Design New England

American Beauty at Newport Flower Show

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Guests enjoy the cocktail party on the back lawn of Rosecliff in 2014. Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County.

By Jill Connors

The Newport Flower Show, June 19–21, celebrates its 20th year with the theme “American Beauty — Timeless Style,” recalling the elegance of a truly homegrown classic. The American Beauty rose has a special connection to Rosecliff, the setting for the show: The flower was cultivated by an early owner of the property. “After several years in which we focused on exotic themes, we decided to bring it home and celebrate the timeless style of this rose for our 20th anniversary,” says Andrea Carneiro, communications manager for The Preservation Society of Newport County, the cultural organization dedicated to preserving Rosecliff and other Gilded Age mansions in Newport.

The American Beauty rose was cultivated in the late 19th century by George Bancroft, owner of the property where the present-day Rosecliff mansion stands; Bancroft lived in an earlier house on the estate until his death in 1890. A statesman and historian, Bancroft was also an amateur horticulturist with a love of beautiful flowers.
The timeless style of the rose is reflected in the lectures and demonstrations planned for this year’s flower show, including: a lecture by garden historian Peter J. Hatch on Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello gardens; insights about how to enhance your garden, from designer and public television host P. Allen Smith, and a flower-arranging demonstration focusing on rose arrangements, by floral designer Julie Lapham.
New to the show is the transformation of Rosecliff’s rear terrace into a Gilded Age conservatory complete with flowers, potted palms, and furniture appropriate to the era. Jim Donahue, The Preservation Society’s curator of historic landscapes and horticulture, and local designer Tony Venetucci are collaborating on the conservatory display. In previous years, the terrace held the floral specimens presented for judging. They will be moved to a tent on the lawn.

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The front lawn of Rosecliff. Courtesy of The Preservation Society of Newport County.

On the front lawn of Rosecliff, six professional landscape firms will create interpretations of The White City at the World’s Columbian Exposition, which took place in Chicago in 1893. For the White City theme, designers must use white for all floral color and must incorporate Beaux Arts principles of design.
Rosecliff, a 1902 mansion modeled after the Grand Trianon garden retreat at Versailles, is a property of The Preservation Society of Newport County. All proceeds from the Newport Flower Show benefit the preservation and restoration of the historic landscapes in the society’s care. General admission is $20. More information and tickets are at
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