Fuller Gardens is in full bloom, celebrating 60 years

Union Leader Correspondent
June 24. 2018 10:47PM
There are about 1,700 everblooming roses at Fuller Gardens in North Hampton. The estate garden is home to one of the largest rose bush collections in New England. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

NORTH HAMPTON — The roses at one of the last working estate gardens of the early 20th century in the region are in full bloom and the colors are spectacular.

Fuller Gardens, located on Willow Avenue in North Hampton, is celebrating 60 years of being open to the public this season. There are about 1,700 everblooming rose bushes that guests can view through mid-October, according to garden director Jamie Colen.

“There is a misconception that roses only bloom once a year,” Colen said Friday of the growing season.

Colen said it takes 14 employees to run the property. Eight are in the gardens every day deadheading and tending to bushes. Six people work in the shop.

“You don’t see as many rose gardens that get the same care,” Colen said.

The gardens are located at the former estate of Alvan T. Fuller, a bicycle racing champion who built a fortune as the first automobile dealer in the country.

According to a brochure distributed to visitors, Fuller was born in 1878 and when he was 21-years-old the Malden, Mass., native traveled to Europe to look at the automobile; an invention he had heard so much about. He returned with two French DeDion Bouton Voiterettes automobiles, according to fullergardens.org

By 1920 he had become the most successful auto dealer in the country, selling both Packards and Cadillacs, according to fullergardens.org.

Fuller went on to serve in Congress, and as Massachusetts lieutenant governor and governor.

In 1927, Fuller commissioned noted landscape architect Arthur Shurtleff to design a garden in the back of his summer estate, Runnymede by the Sea, in North Hampton. Today’s gardens were originally cutting gardens for the house.

In the 1930s, Fuller hired the Olmsted Brothers of Boston to improve the gardens, according to the brochure. Fuller asked for the roses because his wife, Viola, loved them. The trained opera singer and their four children spent summers in North Hampton. When Fuller died in 1958, Fuller Gardens was opened to the public. The estate he and his family lived in was removed in 1961 at his request and an endowment for the gardens was left behind, Colen said.

The gardens now rely on visitors, members, businesses and grants for support. Colen said they get about 10,000 visitors a year and they come from all over the world.

In addition to the roses, visitors can learn more about the formal English perennial borders in the original garden, check out the tropical conservatory and watch koi fish swim in a pond inside the Japanese Garden. A celebration of the gardens being open to the public for 60 years is planned during the annual party and art show coming up July 11 to be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Admission is free to members and $25 per ticket for the general public.

There are no advanced sales and in the event of rain, the party will be held July 12.

To learn more, visit www.fullergardens.org.

General NewsTourismNorth Hampton

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