Named after the Scottish word for rocky upland pastures, The Fells is situated on a nearly 1,000-acre hillside overlooking scenic Lake Sunapee. It is the former lakeside summer home of American writer and diplomat John M. Hay (1838-1905). Hay’s son Clarence inherited the property and along with his wife Alice Appleton Hay, transformed the rock pasture into extensive formal and informal gardens.
Historic guided tours of the gardens are conducted once daily at 11am, Wednesday through Sunday, mid-June through mid-August. Garden tours are included in the price of admission. The gardens are open during regular hours year-round for self-guided tours and leisurely strolls.
The Perennial Border
Located on the west side of the house is a one hundred-foot-long stone wall that provides structure for a dazzling perennial border featuring iris, delphinium, hollyhocks, phlox, and colorful annuals and biennials.
The Rock Garden
For over 30 years Clarence Hay maintained an extensive index card file in which he meticulously noted scientific name, cultural information, source of plant material and field observations for the 600 different species and cultivars of rock garden and alpine plants that he tended. He noted, for example, that in 1928 two Gentiana acaulis were transplanted from the original Old Garden to the Rock Garden. The plants were moved again in 1935 when the Gentian section was established. He attributed the demise of the last specimen to the anti-mole gas he had used to combat an invasion. Renovation and maintenance of the rock garden is an important objective and the garden now features many of the original plants augmented with over 600 distinct species introduced during the first two years of reconstruction.
The Rose Terrace
Created between 1924 and 1927 the Rose Terrace is anchored by beautiful stone walls and a tall urn fountain. Some of the original hybrid tea roses remain, supplemented by more hardy disease resistent shrub roses, annuals and tender perennials.
The Old Garden
The Old Garden is the original garden created on the property in 1909. It was Clarence Hay’s first attempt at a formal garden layout and over the years its character has changed completely from the original sun-drenched perennial-filled formal axial layout to a cool and shady overgrown area. Over the past five years it has undergone a remarkable restoration to more closely resemble the clean north-south and east-west axes first created by Hay.
The Pebble Court
The Pebble Court located on the east side of the Main House is home to boxwood, lilacs, a yew hedge and the beautiful “Hebe.”
The Heather Bed
The Fells Heather Bed was originally planted in 1931 under the direction of Clarence Hay. It survived for several decades until in 2005, three days of intense cold followed by three days of 90 degree temperatures killed 95% of the bed. The dead heather was removed, paths added and the bed replanted in 2007-08 with 20 varieties of heather, utilizing a generous grant from the Morton Foundation and volunteer assistance from the Northeast Heather Society.