Friday, August 24, 2012

Michael Gordon's Garden

After a visit to Juniper Hill Farm, I went to see Michael Gordon's Garden in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Michael Gordon is gardener, a garden designer, a garden blogger (The Gardener's Eye), and he is one of the reasons Peterborough, New Hampshire is one of the most beautiful towns on the planet. Sure the town has some great New England architecture and a picturesque river running through it, but it also has incredibly beautiful gardens and public spaces- due in a large part to Michael's efforts. Michael has been one of the leading forces for gardening these public spaces. He has written grants, brought in garden designers such as Gordon Hayward, and has organized volunteer groups that maintain the gardens. On top of all this, Michael is also responsible for most of the plant design, particularly the herbaceous material. He was kind enough to show my friend Deb and I around all of these gardens a few weeks back.

Michael has a wonderful collection of plants. His trees and shrubs are carefully chosen and placed his herbaceous combinations are thoughtful and exciting. Michael gave a great tour, telling us about the evolution of the garden, his design decisions (and intentions), and he managed to tell us a great deal about plants and answer our many questions.

Above: Centaurea autopurpurea

I like this compositional slice, so many good things happening in the shapes, colors, and textures.

I was pretty enamored with this burgundy shrub. In this photo it looks a bit like a Japanese maple, but it is actually a thornless honeylocust, Gleditsia tricanthos var. inermis 'Ruby Lace.' I think if left to its own devices, it would be a gangly tree, but Michael cuts his back to form a shrub. Those lacy, small leaves cast a coppery glow on the scene. It brilliantly sets off the pale flower heads of Eryngium giganteum 'Miss Wilmott's Ghost.'

There are very exciting plants in the mix here, with interesting contrasts in texture and form, but the whole is unified by a delightful color palette of grays, blues, and pale pinks.

Argemone grandiflora, a prickly poppy.

Here is a wonderful example of one of Michael's carefully chosen and expertly placed trees. This is an Acer griseum x Acer nikoense. It has a beautiful bark and a gorgeous overarching canopy. It sits in the middle of Michael's steep hillside, providing shade to a sitting area and helping to frame the view out to distant mountains.

The sitting areas with brilliant blue benches with the light perfectly illuminating this coleus.

After the tour of his garden, Michael showed us four gardens he has helped develop in Peterborough. This is the newest project called the Ruin garden. To read more on Michael's gardens, at home and in town, click here! Thanks Michael for such a great tour!


  1. Wonderful - and fun to see one blog favorite touring another one's garden! Great combinations, as usual in Michael's planting schemes.

  2. Great photos, Helen! I love seeing the poppy, the trees and hearing about Michael's work in his town. It is encouraging to know that he has created so many successful public gardens. Perhaps there are a few more towns in our country that will follow suit. I am all for more gardens :)