rhododendrons beneath the birches
Impatiens are a bright accent in a sweep of white-and-green euonymus

Evergreen In the Media

Books, Articles, and a Radio Program About the Garden

Evergreen’s annual public openings are regularly publicized in newspapers and magazines. The garden has also been the subject of two books, a public-radio program, and feature articles in both national and regional print media.

In 1996 Evergreen was featured in an article in the January-February issue of Fine Gardening magazine titled “The Art of Making Less Seem Like More: Skillful berming and intensive planting increase privacy and enlarge the landscape.”  The six-page article was written by Robert Gillmore and illustrated with sketches of berms and six beautiful photographs of the garden by Fine Gardening photographer Delilah Smittle.

The Fine Gardening article was covered by the Associated Press, which wrote:

“It’s prettier and cheaper than a fence for privacy, and it’s a gardener’s trompe l’oeil, in that it helps a small lot seem much larger than it is.

“It’s called a berm, and it’s a man-made but natural-looking ridge made of fill, topped with loam and planted.

“‘My house is less than 20 feet from the street and only about 50 to 100 feet from the houses on either side of it. Yet I seldom see these houses or even passing cars,’ writes Robert Gillmore, a New Hampshire landscape designer, describing the principle of berming in Fine Gardening magazine’s January-February issue.”

Evergreen was also featured in Robert Gillmore’s first landscaping book, The Woodland Garden, published by Taylor in 1996. Illustrated with 13 explanatory drawings and 93 beautiful photographs (including 77 by Eileen Oktavec), the 200-page volume remains the only book offering a detailed, step-by-step description of how to transform wooded land into a woodland garden. To illustrate the process, it also presents an exhaustive account of how Evergreen itself was made (a shorter version is How Evergreen Was Created). The hard-cover book also includes a lengthy “tour” of Evergreen (comparable to the Detailed Garden Description), as well as illustrated descriptions of 18 outstanding woodland gardens in the United States and Canada.

A Garden Book Club selection, The Woodland Garden was praised by the renowned garden writer and former New York Times garden columnist Allen Lacy as “an excellent and much-welcomed guide to building a low-maintenance, naturalistic garden in the woods.”

The Woodland Garden


Ten Reasons for a Woodland Garden

Part One: Creating a Woodland Garden

Step One: Setting Priorities—Deciding What and Where to Garden First

Step Two: Gardening by Subtraction—Cleaning Up, Weeding, and Pruning

Step Three: Grading—Making Paths, Ramps, and Berms

Step Four: Water in the Woodland Garden—Streams, Pools, Ponds, and Waterfalls

Step Five:  Planting

Step Six: Choosing Furniture and Sculpture

Maintaining the Woodland Garden

Part Two: A Woodland Garden Tour:  Evergreen ● Asticou Terraces (Maine) ● Pine Hill, Central Park (New York) ● Pierce’s Woods, Longwood Gardens (Pennsylvania) ● Winterthur (Delaware) ● Airlie (North Carolina) ● Middleton Place (South Carolina) ● Calloway Gardens (Georgia) ●  Maclay State Gardens (Florida) ● Bok Tower Gardens (Florida) ● Hodges Gardens (Louisiana) ● Descanso Gardens (California) ● Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden (Washington) ● Lakewold (Washington) ● Bloedel Reserve (Washington) ● Ohme Gardens (Washington) ● Nitobe Memorial Garden (British Columbia, Canada)  ● Chrystal Springs Rhododendron Garden (Oregon) ● Hendricks Park Rhododendron Garden (Oregon)

ISBN: 0-87833-924-8. $29.95. For sale with a 10% discount at all Evergreen openings.

The ideas that Robert Gillmore first outlined in his Fine Gardening article and in short sections of The Woodland Garden are the subject of his second landscaping book, Beauty All Around You: How to Create Large, Private, Low-Maintenance Gardens, Even on Small Lots and Small Budgets.

Published by San Bani Press in 2000 and illustrated with 27 explanatory drawings and 12 color photographs (11 by Eileen Oktavec), it includes detailed discussions of berms and other privacy barriers; low-maintenance trees, shrubs, ground covers, and other ornamental plants; and alternatives to lawns.

