In the Garden: Get inspiration by touring local gardens next weekend
Give the weeds a break next weekend and take time out to tour some other gardens in the area. The Garden Conservancy is hosting Open Garden Days in Merrimack Valley next Saturday and Sunday (July 13 and 14) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. I have visited a few of these gardens in the past and have greatly benefited from the ideas I have gotten from each one. A few of the ones not to be missed:
Evergreen in Goffstown is the home of landscape designer Robert Gillmore and his wife, photographer and artist Eileen Oktavec. If you are struggling with a shady location or have a small, in-town lot without much privacy there is a lot to learn at this garden. Located at 41 Summer St. on a 1-acre lot in a residential neighborhood, Evergreen gives the impression of being a large, private woodland estate. The house is nestled into the hillside, its view of the street screened by trees and broadleaved evergreen shrubs. A narrow, gently graded path winds gracefully through the garden, leading visitors, at times, quite close to the road and neighboring houses. But because of Gillmore’s expert use of berms, all that registers are natural-looking ridges planted with beautiful rhododendrons and shade-loving groundcover, not houses, asphalt and utility poles. The berms are basically piles of clay and sand fill – some as high as 12 feet – that, when covered with topsoil and planted with evergreen shrubs, effectively screen out any noise or views that would detract from the privacy of the garden. Unlike expensive walls or fencing, they require no maintenance and look like part of the landscape. Gillmore relies on the foliage of shade-tolerant shrubs and perennials to bring added color to the garden.
The path winds cleverly around the lot, making the site seem much larger and allowing visitors to view things from different angles, adding an element of mystery and making the walk more entertaining. One of the lessons I learned from this garden is that your landscape is what you can see; not just what you own. Borrow the good stuff and hide the bad.
Fortnam Gardens at 18 Cambridge Road in Nashua is a really small garden that makes the most of a 1∕3-acre suburban lot. Terracing has enabled the owners to plant the hillside at the rear of the property and seating at the top gives a view over the whole garden. They even managed to fit in a pond! If lack of usable space is an issue in your garden, this is the place to check out. Containers are a key element here, and the owners’ collection of tropical plants is not to be missed.
The Garden on Garvin Hill, home of Patty and Gordon Humphrey, 78 Garvin Hill Road in chichester, sits high on a ridge with a sweeping view of distant mountains. An avid gardener, Patty Humphrey has spent more than 30 years creating the gardens that surround this elegant old farmstead. Two gardens bordered by stonewalls and filled with spring flowering bulbs, peonies, monardas and daylilies flank the driveway, and a small garden full of annuals surrounds an ancient apple tree and several 100-year-old maples in front of the ivy-covered, brick house. A 100-foot-long border garden filled with roses, hollyhocks and daylilies runs the length of the barn and beyond. In the sheltered corner, formed where the garage and barn meet, hollyhocks stand out against the white clapboards with a large shrub rose and waves of rudbeckia, asters, yarrow, phlox and other perennials.
Behind the house, on this windy hilltop, are five more gardens, including a small kitchen garden, a rock garden and a sunny herb garden. Patty describes her design style as old fashioned flower garden with a British influence, drawing inspiration from her grandmother’s garden. Since I struggle with roses, I was pleased to learn from her that the Canadian Explorer series, like “William Baffin” and “Henry Kelsey,” are especially hardy and reliable bloomers.
For a complete list of the gardens on the tour and directions, visit the Garden Conservancy’s website at opendaysprogram.org. Admission to each garden is only $5 per person, and money generated by the tours goes to help restore and preserve important gardens and make them accessible for the public to enjoy. This year there are five private gardens participating in the Merrimack Valley area.
If you are headed toward the Monadnocks, the Acworth Community Charitable Trust is sponsoring a garden tour at the home of Kristian Fenderson, 384 Grout Hill Road in Acworth from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Fenderson is a respected landscape designer who, literally, wrote the book on primroses. Seriously. It is called A Synoptic Guide to the Genus Primula. His gardens are filled with rare and interesting trees, shrubs and plants, including more primroses than you can imagine. Along with the garden tour, there will be plants for sale from some of New England’s top growers, including Van Berkum Nursery and Garden Visions Epimediums. Garden tour tickets are $20 and proceeds benefit many charitable projects in the areas of education, conservation, historic preservation, arts and humanities, and other special projects in the town of Acworth. While you are in the vicinity, be sure to stop in at the Art Show and Sale and Silsby Library book sale being held at the Acworth Town Hall. For more information, call Stella Herpel at 835-2925.