While visiting southern New Hampshire this fall, my mother-in-law suggested we visit The Fells as a half-hour side trip from our cabin outside the little town of Antrim. Located in the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region near the Vermont border, The Fells is one of New England’s finest examples of an early 20th century garden. (At least, according to the brochure.)
From the entrance, you walk about a quarter mile to main home and grounds. Now open to the public, the Fells was the lakeside home of an American writer and diplomat names John M Hay, who was a private secretary to Abraham Lincoln. Also know as the John Hay National Wildlife Refuge, the grounds include about 700 acres of lakeside property.
Besides giant trees and gardens, they are filled (packed) with public art pieces, ranging from classic sculpture to shiny, modern pieces.
This is the back of Hay’s late 19th century home (which you can tour, but we arrived too late in the day). In summer, you can only imagine what the 100-foot-long perennial garden that runs along the back would look like.
We visited at an odd time to see a garden like this, but I actually loved the understated quality of the plantings. This is a huge meadow that is planted with native grasses and other plants (I only recognized the milkweed and goldenrod.) The Fells are used as an educational center to promote stewardship of the forest, gardens and the natural word, and hosts year-round classes, guided walks, exhibits and special events.
Even though we already had a chilly spell, butterflies and dragon flies were floating all over the place.
To one side of the backyard, you walk though a stone wall entrance and down into the hillside alpine garden. You get a peek of Lake Sunapee in the distance.
Many of the alpine plantings reminded me of California rock gardens, using succulents and cacti.
There’s also a Japanese water lily pond and a path that leads into a cultivated woodland. (For better or worse, sculptures are everywhere you look.)
I couldn’t help but think that this property would be magical even without the gardens.
This is a flowering tree that reminded me of a dogwood. But don’t those bloom in the spring?
More alpine plants walking back up to the house on another rock path.
This looks like our silver dollar eucalyptus tree, but was spreading on the ground.
Massive, blooming vine–which seemed strange to me for late September. Smelled like jasmine.
The alpine garden was the relatively new garden. Then you walk to the other side of the house and grounds, and discover the original garden, built in the 1930s.
It was much more formal, filled with azaleas, rhododendrons and heather.
And lovely blooming flowers where you least expected them, popping up along old walls and pathways.
Gracefully draping trees heavy with berries.
Another little classic pond. And sculpture.
This flower was dangling out of a pot high on a wall.
If you can’t tell, I didn’t know much of what I was seeing. And that’s not unusual for me. But I have to say that did not detract one bit from the beauty and enjoyment of this garden.
If you do ever find yourself in this part of the country–no matter what time of year–I know this garden would offer new delights every season. And there are devoted gardeners here who would love to share them with you!