The Maple Hill Gardens, located at Beaver Brook Association, in Hollis, New Hampshire, are open to the public for daily viewing. The gardens are maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers known as the Maple Hill Gardeners. The optimum season for viewing the gardens is from April through October. Garden Tours and presentations are available.
Volunteers are welcome to help in the Maple Hill Gardens. Just drop in between 9-noon on Mondays and connect with Paula Babel, our head gardener for a task. Call ahead if you would like to volunteer on weekends. You will learn many new things as well as contribute to the beautification of the world!
THERE ARE 13 THEME GARDENS, A WILDFLOWER TRAIL, a NATURAL PLAY AREA and a DEMONSTRATION COMPOST COURT at MAPLE HILL FARM.
The Gardens Today
The Welcome Garden is the first garden visitors see as they enter Beaver Brook. In memory of her husband Kenneth, Chris Trow donated a lovely fountain for The Welcome Garden. Take a few moments to stop by and enjoy the beauty and sounds of the fountain, as you arrive at Maple Hill Farm.
Plants that can be found in The Welcome Garden include: Japanese Painted Fern, Hosta, dwarf Hummingbird Clethra, Goat’s Beard, Stephanandra, Helebore, Spirea – Magic Carpet, and Sweet Autumn Clematis which cascades over the fence.
The Herb Oval, designed and planted in 1981, features a Magic Garden, a Kitchen Garden, and an Apothecary, all surrounding the central Armillary. The armillary sphere was given to Beaver Brook by Lucy ( a founding gardener) and George Keyes in 1986, and it is accented by a ground cover of small stones and the ornamental Strawberry “Lipstick.” The central bed of the Oval features Thyme varieties. Thyme is an essential ingredient in bouquet garni and is highly regarded by bee-keepers as bee pasture, producing delicate fragrant honey.
The Magic Garden – The herbs in this bed are traditionally associated with protection from harm: Madonna Lily and Lady’s Mantle, name for the Virgin Mary; Angelica (panacea for all ills, protects against evil); Chamomile (healing); Rue (protects eyesight, power of second sight); Tansy (preserves the dead, gives immortality); Sage (longevity); Basil (divine essence, powerful protector, and in Mexico believed to magnetize money). Garlic protects against vampires; Chives wards off evil spirits and drives demons away. Parsley, on the other hand, has been associated with the Devil. Dill was once used in love potions, and Chervil was regarded as an elixir of youth.
The Kitchen Garden – These are the traditional kitchen herbs used to flavor soups, stews, and bread, as well as leafy green “sallets,” such as sorrel and parsley, that helped prevent scurvy long before our need for vitamin C was understood. Grow two plants of lovage, one for green leaves, the second for flavorful seeds. Hops has been used since ancient times for flavoring beer.
Within the Kitchen Garden are the fragrant Scented Geraniums, belonging to the genus Pelargonium. Brought to England from South Africa centuries ago, the numberous species have been much hybridized. In the fall, when frost threatens, the gardeners root cuttings to winter over indoors as starts for next summer’s garden display.
The Apothecary – Before they had a convenient corner drug store, homemakers used many herbs medicinally: Senna (laxative), Lemon Balm (diuretic), Lavender and Costmary (aromatherapy), Mother wort (eases childbirthd, stimulates lactation), Foxglove (heart stimulant), Wormwood (to expel worms), Valerian (to sooth fretfulness), Lady’s Mantle (to staunch bleeding), Aloe ver (to treat burns), St. John’s-Wort (against depression), Feverfew (for headache), Mints (to aid digestion), Soapwort (for hygiene), Costmary (for colds, cramps, bee stings), Bee Balm (against nausea and flatulence), Good King Henry (for skin sores), Santolina (to expel worms, cleanse kidneys), Achilles/Yarrow (toothache, aids digestion, rashes), Hyssop (for wounds, bruises), Catmint (for cold and fever relief, bruises), Oregano (toothache, stomachache, tea for coughs).
Champion of multiple uses, Chamomile has been grown to treat acne, anxiety, appetite, arthritis, backache, burns, and scalds, dandruff, depression, diarrhea, earache, eczema, fevers, hay fever, headache, herpes, indigestion, insomnia, itching skin, nerves, sedative, ulcers, vomiting, infected wounds.
The large flannel-textured leaves of Mullein have served as wash cloths.
Some plants in these gardens were used for dying fabrics before the invention of modern chemical dyes: Dyer’s Chamomile, Yarrow, Tansy, and Hops for yellow, Woad (leaves for blue), Yellow Bedstraw (roots for red), St. John’s-Wort for gold, rust, or mauve, and Yellow Flag Iris (roots for black) .
The area between The Victorian Garden and The Herb Oval used to be known as the roundel. In 1987, a workshop was held to redesign the roundel as a wildlife garden for birds, bees, and butterflies. Later on, the wildlife garden evolved into what is now known as The Fragrance Garden.
Plants in this garden include: Peonies, Lily-of-the-Valley, Sweet Woodruff, Lilac, Sweet Cicely and Sweet Pepper Bush. The Fringe Tree is an American species of Olive. At the center of this garden stands a beautiful Saucer Magnolia, a gift from the Amherst Garden Club in 1985.
The Shade Garden is surrounded by a variety of Hostas and Ferns, Rhododendrons, and a Japanese Maple. A large rock sits in the middle of this garden; with all its greenery, The Shade Garden is a soothing place to sit and reflect anytime of the year.
The West Bank
Nora Miller of Hollis built a beautiful pollinator garden in 2019. This garden has raised beds with benches to let visitors sit and relax It is planted with a variety of grasses, flowers and vines to attract pollinators including hummingbirds. The purpose is to directly benefit local pollinators and teach Beaver Brook visitors about the importance of pollinator species and plants.
