Peterborough, New Hampshire, is one fortunate town. Between the Contookuk River and Nubanusit Brook, it was a thriving mill town in the nineteenth century. The home of the MacDowell Colony (the first artist’s colony in the country) since 1907, the town is thought to have been the model for Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which he wrote while staying at MacDowell.
Peterborough remains a popular destination today for many reasons, among them– its charming town setting, enhanced by five uniquely beautiful public parks. Maintained by 8-9 volunteers who meet on Wednesdays during the season, these parks exist because of a relatively small group of committed individuals. Perhaps no one person is more responsible for the parks of Peterborough than Michael Gordon, who only moved to town from Philadelphia in 1989. An optometrist by profession, he has served on the Peterborough Parks Committee since 1999 and, with one exception, designed the parks.
Their history began in 1862, when Cathryn Putnam—at age 84– deeded a two-acre parcel she loved to the town —only weeks before her death. By the 1990’s, Putnam Park had become dark and overgrown, so The Parks Committee’s three members replaced overgrown shrubs and pruned mature trees. Granite benches and Adirondack chairs were introduced. The entrance garden was renovated and an euonymous hedge was replaced with Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy.’ In 2010 a rain garden was installed to help drain storm water from the adjacent parking lot.
Putnam Park II sits across the street from Putnam Park. In 1999, the Parks Committee created a 60’ by 16’ mixed border on this town lot, setting it against an existing granite wall, and named it the Boccelli Garden, in honor of the Italian family who had lived here during the early twentieth century; trees they planted still provide shade today.
When a building burned down on the site of Nubanusit Terrace in 1941— “an exceptional view of the Nubanusit River and waterfalls” was revealed. Purchased by a group of concerned citizens and deeded to the town, it is now an elegant pocket park.
Depot Park was once a parking lot—located at the confluence of the Nubanusit and Contoocook Rivers. Here, yew hedges clipped into waves lead to a pavilion recalling the train depot that once stood on the site. Teixeira Park is the newest park in Peterborough, and is designed to feel wild and also to attract birds and butterflies.
Michael Gordon’s blog, The Gardener’s Eye, provides views of the parks changing through the seasons, and intriguing glimpses of his personal garden. He blogs about the many gardens of others that he visits too. Michael doesn’t have a greenhouse, but buys many annuals for the parks from professional growers who do. If you are traveling near the Monadnock region don’t miss the chance to visit this wonderful town—you too may be inspired to share a garden with your neighbors.
Article copyright by Alice McGowan written for https://hartley-botanic.com