will showcase work inspired by Ikebana and the Zen appreciation of nature. Gilliam is an internationally renowned floral artist, a distinguished educator and lecturer worldwide. Also featured in the special series is Harriet Henderson, an accomplished landscape architect, who will discuss the influences of the East in Western gardens. Henderson studied in Kyoto, Japan, to immerse herself in Japanese garden design, and from her travels in Korea, China and Taiwan has brought back an understanding of Japanese design precedents.
With a specially designated children's division, the show is offering age-appropriate workshops and other inspired activities for kids including floral design, Asian kite making, and creating a miniature Zen garden. Register for these events by email to Jacqueline Colbert at firstname.lastname@example.org. While children are always welcome at the mansions, guests are asked to refrain from bringing strollers, as they are not allowed into the mansions or on the property. For those who require accessibility, Rosecliff is one of the fully wheelchair accessible mansions in Newport. Also, pets are allowed at the show while carried or leashed.
Amenities & more
An ideal setting for a botanical summer event in Newport, the fully restored Rosecliff is located at 548 Bellevue Avenue, a short distance from many points of interest for Newport visitors. The International Tennis Hall of Fame, the National Museum of American Illustration, and Breton Point State Park are within a short drive. Unique shops and restaurants ranging from casual to formal (and ice cream!) can be found close by on Thames Street, a bustling waterfront with several public access points. Brick Market Place, Banister's Wharf, and Long Wharf Shopping Center are all within walking distance of Thames, allowing for a scenic stroll on cobblestone streets along Newport Harbor after visiting the show.
For those on foot for the day, or not wishing to stray too far from the grandeur of Bellevue Avenue, lunch and snacks are available a seven-minute walk from Rosecliff at the Chinese Tea House at Marble House, which boasts a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean beyond the Cliff Walk. If the weather is good, a 30-minute walk finds the terrace of the historic carriage house at The Elms, featuring umbrella-shaded bistro tables overlooking the Grand Allee, fountains and sunken garden. Indoor and outdoor seating is available at both locations, as well as an assortment of snacks, beverages, fresh salads and sandwiches for a la carte purchase.
For those eager to shop, the Newport Flower Show offers unique items and souvenirs. In a much-anticipated Newport tradition, fine vendors sell garden accessories, clothing, jewelry, gifts and decorative items for your home at the Gardeners' Marketplace on the front lawn of Rosecliff and the Oceanside Boutiques on the back lawn.