Generational Gardens

On close to 200 acres in southwestern New Hampshire, a daughter adds beautiful new gardens while caring for and enhancing many her mother had created.
Julie Middleton and Barry West

Energetic Brittany spaniel Miss MoneyPenny takes a short break from chasing chipmunks to pose with homeowners Julie Middleton and Barry West in front of the crescent garden.

In the Monadnock region you don’t have to venture too far off the beaten track to discover old farms with beautiful vistas and well-kept gardens. Tucked into the side of Temple Mountain, Beechwood Farm offers a view of distant hills to the south. The area was once heavily wooded. “It was a full-fledged beech forest until the Hurricane of ’38 flattened it,” says homeowner Julie Middleton.

Today there are still plenty of beech trees along with other hardwoods around the edges of the 170-acre tract to act as a reminder of where the farm got its name, and they are ablaze with color in autumn. Middleton’s parents, Richard and Gertrude Odell, ran a poultry and dairy farm there for 50 years, with the last 100 cows being sold off in the 1980s. Even after her husband passed away, Gertrude stayed at the farm she loved, caring for the gardens she planted. A registered nurse, she volunteered as a health educator until she was 90 years old, and she lived to be 103.

Middleton and her husband, Barry West, are now the stewards of this cherished family property. They have renovated the original antique Cape farmhouse, built several additions onto it, and added many new gardens while caring for and enhancing the existing ones that Middleton’s mother created.

Gertrude’s Gardens

Gertrude's Gardens

Gertrude’s corner garden, next to the driveway, contains many of her original plantings, including foxglove, lady’s mantle, salvia, lamb’s ears and lots of roses.

Guests at Beechwood are welcomed by a corner garden that Gertrude Odell planted near the driveway. In the shade of an old maple tree, it is anchored by several large native rhododendrons skirted with hostas, ferns, astilbe, hollies and heuchera. Lamb’s ears, alliums, foxglove, salvia, pink roses, lady’s mantle and many self-sown flowers fill the sunnier edges. Magnificent urns from France and a statue of Venus add a classical touch to this informal country garden.

Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden, with its weathered bronze armillary ladie’s sphere, was shaded by a huge maple in Gertrude’s day, but now it is bathed in full sun.

On the opposite side of the house is Gertrude’s kitchen garden, so-called not because it produces vegetables, but because it is best seen from the kitchen windows. Only a handful of the original plants — mostly peonies — remain, but some of Gertrude’s favorites have been replanted, including alliums, lady’s mantle, golden yarrow, speedwell, catmint and bronze fennel. “A huge old maple at the east end of this garden came down one night and that changed everything,” says Middleton. She took advantage of the newly opened, sunny southern exposure to add many eye-catching plants to the boxwood-edged garden, such as hybrid digiplexis, rusty red dahlias, heuchera with dark purple and silver leaves, red hot pokers (Kniphofia) and native Bowman’s root.

Heron sculpture “Sir Henri” by Tony Civatella

Heron sculpture “Sir Henri” by Tony Civatella seems prepared to take flight over the pond.

Toward fall, asters, tithonia, helenium, crocosmia and cone flowers bring even more color to the garden. Butterflies and pollinators are drawn to the season-long supply of nectar and pollen. To kick off the succession of blooms in spring, Middleton added 2,000 tulip bulbs. “The game plan was to use bright and bold colors in the gardens on this side of the house and softer colors in the garden at the front of the house,” she explains.

New Plantings

Gordon Hayward Design

The stone patio, designed by Gordon Hayward, provides seating and a transition from the new addition to the gardens. A wisteria-covered pergola helps shade it.

For ideas on how to connect the new building additions to the landscape, they called on garden designer Gordon Hayward. “My central advice was to develop a design that would enable her to live in a house in a garden. That is, the view lines from the sitting area adjacent to the back of the house would visually and physically act as a focal point to draw family and guests out into the garden. Once there, the focus of attention — supported by paths from that sitting area — would draw people into nearby gardens while leading their eye to distant views. My goal is always to settle the house into the nearby and distant landscape in as natural a way as possible,” says Hayward. “Once the sitting area and adjacent pathways were established, Julie took it from there.”

“He gave the garden its bones,” says Middleton of Hayward. Since then, she and her crew — Allison Kerwin and Nancy Ellis — have worked to flesh out the design with their favorite plants.

Crescent Garden

A raised patio paved with Goshen stone runs the length of the new additions, giving plenty of room for seating areas. A wisteria-covered pergola and a locust tree shade part of it from direct sun in the summer. Just off the patio was an established circular garden anchored by an antique cast iron fountain and existing crabapple tree. “We blew out the circle on one side, turning it into a crescent shape,” says Middleton.


Though Middleton and West haven’t seen purple martins visiting this birdhouse, West named it Martin
Mansions in hopes that, as their range increases, the birds will someday call it home. The post makes a fine support for purple clematis.

