when the allée, with its 110 crabapple trees (above), blossoms in spring, “it
looks like a snow storm,” says owner Stan Fry. Edged by serpentine boxwood,
the allée swerves beside a tall arborvitae maze. Half an acre of perennials
(facing page) spread like a colorful carpet in front of Fry’s cottage/office.
obody would suspect that this garden masterpiece dwells behind an 18th-century farmhouse/
barn in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Its
owner, Stan Fry, always wanted to keep his garden discreetly under wraps. “I try not to stand
out from the street,” he says, which explains why all that is visible from
the road are a few telltale clipped hedges and the sprawling white edi-face. But step around the house, and a visitor becomes engulfed in a
wonderland of crisply sculpted shrubs playing counterpoint to voluptuous flowering perennials, undulating hedges, and rustic arbors that
lead to hidden ponds. It is a series of horticultural shenanigans that
quicken the heartbeat as the surreal landscape unfolds. If his guest
feels slightly lost and bewildered, or has no analogy for the sensations
that strike (but never wants to leave), that’s exactly the reaction Fry
was hoping to evoke.
Fry didn’t start with the goal of achieving a mind-bending garden, he just wanted to install something period appropriate for his
1796 (give or take a couple of years) farmhouse when he and his wife,
Cheri Fry, purchased the house. They were living in California but sufficiently homesick for New England to regularly scan the New Hampshire
real estate listings. When the house came up for sale, Stan boarded a
plane in a blink.
Originally 7 acres with “good bones” from a past garden, the landscape grew over the next 15 years, as the Frys purchased four adjacent
properties, bringing the total to 15 acres. Apparently, a peony hybridizer once gardened on the land — some of the peonies-in-residence
were still labeled as to their pedigree and birth date. After tidying up
what he was given, Fry figured the property had further potential, so
he called landscape designer Gordon Hayward of Hayward Gardens
in nearby Putney, Vermont. Since that initial phone call in 1994, the
Hayward/Fry collaboration continued full steam ahead to this day.
Throughout all the projects that followed (Fry figures that Hayward
has worked on 30 to 40 installations), the guiding principle has been
to honor the historic roots of the place. So a certain formality prevails:
The axis, vistas, generous use of boxwood, and cooing doves (with corresponding dovecote) all stem from deep-seated gardening traditions.
Hayward divides his time between the United States and a home in
England. “Everything I learned in Britain prepared me for this,” Hayward says, referring to the linearity Fry prefers. Remaining faithful to
the past is paramount, but that doesn’t imply slavishly denying cur-