Flower Power

Exploring New Hampshire's not-so-secret gardens

Lisa Martineau
Exclusive to NewHampshire.com
May 10. 2016 7:59PM
 (Lisa Martineau)

These gardens aren't exactly a secret – most of them are public – but some of them will make you feel like you are walking into a fairy tale. Historic, beautiful, one-of-a-kind, unique; all of these adjectives can be used to describe the many gardens of the Granite State. Some of them are part of an attraction, others stand on their own; all of them offer a place to explore, take in the beauty, and discover the magnificence of the botanical bounty that surrounds you as you wander.

Barrett House – “Grandmother's Garden”
Barrett House in New Ipswich is a historic property built in 1800 by Charles Barrett as a residence for his son. The garden on the property is referred to as “Grandmother's Garden,” and features many perennials that might have been planted during the colonial revival era such as hollyhocks, poppies, morning glories. The 2 ½ acre garden is laid out in a European manner and today features bishop's flower, hyacinth bean and other rare plants.

Canterbury Shaker Village  Canterbury Shaker Village is set on nearly 700 beautiful acres where you'll find gardens, meadows, a forest and ponds. Highlights include guided tours of the Sowing Spirit Trail, where you will find the original sites of a 1795 vegetable garden, an 1816 botanical garden and a 1917 apple orchard. There are gardening workshops held throughout the season and the site offers several garden oriented events annually. Currently plans are underway to restore the gardens to original historical accuracy.

Enfield Shaker Museum  The Enfield Shaker Museum is the site of a 19th Century Shaker community. The grounds feature flower gardens fields, hills and a renowned herb garden which can be explored during tours. The site has also been opened to local residents who wish to purchase an organic plot for vegetable and herb gardening.

The Fells  The Fells is a 1,000-acre estate overlooking scenic Lake Sunapee in the town of Newbury. The original owner, John Milton Hay was the private secretary to President Abraham Lincoln. The gardens feature perennial gardens spread out along a 100' long stone wall, a rock garden with over 600 different species and water features, a rose terrace with some of the original hybrid tea roses in place, stone walls, a water fountain and a heather bed. The “Pebble Court” is home to boxwood, lilacs, yew hedge and the beautiful “Hebe” statue. Private garden tours are available with reservation. Self-guided and guided tours are also available.

Fuller Gardens  Fuller Gardens, one of the last turn-of-the-Century in North Hampton is home to over 2,000 rosebushes of in hundreds of varieties. There are also hundreds of tulips, a hosta display garden, formal English perennial borders, annual beds, dahlias, sculpted hedges, and a tropical and desert conservatory. A Japanese garden and Koi pond are a special highlight of this magnificent property which was designed in the “Colonial Revival” style.

Governor John Langdon House  Another historic site in Portsmouth, the Governor John Langdon House has a stunning period garden worth mentioning. Set on 2 ½ acres, the gardens are 19th Century Mixed Style. Features include a restored perennial garden, a pergola, pavilion, geometrical axis and a 100' rose and grape arbor.

Kirkwood Gardens  Kirkwood Gardens, located in Holderness is an informal garden set beside the Holderness Inn. It's a three-acre garden filled with ferns, a butterfly garden, shrubs, perennials, trees and herbs. A bluestone patio provides a scenic view and leads visitors from the shaded upper garden with its hostas, ferns, azaleas and rhododendrons to the sunny lower garden with its many sun-loving perennials, trees and shrubs. A sundial, sculpture and round bench highlight the garden.

Moffatt-Ladd House  The Moffatt-Ladd House garden in historic Portsmouth was laid out in its present form by Alexander Hamilton Ladd in the late nineteenth century. A 300 foot path is flanked by formal gardens and leads from the house up four terraces to a wrought-iron gate at the rear of the property. A huge horse chestnut tree planted in 1776 by William Whipple upon his return from signing the Declaration of Independence is still on the property. The tree, which is dubbed “The Tree of Independence,” is listed on the National Register of Historic Trees. An English damask rose planted in 1768 is also still thriving on the property. There are grass steps that lead to the upper flower beds. Only one word to describe this beautifully elegant property: historic.

