When the Farm was owned by the Sanborn Family, there was a big vegetable garden roughly where the old carriage barn now stands next to the Barden Barn. Because the vegetable garden was close to the main barn, it was easy to supply it with manure generated by the animals. Local excavator Ken Magoon was once paid in garden topsoil for an excavation job he did for John Sanborn — cash was short in those days. Without its topsoil, the old garden site was no longer useful.
When Colin and Paula first moved to Loudon they planted an herb and vegetable garden outside the mud room door. Over time it was enclosed by a picket fence and featured a knot garden – a garden of formal design in a square frame — with a stone post that had an ornamental heron mounted on top. Thanks to Bill Veilllete (a member of both the Farm‘s and the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance board of directors), antique cobble stones that had been salvaged from the “Big Dig” on Boston’s Milk Street were used to make stone paths through the garden. For several seasons, dyer’s herbs were the focus of the garden: woad, weld, madder, Hopi amaranth (used to make red dye), and false indigo (Baptisia australis) flourished.
Colin’s father, Francis H. Cabot, was a renowned gardener who built famous gardens throughout the latter half of his life, at Les Quatre Vents in Charlevoix, Quebec, and at Stonecrop in Cold Spring, NY. (There exists a documentary film called The Gardener about his life and work with plants). When he first visited Sanborn Mills Farm, Francis suggested that the top of the hill behind the Main House would be an excellent place to build a house in the Georgian style surrounded with accompanying gardens. When he learned that the site was under a conservation easement, he then turned his attention the very steep bank into which the Main House was nestled. He quite forcefully urged that the bank be removed. Initially Colin and Paula resisted such a drastic move. However, they, like him before them, are victims of what he liked to call the “edifice complex”: the desire to have a project underway at all times. Since then, the furnace building, the outdoor bread oven, and the great room and dining room in the house have been built where the hill once stood.
A beautiful formal garden featuring terraced dry-laid rock walls, a wall-mounted fountain, and a waterfall. Plantings include clerodendrum, epidemium, hosta, clematis, butterbur (Petasites japonicus), beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), honeysuckle (Lonicera), viburnum, ornamental grasses, Japanese maples, and clumps of peonies and iris.
The Stream Garden
The tailrace of the Sawmill and the spillway from the sawmill pond create a little island where it is always cool in the summer and is an ideal place for a shade garden of mostly native plants. Designed by Bill Noble, the Stream Garden is planted with wildflowers, ferns, marsh marigolds, etc. Already it is a special corner of the Farm unlike any other.
The Meadow Garden
In 2018, 7,250 spring bulbs were planted on the hillside meadow between the old Blacksmith Shop and the Main House up above, including daffodils, jonquils, narcissus, glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa), scilla, wolf’s bane (Aconite), and Martagon lilies (Lilium martagon). Later, seed for lupine and poppies were scattered over the bulbs. There are nine apple varieties and two quince trees planted 30 feet apart and under-planted with comfrey.
The Dye Garden
In 2020, a small garden was planted to grow Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria), rudbeckia, marigold, madder, and weld. The garden has since been expanded to include black hollyhock, coreopsis, Hopi sunflower, and calendula. The plants in the dye garden supply the new dye studio, which opened in the spring of 2022, with natural pigments for use in workshops.
The Sally Garden
Named after the Latin word for willow, Salix, which is anglicized as Sally, The Sally Garden was planted in the wettest section of the field just beyond the Barden Barn in 2019. With about 100 cuttings of seven different varieties of willow, the garden will provide materials for future willow workshops. Each spring the long willow rods are harvested using a technique called coppicing and stored for future use.
The Sanborn Kitchen Garden
The Sanborn Kitchen Garden consists of a series of slightly raised garden beds between grass paths in a geometric pattern that can be appreciated from the workshop spaces in the Sanborn Barn above. Colin and Paula believe the exercise they get while tending the garden is extremely important for both physical and mental health. The Kitchen Garden provides fresh herbs and greens for the kitchen and dining room that look over it.