A couple of weekends ago, I visited my sister in New Hampshire, where Spring was still carrying on. We went to The Fells, an historic summer estate, overlooking Lake Sunapee. Established in 1888 by John Hay, a secretary of state under presidents McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt, the current iteration reflects his son's development of the gardens and modifications to the house in the early 20th century.
The south-facing rock garden was made by the younger Clarence Hay with the help of stonemasons who carted in and placed the stone. It's hard to believe they had to bring in stone because it seems to be everywhere -- New Hampshire is the "Granite State" after all -- but it can't have come from too far away. I think it's the most interesting part of the estate, aside from the woodland areas.
A stream flows through this area and in the summer water lilies bloom in the pond.
Clarence kept meticulous records of the 600 some plants, many of them alpine, he grew in the rock garden, noting their provenance, if they were moved or needed to be replaced. Consequently, the Fells horticultural staff has been able to reintroduced missing plants that were originally grown here.
There was probably an expansive view of the lake from the rock garden when Clarence and his wife Alice lived here, but now just a sliver is visible through a cut in the forest.
I recommend the beautiful loop trail, running through woods full of healthy looking hemlock, and birch, pines, spruce and maples, along the lake front and back to the garden. The "Sunset Hill" trail, just across the road from The Fells gatehouse, offers a longer 4 mile hike.
There is a sculpture show spread out around the grounds and this sturdy guy is one of them.
|An island in the lake|
|Digitalis and Dianthus deltoides?|
Paths lead down the hill into parts of the garden now shaded by woods.
And back out again into the sunlight.
John Hay bought up surrounding abandoned farmland amassing almost 1,000 acres. From what I can tell, most of that land has been protected as part of the John Hay Wildlife Refuge, by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF), and under the stewardship of The Fells, the non-profit created to oversee the 84 acres around the buildings.
A broad porch runs along the west side of the house, overlooking a long perennial border delineated by a 100 foot wall behind it. Iris, Peonies, Lady's Mantle, Baptisia, Salvia, Geranium, and Heuchera were blooming below pots of Agapanthus not yet in flower.
|The peonies haven't even bloomed yet!|
|Water weeps from this fountain mounted high on a stone wall near the house.|
The "Old Garden", seen in several images below, was Clarence Hay's first attempt at a formal garden. The Fells brochure says it's been restored, though the original garden was in full sun and what you see today is covered by tree canopy, so the original plantings must have been quite different. Situated on the north side of the property, it feels like a secret garden as it's hidden from view behind tall shrubs and seems possible to miss entirely unless you're paying attention to your map.
It is kind of an odd appendage because it's so separate and removed from most of the garden. But, on the other hand, it's a pleasant sanctuary away from the rest of the very exposed garden.
These exquisite lupines were blooming in one of the wilder areas. We saw them occasionally along the roadsides and highways.
You pass this propagation area on your way into the garden.
Entering and leaving The Fells, you walk, maybe a quarter mile, down a dirt road through the forest. It's a nice reminder of how beautiful the northeastern forest is, and different from that of the Mid-Atlantic even if some plants overlap.. Here are some mosses and bracken fern (I think).
You can't beat the white bark of northern birches, here outlined again a stand of hemlock.
Another plant that won't grow in northern Virginia is this Cornus canadensis, a nice bold ground cover, especially in bloom.
Put The Fells on your list if you are visiting New Hampshire.