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A Visit to the Stokes Garden

July 2, 2010

Water and mountain views from Stokes Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Last weekend, my friend Anne and I drove over to the Monadnock region of New Hampshire for the Garden Conservancy open days in that area. The chief draw for us was the garden of Don and Lillian Stokes, birding experts and authors of numerous field guides and nature books. Since my friend Anne is a birding enthusiast, this garden on the shore of Powder Mill Pond with views of the mountains beyond was perfect for us.  The Stokes property, Bobolink Farm, is designed as a bird habitat, with both cultivated and wild areas, wetlands and meadows, lots of berry-bearing shrubs, and with many bird houses and bird feeders in evidence. If you look carefully at the photo above (click to enlarge) you can see several silhouettes of birds flying through the scene.

Patio seating area in the Stokes garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) The garden is designed as a series of garden rooms, each with a place to sit and its own distinctive set of plantings. This patio seating area was a favorite of mine. I loved its quiet garden setting, the use of container plantings, the water feature (in the dark blue pot to the left of the patio) and the hummingbird feeder.

Don and Lillian Stokes are gracious and welcoming hosts who clearly love to share their garden with others. When Anne asked if it would be acceptable for us to eat our picnic lunch in the garden, Lillian enthusiastically encouraged us to do so and Don suggested a shady seating area at the back of the house that featured views out over the water and where binoculars and a Stokes bird guide were set out for the use of guests.

Gravel path leading up to alpine garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) In designing the garden, Lillian and Don Stokes decided to work with the stone walls, boulders, and ledges that were already present. This gravel path, for example, leads up a ledgy hillside to an alpine garden organized around the large boulder at the top.
I was intrigued by the way that, in several places, clematis was planted to trail along the top of a stone wall. Clematis growing on stone wall (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
View of Stokes garden with sculpture (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Pieces of sculpture were placed throughout the garden – many of them, like these children at play, the creative work of Don Stokes’s mother.
One of my favorite pieces of garden art was this enormous coppery urn placed among the trees. Urn among trees (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

You can learn more about Bobolink Farm and its many resident birds and see more photos of the gardens at the Stokes Birding Blog.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2010 5:47 pm

    That urn really is gorgeous – the color draws the eye but isn’t too distracting. This couple sounds wonderful, and so does their garden.

  2. July 2, 2010 7:20 pm

    What a great garden, Jean. I especially like the clematis allowed to just tumble down – inventive use of this climber and something to tuck away in the filing cabinet of ideas in our brains. And that coppery urn is spectacular – you’re right. It’s a great focal point without distracting from the trees and the rest of the scene.

  3. July 2, 2010 8:18 pm

    Such a beautiful and well tended garden. I am so glad you got to visit. They sound like gracious hosts.

    The pathway was very well constructed…I loved it.

  4. July 2, 2010 8:56 pm

    How lovely to see these photos and read about Stokes Garden. I love the idea of a ‘garden room’. What a wonderful time you and your friend must have had exploring this place and having lunch in the garden.

    Thanks for sharing it, Jean! And have a lovely Fourth of July weekend!

  5. July 3, 2010 3:26 am

    Your pictures Jean are really beautiful of the garden rooms. I really like the backdrop of the different colours of green in that 2nd photo along with the different shapes of the shrubs and trees.

    The clematis are a great feature plant along those walls – and I see a little bit of honeysuckle too there in your photo.

    That urn placed in the shade of those tall trees is ever so artistic.

    Have a lovely holiday weekend Jean
    🙂 Rosie

  6. July 3, 2010 6:53 am

    Sounds like you had a great day trip … thanks for sharing the Stokes’ wonderful habitat.

  7. July 3, 2010 10:00 am

    A lovely garden Jean. As a birding habitat, they’re of course fortunate to have the pond and associated wetlands on the property. I like that they just let the clematis ramble. Not sure I would have thought to do that, as gardeners we’re ‘supposed to’ trellis clematis, but it seems perfect on the rock wall.

  8. noel permalink
    July 3, 2010 2:36 pm

    aloha jean,

    what a beautiful tour, loved all the different rooms, it looks like such a nice day to tour, thanks for sharing

  9. July 4, 2010 6:38 am

    Thank you – nice to know we appreciate each other’s writing 😉

  10. July 4, 2010 9:25 am

    how beautiful!! it sounds like you had a very lovely tour. i love, love the pathway they made. that is just gorgeous!

  11. July 4, 2010 10:48 am

    I love posts about visiting gardens! There are always some great ideas we can get. Clematis on the stone wall – great! I just don’t have a stone wall…

  12. July 4, 2010 4:36 pm

    That urn is fabulous in the shade there. And I can see why you’d love the patio you showed us, Jean; with the soothing sound of a water feature *and* visiting hummers, I’d probably be content to sit there all day. 🙂

  13. July 4, 2010 4:46 pm

    What a beautiful setting for a garden Jean – it looks a quite magical spot 🙂

  14. July 4, 2010 5:22 pm

    Melissa, Heather, Rosie and Meredith, I’m so pleased that I was able to capture the beauty of that urn among the trees. I think its presence turned what might have been just a bunch of trees into a grove and, in the process, created such a feeling of peace.

    Heather, Rosie, and Tatyana, I did think the clematis grown to trail along the top of the stone wall was a very clever idea to file away for future use. Of course, like you Tatyana, I don’t have a stone wall. Only in my case, it’s surprising, because stone walls are ubiquitous in New England. When the early settlers started trying to create farms here, the found the ground full of rocky ledges, enormous boulders, and rocks and more rocks — all left behind by the glaciers. As they cleared fields, they piled up the rocks and, creating virtue from necessity, used them to build fences.

    Clare, The Stokeses were already birding experts at the time they bought this place, so I think they chose it because they could see that it would be such a great bird habitat.

    Melissa and Rosey, the Stokeses really were wonderful people and wonderful hosts. These people are celebrities, but they spent the whole day out in the garden, welcoming every visitor personally, answering endless questions, and just generally making everyone feel at home. Rosey, Thanks so much for visiting.

    Diane and Noel, I wished I had managed to capture images of more of the different garden rooms. They flowed into one another, but each was also clearly delineated. I’m not sure, but there may have been a granite pillar like the one you see at the bottom of the gravel path marking the entrance to each room.

    Rosie, Thanks for pointing out some of the features of that patio area that made it so welcoming. I don’t think I had consciously processed all those different shades of green and the way that they made me reel so relaxed and as though, as Meredith suggested, I’d like to just settle in and sit there all day.

    Rosey and Allison, I’m glad you liked that pathway. There were many others that I didn’t get photos of. Another favorite of mine was a series of millstones set in the ground as stepping stones to lead from one area of the garden to the next.

    Joene, Allison and Anna, It was a magical spot and a lovely day. After we had our lunch, we walked down to the edge of the pond and were able to see lots of birds, including the bobolinks for which the property is named.

  15. July 4, 2010 10:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful visit! I would love to spend an afternoon there, watching the birds and exploring the garden. I love that copper urn, too!

  16. July 6, 2010 12:01 pm

    Thanks Jean for sharing your visits to gardens I’ll probably never get to. Your photos and narratives are always a pleasure. Love the sculpture of the children playing!

  17. July 7, 2010 8:57 am

    This is a very creative endeavor. I love the free form of the garden sculptures. They seem so natural in that environment.


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