Northern Forest Heritage Park  Northern Forest Heritage Park in Berlin is known for its emphasis on the history of logging, so maybe you didn't know that there is an amazing garden on the premises. Located next to the Brown Company House, the gardens were historically the pride of the community. Though they were dismantled at some point they were restored in 2000 with the help of a local group of gardeners. Today the Heritage Garden Club continues to restore the gardens with an emphasis on year-round plantings. Self-guided tours identify plantings, flower species and the songbirds of the area.

Pickity Place  Pickity Place is a 200+ year old cottage in Mason. The home was the inspiration for a local artist's illustrations in a 1948 version of “Little Red Riding Hood.” The cottage houses a quaint restaurant and is surrounded by more than five acres of herb and perennial gardens complete with old-fashioned bee skeps, birdhouses and meandering tree-lined brick pathways. A rustic old barn on the site is home to an Herb shop. A second barn contains a Garden Shop and Greenhouse.

Plainfield Wildflower Sanctuary  The Plainfield Wildflower Sanctuary is a natural wonderland where many rare species of flowers can be found. The nearby Connecticut River is within sight, and the soil here is perfect for many unusual plant species. There is no formal garden and no set trails but if you explore the area you'll find a diverse and unique ecology here.

Prescott Park  Prescott Park is one of the most popular gardens in all of New Hampshire. It sits a stone's throw from the Piscataqua River and Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, and features thousands of varieties of annuals, perennials, meticulously manicured shrubs, trees, and water fountains on ten acres.

Rhododendron State Park  Rhododendron State Park, located in Fitzwilliam, features a 16-acre rhododendron grove that is the largest in northern New England. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1982. The 2725-acre park offers trails that surround the grove, allowing visitors the chance to view and smell the fragrant blossoms of Rhododendron Maximum though mid-July. There is also a wonderful wildflower trail maintained by the Fitzwilliam Garden Club that offers blooms from spring to fall. Expect to be serenaded by the many songbirds that live in the grove. A beautiful escape.

Saint Gaudens National Historic Site  Sitting on 150 acres, Saint Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish was the summer home for the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Copies of his sculptures are found throughout the gardens which feature a formal terraced garden with period plantings and a cutting garden which is used to cut flowers for vases found in the galleries. The Italian-inspired gardens offer three separate spaces, or “rooms” with hedges, fountains, pools and pergolas covered with climbing plants. Beautiful views of Mt. Ascutney offer a delicious backdrop to this spectacular setting.

Strawbery Banke  Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth preserves nearly four centuries of original gardens. Trellis, herb gardens, heirloom roses, raised beds, perennials, a Victorian Children's Garden and every feature you could dream of can be found here. It was even recently recognized by Garden Design Magazine as one of four sites in the world teaching about change over time in the landscape.

Tarbin Gardens  Tarbin Gardens in Franklin is located on four acres and features English-style gardens with water features and ponds, a tropical greenhouse, formal hedges, classic urns filled with annuals, an alpine garden with alpine plants and moss and lichen covered boulders, a bog garden, a rose garden patio and pergola, a sensory garden, and much more. Relax under the trees, take in all the senses and enjoy the impressive surroundings of this hidden gem.

Other Gardens to explore:
  • Celia Thaxter Garden, Appledore Island
  • Shrine of Our Lady Grace, Colebrook
  • Kimball-Jenkins Estate, Concord
  • Lilac Arboretum, Durham
  • The Frost Place, Franconia
  • Great Bay Discovery Center, Greenland
  • Lost River Nature Garden, North Woodstock
  • Lilac Arboretum, Durham
  • Fox Forest, Hillsborough
  • Keene State College Arboretum and Gardens, Keene
  • Hobbs Fern Sanctuary, Lyman, NH
  • Urban Forestry Center, Portsmouth
  • Rundlet-May House, Portsmouth
  • Cathedral of the Pines, Rindge
  • Seacoast Science Center, Rye
  • Victorian Park, Salem


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