In My Garden: Michael Gordon
Peterborough, NH

A view of the garden of Betsy and Michael Gordon. Photo by Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon, Peterborough, NH
Open Days Garden and Monadnock Regional Ambassador
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In My Garden, October 13, 2020

“2020 was the year of the garden project,” says Michael. “In addition to a new shed and kitchen renovation, we have finally made the garden and the house a unified whole. The house had an odd relationship with the garage. In order to get from the kitchen to the lower garden, one had to go through the unsightly garage. A new portico, matching the original one from the front door, was added to the kitchen door as well as granite steps and brick pathway.”

“A fir beadboard vestibule was created in the garage to create a passageway from the kitchen to the lower garden and, finally, a teak bench from Michael Trapp's shop in West Cornwall, CT made the entrance inviting and charming. My wife, Betsy, and I are looking forward to hosting an Open Day in 2021.”

In My Garden, September 8, 2020

“My new shed is nearly completed,” Michael tells us this week. “I tried to make it feel at home next to my 1890s New Hampshire clapboard house and garage/barn, which was built in the 1930s. I designed the potting bench to be several inches higher than a standard countertop to accommodate my 6’ 3” frame.”

“There are plenty of shelves to store pots, places to hang tools on the wall, and a box in the corner of the shed, specially designed to store garden stakes and poles. The window out the side of the shed offers one of the best views of the garden, which I never knew was there in my old shed. Next week, the electricity and lighting will be installed. I'll be very excited to use it when I repot plants later this month!”

In My Garden, August 18, 2020

"I trimmed the yew hedges last week, which is a turning point in the gardening season," Michael tell us. "The major labor in the garden is complete and the bones have been set for the year. I have a garden terraced on a steep slope and the yew hedges create living walls that are the backdrop for the borders. They were planted as whips only 10 inches long in 1999."


In My Garden, August 4, 2020

This week, Michael tells us that "I have finally gotten an exciting plant, Peucedanum verticillare, established in my garden. This plant has been on my radar since I read that it was a favorite plant of Piet Oudolf. It is a statuesque (taller than me at 6'3") biennial umbellifer that has great structure through autumn and was looking particularly blowsy and lovely in my garden this week. Peucedanum verticillare has luminescent purple stems and huge masses of yellow-flowered umbels that are magnets for all kinds of insects. It is often recommended that it be placed in the back of the border but I also like it in the front of the border so it can be examined up close. Later in the season, it will become more of a see-through plant and will break up the monotony of a border of just shorter plants in front and tall plants in the back."

In My Garden, July 21, 2020

This week, Michael updates us with an exciting new project! "Our house, which was built in the late 1880s, had a garage built in the 1930s and a modest shed from the 1980s on the property," he says. "When the garage was added, it was built along the property line and was not perpendicular to the house. The shed was placed at an odd angle to split the difference of the two larger buildings, which always felt off-kilter. In the last few years, the shed began to rot and was home to a series of groundhogs and skunks each spring. While we were having our kitchen renovated, I decided to make some upgrades to the property that would help link the house to the garden more beautifully." 

"We have added a new shed (under construction) with a proper foundation, which is a little larger than the previous one," Michael explains, "I have placed it parallel to the house to create the illusion that the house and garage are perpendicular to each other and on axis with the existing blue bench patio. It felt better, and more integrated to the house and garden, immediately after being framed. I'm looking forward to the finished product in the next few weeks."

In My Garden, July 14, 2020

"The English have their 'Chelsea Chop' when they cut back certain perennials in late May during the Chelsea Flower Show," says Michael. "Living in New England, I cut back asters and the spent foliage of Symphytum x uplandicum 'Axminster Gold' after July 4th. Maybe I should call it 'The All-American Chop'?"

"This is also the time when I begin trimming the boxwoods and hedges of yew and hornbeam. I probably have 25 round boxwoods in the garden. Some are planted symmetrically, while others are planted randomly in borders and in the Woodland Garden. I like to edit the garden to reveal the structure of the boxwoods in a tapestry of wild foliage and flowers in the borders. The contrast can make the garden pop and the repetition of the shape can create a feeling of cohesion in all the different rooms of the garden."


In My Garden, June 30, 2020

Michael has been redesigning his Upper Garden in the last couple of years to have groupings of boxwoods and a low matrix of perennials with tall see-through plants scattered about to provide a kind of syncopation in the border. “This garden can be seen from the street and is designed as a public garden for the passerby,” he says.

"Two important players in June are Peucedanum verticillare, also know as giant milk parsley, and Eremurus 'Cleopatra', a burnt orange flowered foxtail lily. Peucedanum verticillare is a biennial umbellifer from Italy and southeast Europe with purple glaucous stems and Queen Anne's Lace flowers towering up to seven feet in my border. Eremurus 'Cleopatra' is a bulb that has roots that remind me of octopus tentacles. I have hard time getting it to bloom a second season in my New Hampshire garden but it is worth the effort of replanting every year or two. The two different forms dance together beautifully in the late afternoon light when the flowers are backlit from the setting sun." 

In My Garden, June 23, 2020

"Allium 'Globemaster' is making a much needed contribution to the pair of borders in the Lower Garden in mid-June. After the tulips pass, there can be a lull in the garden. I like the size, height, color, and texture of 'Globemaster'. It looks wonderful with foxgloves, Salvia nemorosa 'Amethyst', and the grey spiky foliage of Onopordum acanthium, Scotch thistle."

"I like to place alliums in the middle of the borders so the aging foliage, which can be unsightly, can be hidden. I have a problem with voles and chipmunks, so I lift them after they fade, let them dry in the garden shed and plant them in October."

In My Garden, June 2, 2020

Michael, a recent addition to our In My Garden series, shared in our May 26 issue about how he deals with bulbs in his flower boxes. This week he reports that, as the daffodils fade, the epimediums beneath them are beginning to make a big impact. 

"I am becoming increasingly more enamored with epimediums," Michael says. "I have underplanted box balls with Epimedium pinnatum ssp. colchicum, a very tough, drought-tolerant ground cover. Some epimediums are clumpers and this variety is an effective spreader that suppresses weeds and looks good for a very long time."

"Epimedium pinnatum ssp. colchicum has clusters of bright yellow flowers in mid-spring. Right now, the fresh chartreuse foliage looks fantastic. Later in the summer, the leaves turn a darker green which remains a beautiful foil to the darker green of the boxwoods. This epimedium can take morning sun without missing a beat. It is a very tough and beautiful ground cover. I get my epimediums from Karen Perkins at Garden Vision Epimediums." Karen, who has sold epimediums at past Garden Conservancy Open Days, was scheduled to host a Digging Deeper program this year (which, unfortunately, has been canceled).

In My Garden, May 26, 2020

Michael sent a series of photos sharing his technique for planting bulbs in the fall and lifting them in the spring for window box displays. Once the flowers are past, he gives the bulbs a permanent home in his woodland.

“In October, the bulbs are planted in pots and trenched in the vegetable garden for the winter. This way the bulbs are tricked into thinking they are in the ground. This year, I planted Narcissus 'Falconet' with Muscari armeniacum 'Alida'. In mid-April, the bulbs are lifted from the ground, removed from their pots and planted in the flower boxes."

"After the bulbs fade in late May, they are planted in their permanent home in the Woodland Garden. One of the benefits of planting the bulbs in June is that I know exactly where to best place them with previous years bulbs.”

Michael gordon web600w
Michael Gordon

"One of the benefits of planting the bulbs in June is that I know exactly where to best place them with previous years bulbs.”