A Visit to The Fells, Historic Garden on Lake Sunapee. September 12, 2021

Here are photos from yesterday’s day trip to Newbury, NH, and the estate of John Hay, Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of State. Since my camera’s memory card overloaded I will post photos my sister took on her camera phone as soon as she sends them to me.

The above photo shows the Bristly aster blooming in a rocky spot where Scotch heathers are thriving. How I wish I had visited earlier when the heathers were in bloom-

Clara Curtis chrysanthemum

I was disappointed that the Aconitums in the long border below the house had already bloomed and been cut back, but there were large drifts of New England asters in bloom. I will post those photos later, as well as pictures of the “Old Garden”, which has recently been renovated.

A Shady Corner under the Redbud Tree

Grass leaved goldenrod, Aster linarifolius, “Velvet Elvis” plectranthus. The last, new to me this year, is an outstanding shade plant. I will winter it over inside. It blooms in late summer., when it senses the seasonable wane of daylight hours.

Aster linarifolius

Another view of “Velvet Elvis”, flanked by Wax begonias and “Diamond Frost” euphorbia. Proof that shade can be more than hostas. Shade blooming perennials yet to bloom are Japanese Spurflower ( Isodon effusis) and hardy Salvia glabrescens “Momobama”.

Blue Mistflower

Old names for this relative of Joe Pye Weed are Blue Eupatorium, Mistflower, and Hardy Ageratum. The new Latin is Conoclinium coelestinum.

It is a hardy perennial wildflower that blooms all over Middle Tennessee, but one must look to mail order to bring it to southern New Hampshire. It is a notorious leaper and goes everywhere in good soil, but when it comes into bloom in late summer, I do not care where it spreads.

In Spring it stays underground late and one must remember that when temptation comes telling us to plant something new in that empty spot.

When I first saw it in bloom in Nashville I thought it the most beautiful late wildflower I had ever seen.

I have not changed my mind.

I lost 30% of my dooryard garden this year to woodchucks. My phlox and asters were bitten to the quick. My marigolds and Blackeyed Susans were chewed to stubs.

The only consolation is that there are plants that the woodchucks will not touch, and the Mistflower is one of them.

August 1st-The Dry Border

Poor fertility, mostly sand, sharp drainage. Ground suited for Sweet Fern and lowbush blueberries. Scrub land, where farming was so hard in early New England that Yankee soldiers, after the civil war, moved their families and farms to the fertile, flat, and predictable Midwest.

Here is a garden planted in that stingy soil-

There are many North American plants in this garden, but there are also plants from the dry corners of the world.

  • Because of time constraints this morning I cannot list the plants in this flower border, but I will do so later in the week, as I am sure there are frustrated gardeners here in Southern New Hampshire trying to garden in sand and interested in how to do it and what plants to look for.

Early Goldenrod

Early Goldenrod, Solidago juncea, is blooming now. The plant in my dry border is a volunteer, and it is thriving. It is a clump former, and not a root runner, and its leaves are basal and hug the ground.

Its companions here are Silver King Artemesia and Globe thistles.

Still to come in this border are the Silver Rods, or white goldenrod, and the Rough-leaved goldenrods. Both of these were also volunteers. I have added the Rigid and the Showy Goldenrod, but their time is not yet. They have fat yellow spikes and resemble Liatris.

Coneflower Medley

In the garden close to the house in Bow the coneflowers are blooming. In the lower garden they have been gnawed on down to leaves by deer. The house garden has motion light protection at night, and this may be why these coneflowers get to bloom there

When the colored coneflowers appeared in the 1990s they were weak and unreliable, but have since had more vigor and tenacity bred into them.

The Gooseneck Loosestrife is blooming as well. When it is blooming and not thirsty, it is showy, but when the rains fail and the well must be spared, it is miserable. It also spreads fast far and wide.

I drove out to view high water and wildflowers last week. I parked at the Goffstown Historical Society, and spotted these strange cement beings between the buildings. I cannot tell if they are frogs or nestlings begging for worms. They do appeal to my love of strangeness-

Elegant Spires

Veronicastrum virginicum “Fascination” is blooming now in the half shade garden in Bow. This plant came from the plant sale area at The Fells, the John Jay estate on Lake Sunapee. It is three years old, and it is planted on the richest soil in the Bow garden.

Above is the Blue Vervain , Verbena hastata. It comes from pond sides and riverbanks, and we planted it at the base of a roof drain pipe so it would feel at home. Both the vervain and the Veronicastrum are native wildflowers.

More of a spike than a spire is the flower of the part shade loving Chiapas Sage, shown here in the Bow garden. It came from Annie’s Annuals in California , and has been blooming since I took it out of the box. Its neighbor, the Gold Sword yucca, is surprisingly shade tolerant.

The Hardy Agastaches

I bought Agastache “Blue Boa ” this spring at Goffstown Hardware, and it is proving to be one of my smarter choices. I am excited about this plant because it is a purple that will contrast beautifully with my myriad goldenrods and the Showy Evening Primrose in mid to late summer. As fine as the late Aromatic asters “Raydon’s Favorite” and “October Skies” are, they bloom blue very late.

“Blue Fortune” is my other hardy Agastache. I divided up last year’s plants, divisions from my sister’s plants, and am pleased with it because it does not need much watering and blooms till frost. It is a less showy plant than “Blue Boa”, but sometimes dusty blue is just right.

A nice non hardy sunset colored agastache is “Poquillo”. Since it is a dwarf I worried it might be too bitty, but it is nice planted with salvia “Roman Red” and the lantanas “Confetti” and “Miss Huff”.

More new bloomers for mid-July include “Big Blue” salvia, reportedly a better form than “Indigo Spires”, a great salvia for the south, but too late to get going for Southern New Hampshire.

My two cannas, “Intrigue” and “Pacific Beauty” are also starting to bloom. I never thought cannas would do well here, but I was wrong. If people dig up prima donnas like dahlias and keep them inside , they might consider cannas, which need much the same winter care. Dahlias may be more tasteful to some, and their flowers less gaudy, but their nondescript leaves contribute nothing to the garden. Can one say the same for the purple leaved cannas?

Both these cannas came from Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina.


Here is a 7 foot tall Thalictrum rochebrianum growing in rich soil that has only morning sun. What an elegant, ethereal plant-

And here is a wonder! A seedling of this Meadow Rue that I found in my sister’s garden, and there are more-

The woodchuck trap. I included the photo only because I need to note that every plant shown in this post has not been chewed up.