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Garden History

Fuller Gardens Since 1927



In 1927, Alvan T. Fuller commissioned noted landscape architect Arthur A. Shurtleff to design a garden in the back of their summer estate known as Runnymede-by-the-Sea in North Hampton, New Hampshire. Fuller was a successful businessman who created the first auto dealership in Boston. He also served in the Massachusetts legislature, represented the Bay State in Congress, and was Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Massachusetts.

In the 1930s, Governor Fuller hired the Olmsted Brothers Firm of Boston to improve the gardens and create a rose garden that would honor his wife, Viola. Fuller wanted the front garden to be more of a ‘showpiece’. Leon H. Zach, a partner in the Olmsted Firm, reports on the meeting with Alvan Fuller in April of 1938: “Mrs. Fuller (Viola) does not go into the garden more than three times a year and Mr. Fuller not more than half a dozen times, but they both get a great deal of pleasure looking from their bedroom windows over the road into the garden, seeing a great deal of people — especially weekends — enjoying its charm. The garden is known to be open at all times and apparently there has been little if any abuse of this privilege. Mr. Fuller wants the garden design revamped so that even more color can be seen from the road as you drive by.” .

The side garden, photo by David Roy

The side garden

Cherry Hill Nurseries installed the Olmsted designed “side garden” which is laid out in a circular pattern of rose beds and grass pathways, surrounding a central antique wellhead. The garden is enclosed by a privet hedge and a cedar fence upon which are trained espaliered apple trees. The rose gardens boast 1,700 bushes and 125 different varieties.

The Japanese garden was part of the original design and remains a sanctuary of serenity.

Runnymede-by-the-Sea was removed in 1961 but the Carriage house (circa 1890) still provides a lovely backdrop to the spectacular array of formal gardens.

In 2001, Fuller Gardens hired Presley Associates of Cambridge to design a master plan in keeping with the Olmsted design. The Lydia Fuller Bottomley Garden was created in 2005 and features statuary gifted to the Gardens by the late daughter of Alvan and Viola Fuller. The centerpiece is a reflecting pool with a marble nude flanked by twins rosebeds and an open grassy area.

The first Director of Fuller Gardens was Edward Brown, a master gardener who was precise in his approach. Brown began working for the Fuller family in 1926. For twenty years he served as the Superintendent. Those who worked with Brown recall hearing this repeated refrain: “Take your time and do a good job.” Brown established a continuum of care at the Gardens using his written daily diary and through careful instruction of his staff.

See more photos of the garden here →

Hours and Directions

Fuller Gardens
10 Willow Avenue,
North Hampton, NH 03862
(603) 964-5414
Closed for the season.
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