Garden Quirk

What took me so long?!? I’ve been meaning to visit Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth, Rhode Island for years. But sometimes the attractions that are closest to home, the ones that don’t require any research, planning, or preparations are the ones you skip,  putting them off til later. Finally, a few weeks ago, on a picture perfect July day, I made the trip (just an hour and a half south of Boston) down to Rhode Island.

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The “small” country estate of Fall River cotton mill owner, Thomas Brayton is really only small in comparison to the famous neighboring Newport mansions, but unlike those monster homes (sorry Newport mansion fans) Mr. Brayton’s Narragansett bayside dwelling is a warm, homey, clapboarded affair.

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What makes this summer residence stand out is the work of Mr Brayton’s hired gardener, Azorean, Joseph Carreiro, who worked on the garden from 1905 to 1945. He was given free reign to execute his own vision of a garden. In keeping with the  times (and the apparently healthy budget of his employer) , Mr. Carreiro planted formal arrangements,

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  vegetable and herb beds (which are now used to provide produce for a local food pantry) and orchards.

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But Mr. Carreiro’s real wizardry is revealed in his amazing array of topiary art:

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The topiary work was expanded upon by Mr. Brayton’s son-in-law (best son-in-law ever!), George Mendonca, who took over after the death, first of his father-in-law, then Mr. Carreiro. These Teddy Bears were made as recently as the 1970’s.

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There was one more great surprise to be found in the gardens, but they deserve their own post. Stay tuned…

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