A boxwood border along the southern edge provides a backdrop for purple irises, yellow “Bartzella” Itoh peony, blue campanula, California poppies, daisies and epimedium. The dark maroon foliage of “Husker’s Red” penstemon sets off its white blossoms and pairs nicely with the dark red yarrow and red-leaved cannas nearby. White astilbe planted as an understory lights up the shade cast by the flowering crabapple, and a lavender clematis winds its way up the trunk, dressing the tree with a touch of color in summer.

The fountain adds a reflective surface and the soothing sound of splashing water. Middleton and West have a meal, morning coffee or an afternoon glass of wine on the patio, enjoying the ever-changing views and delighting in the antics of their watchful Brittany spaniel Miss MoneyPenny as she patrols the grounds, keeping invaders from entering her domain. Sight lines from the patio draw the eye to the ponds, gazebo garden and hills beyond, as Hayward intended.

The Right Bank

A new garden along the banking at the right side of the house began as a way to disguise the generator and has spread to include a new stone retaining wall and many shrubs and small trees. Four Japanese maples along with golden-leaved “Tiger Eyes” sumac, tricolor beech and physocarpus “Amber Jubiliee” add colorful foliage to the scene in the spring, summer and fall.  “The katsura loves this location,” says Middleton, “and the larch adds a different texture and green color.” Two Japanese lanterns and a stone fountain surrounded by primroses lend an Oriental flair. “This garden is not so much about flowers as it is about texture and foliage,” says Kerwin, pointing out the multicolored heucheras, hostas and hakonechloa grass flowing down the banking.

Water Features


An antique cast iron fountain is a focal point in the crescent garden.

Water figures prominently in most of the gardens, ranging from two large ponds to small gurgling fountains. “I love the sound of running water,” says Middleton. “It is soothing and creates an illusion of coolness.” But in some situations, plants have replaced water. In the gazebo garden overlooking the lower pond, an antique cast iron fountain is planted with blue-gray helichrysum that hangs over the edge, simulating dripping water. “It is quite magical,” says Middleton.


A welcoming array of pots at the entryway brim with color and texture, while the classic spilling-bowl fountain adds the sound of splashing water.

Nancy Ellis’s son Greg, a carpenter who worked on the home additions, is also the stonemason responsible for the new rock walls. A man of many talents, he dug the new upper pond that West has equipped with two fountains aerating the water. “Barry loves water features,” says Kerwin, who has worked at Beechwood for 10 years. “He is our electrical and aquatic engineer,” Middleton says of her husband. “He makes the wires and pipes disappear.” In honor of Greg’s work, the new plantings around the pond, which include ornamental grasses, shrubs with interesting foliage and perennials are called Greg’s Garden. “We planted things with big colors and big foliage that can be seen from the house,” says Kerwin. “They glow in the late-afternoon sun.”

Boats and Birds

Boat Built to Grow Tomato Plants

A boat built long ago by Middleton’s late brother is far from seaworthy, but it makes a fine vessel for West’s tomato plants.

There may be no vegetables in the kitchen garden, but next to the pond West is growing his favorite tomatoes in containers in an old, red boat Middleton’s brother built as a teen in his shop class. They have dubbed it the Boatique Garden.

Bird houses and feeders dot the landscape, drawing in the birds. They are also attracted to the diverse plantings that provide food and shelter. Orioles, cardinals, robins, finches, hummingbirds, herons and bluebirds are frequent visitors. Sensitive to the needs of their feathered friends, the homeowners delay haying the back field so chicks of ground-nesting birds have a chance to safely fledge.


Visitors are greeted at the front door by all kinds of containers holding a range of foliage, fragrance and flowers, including coleus, heliotrope, kangaroo paw, impatiens, honeybush, eucalyptus, lantana and calibrachoa. “Tall plants with striking foliage like bananas and castor bean go at the back,” says Kerwin, who changes up the pots each year. “Red cannas are a constant, and Rex begonias — the light is perfect for them.” A plant-lover, she says that she’ll try anything. “I love that Julie doesn’t shy away from big, bold colors,” she says.

The gardens at Beechwood farm are fun and flower-filled, imbued with the owners’ sense of style and good

humor, all watched over by the ever-vigilant Miss MoneyPenny. “Gertrude would be delighted by what we’ve done here, over the moon!” says West. “My mother was so busy making a living on the farm that she didn’t have time for extras, but she always had dreams. I think I have fulfilled them!” adds Middleton.



Achille Agway
(603) 924-6801

Amazing Flower Farm
(603) 878-9876

Gordon Hayward

Greg Ellis
(603) 831-1519

House by the Side of the Road
(603) 654-9888

NH Antique Co-op
(603) 673-8499

Categories: Gardening & Landscape