A Classic New England Barn in the Fenderson hillside garden in New Hampshire
Last weekend, as I started my vacation ( actually a 'staycation', to allow me to work on a new venture that I will announce here in a week or two - one that will change everything.), we visited the garden of Kris Fenderson, not only a friend of ours, as well as a bit of a distant neighbor in New Hampshire, but also the Kirs Fenderson the rest of the world knows, that of respected garden designer, author and an expert on the Genus Primula. Kris researched and authored on of the few guides to the Genus, A SYNOPTIC GUIDE TO THE GENUS PRIMULA by G.K. Fenderson, still a respected key to the species and available on some rare book sites, since it is currently out of print. Kris' home was inspirational, high on a mountain slope reached only be following a remote unpaved New England road up a wooded hillside on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, in an area near Mount Monadnok. This is one of those garden locations where you begin to anticipate the experience for before reaching the destinations, for like many gardeners with vision, Kris carefully selected his habitat long before building a garden. A gift the best garden designers have, like Fletcher Steele, is the innate sense to craft a garden in the perfect location,that being one that already is essentially a garden of nature. The steep, single lane dirt road that leads up to Kris's nineteenth Century home ( maybe eighteenth?) helps set the tone for the garden, with native birches lining gushing mountain streams, then deep woods of Hemlock and Beech, Hornbeam and Maple, one eventually emerges into a meadow that suddenly is a garden, whether Kris planted it or not. One cannot tell where the garden actually begins or ends, but there are hints, such s the drifts of Asiatic Primula along a stream that crosses the road, or to the really keen eye, some faded Meconopsis clump, virtually unheard of in these parts of the country, except in the gardens of Wayne Winterrowd, a neighbor of Kris' , and who sort of made the culture of the sky blue poppies from Tibet and Nepal famous for a moment, in their book, 'A YEAR AT NORTH HILL". On my bedside at the moment is their newest book, A LIFE OF A GARDENER, and in it, they reveal the secret, that Kris Fenderson was the one who actually shared his Meconopsis with them. I have never met Mr. Winterrowd, but had hoped that someday we could either meet or live as they do, knowing fascinating people, grow the most interesting plants, and live where cars cannot be heard. Perhaps we are closer than I thought. And, now, knowing the less than romantic history of the Meconopsis, actually coming from a friends' garden, I am feeling a little more 'in', and less like an outsider.