See the before and after photos on her website.
The rockery project began in January 1985, led by Alice Simonds and Betty Wood. The site chosen for the rockery was a neglected area on the north end of a large barn at Beaver Brook. Once the site was chosen, the gardeners used the horticultural library to study rock garden plants and seeds. Plantings were begun in a greenhouse; by spring, large rocks and then seedlings were placed, thus creating Alice’s Rockery.
In early 1999, the Maple Hill Gardeners decided to restructure the rockery. Changes began in the spring with the removal of a dead tree. As a result of this change, the rockery was altered from a shady garden to a sunny one. In addition, the volunteers rearranged old rocks in the garden and brought in new rocks for placement.
Plants in Alice’s Rockery that bloom in the spring and summer are: Leopard’s Bane, Primrose, Hosta, Dwarf Iris, Bleeding Heart, Great Solomon’s Seal, and two native species of woodland Phlox. Cotoneaster drapes over the wall. Autumn Crocus and White Wood Aster bloom at the time of Fall Festival. There are several species of native ferns: Maidenhair, near the steps; Ostrich around the deck, Oak-fern along the edge of the wall, Evergreen Wood Fern, Fragile Fern in the rock wall, plus Lady Fern and Hay Scented Fern. Vinca serves as a ground cover, and Viburnums occupy the east side.
In May, 2004, the Maple Hill Gardeners worked in Alice’s gardens (at her own home) one Monday morning. The gardens in her own backyard were so beautiful! Later that same day, the gardeners stayed for lunch and ate cake, celebrating Alice’s 100th birthday with her at her home in Hollis. Alice was a lovely person.
At the grand age of 104, Alice passed away on May 21, 2008. She will surely be missed! The Maple Hill Gardeners will continue to take great care of Alice’s Rockery. May we all live to enjoy gardening and life as long as Alice Simonds did.
Before being called The Victorian Garden, this garden was known as The Gazebo Garden. The garden was designed around the gazebo, which was constructed in the 1870’s, and fenced with a replica of a picket fence that originally stood at Maple Hill. According to one recollection, as stated in Beaver Brook’s historical archives, the gazebo – also known as The Summer House -, was painted white with light green trim and had roses growing on it. In the gazebo, Mrs. Minnie Colburn (who lived at Maple Hill Farm), received guests and served tea in her summer house. Mrs. Colburn was fond of flowers, using Peonies, Columbine, Hollyhocks, and Climbing Roses in The Gazebo Garden.
In 1981, the Gazebo was reconstructed and a Victorian Garden was planted with flowering borders, which were indicative of gardens in the 1900’s. In addition to the surviving old roses, today’s plantings include: Coral Bells, Astilbe, Garden Phlox, Hydrangea, Boxwood, Mallow, English Daisy, Hydrangea, Boxwood, Bergenia, Hosta, Wild Ginger, Japanese Painted Fern, Ostrich Fern, and Sedum.
The Hedged Garden, designed in 1983, is a full-sun garden. This garden evolved from perennials and annuals that had been grown from seed and propagated by division since 1980. This garden contains flower beds with annuals and perennials and grass walkways, all surrounded by Privet and Arborvitae hedges.
Plants to be found here include: Buddleia, Crane’s Bill, Dahlia, Fescue, Gas Plant, Lamb’s Ear, Peonies, Poppies, Bluebeard (Caryopteris), Siberian and Bearded Iris, Gaillardia, Liatris, Delphinium, Lupine, Blue False Indigo, Obedience, Asters, Goldenrod, and two species of Filipendula (Dropwort and Queen of the Prairie). Many annuals are added for summer color.
The Arbor Garden, built in 1986, is covered with Wisteria vines, which need rigorous pruning in winter or early spring before new growth starts. Nearby stands a dwarf Copper Beech, a gift from the Hollis Garden Club in 1985. The unmowed field beyond the Arbor provides a nursery for butterfly caterpillars: Queen Anne’s Lace for Black Swallowtails, Milkweed for Monarchs, clover for Little Blues, and assorted grasses for Satyrs and Skippers.
During the gardening season, chairs are placed under the arbor so visitors can sit and enjoy the beautiful gardens and peaceful ambiance that the gardens at Beaver Brook provide.
Little Barn Garden
As the name states, The Little Barn Garden is adjacent to a structure known as The Little Barn. Growing up one side of The Little Barn is a plant called the Kiwi vine; little white flowers emerge from this vine each year and provide pleasure to all who pass by. The Little Barn had a make-over in the Spring of 2008. New plants, new flower barrels, and a donation board were placed along the side of the building. (See the first picture below.)
Ground covers growing in the shade of the maple tree include: evergreen European Ginger, Foam Flower, and a variegated Lamium (dead nettle). Great Solomon’s Seal grows toward the back of the beds.
Don’t forget to stop by The Little Barn in September when Beaver Brook holds its annual Fall Festival. The Little Barn is where the gardeners spend time selling their dried flower arrangements, home-made crafts and treats, in order to raise money for the plants they purchase each year for the Maple Hill Gardens. Please stop by and say hello, and enjoy some hot/cold apple cider.
History of Maple Hill Farm & Gardens
Maple Hill Farm was named by Franklin and MaryAnn Colburn, owners from 1868-1917. Franklin planted maple trees in front of the house along Ridge Road to commemorate the nation’s centennial. He also built a gazebo for his wife so she could host teas in her garden. MaryAnn and subsequently her daughter Minnie, both enjoyed learning about local flora and fauna and led nature walks for children on their property.
In 1985, the Beaver Brook office moved from Brown Lane to Maple Hill Farm. The Maple Hill Gardeners were formed in 1981 and largely expanded the original garden beds to include the variety you can see today.