AS YOU DRIVE down Highway 29, the main route through California’s Napa Valley, it’s almost impossible to count the wineries that line both sides of the road: Acre upon acre of vineyards carpet the valley floor and creep up into the tree-clad hills. Off this well-beaten track, at the end of a long drive that winds up above the town of St. Helena, lies Newton Vineyard, the venture of Peter and Dr. SuHua Newton.
Over the past 15 years Newton, an expatriate Englishman, has transformed five acres of hilly terrain in the midst of the vineyard into a dazzling, eclectic series of private gardens. “We’ve got a square mile of land here,” he says, “but we don’t have anything that is remotely flat.” Bulldozers and determination solved the problem, though as you move from garden to garden a steady ascent offers the pleasure of new discoveries as a reward for the climb.
The garden closest to the front gate is an intricate clipped-box parterre (built, amazingly, on top of the winery’s Chardonnay cellar) framed by cypresses and spiral junipers. Each of the parterre’s diamonds holds a contrasting planting of some silvery ornamental, such as Artemisia ‘Silver Mound’, Teucrium chamaedrys, or catmint. Despite its formality, the parterre isn’t at all static. As Newton explains, “Whereas most parterres are rectilinear, I did this one on a 45-degree bias, so your eye gets helped along.” Roses also figure importantly: The white ‘Cinderella’, grown on 18-inch standards that seem to rise magically above the boxwood, clusters around the central fountain. Nearby the orange-vermilion miniature ‘Hula Girl’ adds a splash of bold color. (more…)