Beauty All Around You by Robert Gillmore


New Landscaping for a New Landscape: Turning Your Yard into a Private Park

Part 1:
How to Create Privacy… with Berms, Hedges, Fences, Walls, and Pergolas

Part 2:
How to Create Large, Beautiful Gardens Economically… with Low-Cost, Low-Maintenance Landscaping

  • How to Create Privacy, Color, and Interest… with Low-Maintenance Trees, Shrubs, Ground Covers, and Vines
  • How to Save Time and Money on Your Lawn… by Keeping Only as Much as You Need
  • How to Get the Most Out of Your Land… by Using What’s Already There
  • How to Save More by Building Less: Avoiding Unnecessary Decks, Walls, Driveways, and Steps

ISBN: 0-9701682-8-4. $13.95. For sale at all Evergreen openings.

Boston Sunday Globe columnist Gail Kelley toured Evergreen with Robert Gillmore just before the garden’s annual opening in 1997. Her column—headlined “Landscape designer turns his woods into a lush garden”—appeared on June 1.

“We cherish our forests but not our woods,” Kelley wrote. “We use our woods for dumping everything from yard debris to dead cars. We level our woods to create new housing subdivisions where all the occupants can plant lawns.”

Gillmore, Kelley said, has another idea: He wants us to “think of the woods as a garden and the means by which ordinary middle-class homes can be turned into small estates with all the privacy that usually only great gobs of money can buy.”

Evergreen’s privacy, Kelley noted, is the result of berms around the edges of the garden as much as 12 feet high and “bristling with rhododendrons.”

Despite “all the berming,” however, “the site does not look like a fortification or bunker.” On the contrary, “the berms look like any naturally occurring ridge one might come upon in the woods in New England.”

“A network of paths,” Kelley continued, “wends around boulders, between trees, through what Gillmore calls ‘outdoor rooms,’ bisecting a feathery drift of ferns, and traversing a fairly steep downward slope to a rock-strewn brook.

The “meandering” nature of these paths “serves several purposes,” Kelley wrote. “‘A walk in a garden should be an effortless stroll, a pleasure,’ says Gillmore.  ‘So, if you have to go down a steep hill, you traverse it or make switchbacks. A garden path is not a highway. It should be as long as possible because the longer the path, the bigger the garden.’

Evergreen’s paths lead to such features as “a cluster of boulders where Gillmore filled the cavities with loam and planted green and white variegated euonymus that now spills luxuriantly over the rocks; the White Room, …named for the green and white variegated euonymus and hostas, white-flowering rosebay rhododendrons, and…a cast iron lace-work garden bench painted white; [and] the Gold Room, with its encirclement of yellow and green euonymus and a mound of yellow and green hostas in a large concrete birdbath placed in a tangle of myrtle…in the center of the space.”

“The sense of spaciousness and tranquility Gillmore has achieved in less than an acre is both surprising and thrilling because it all looks so do-able. It is well within the capabilities of most people with woods on their property, Gillmore assures us in his book, The Woodland Garden,’”

A “handsome book with lush photographs by Gillmore’s companion, Eileen Oktavec,” it “describes step-by-step how he transformed his woods into Evergreen. He also takes the reader on visits to outstanding woodland gardens around the United States.”

“Three principles guided the making of Evergreen,” Kelley wrote.

First: “Whatever Gillmore did had to be less expensive than the conventional landscaping practice of creating a lawn with perennials and annuals and putting up fencing or a wall for privacy.”

Second, “it all had to be low-maintenance (‘Lawns with flowers are the most labor-intensive gardens known to man,’” Gillmore asserts.)

Third, “most of what he planted had to be evergreen in order to provide year-round privacy and visual interest.

“Before building any berms or buying any plants, Gillmore cleaned out the woods. ‘You have to approach the creation of a woodland garden the same way Michelangelo approached sculpture,’ he says. ‘Michelangelo said the sculpture was in the stone. He just had to chip away the stone to allow the sculpture to reveal itself. The woodland garden already exists. If you take out the dead and dying stuff first, pull up the poison ivy and prune where necessary, you will see the garden.’

“This is what Gillmore calls gardening by subtraction. Once the clean-up is done, the site will suggest where the paths go. ‘A path is more chosen than made,’ he says. The design starts with what you have.

“Gillmore was fortunate to have plenty,” including native wildflowers, “spectacular boulders (including one 15 feet wide and 12 feet tall and a split glacial erratic that forms a little cave), the brook, a multitude of ferns, and large trees.

“Another of his precepts is gardening by borrowing, based on his definition of a garden as ‘anything you can see.’ One of the reasons his woodland garden seems so big is that more than half of the trees one sees… belong to someone else.” Gillmore “has borrowed the views of his neighbors’…woods, which provide a soft green background in the interstices among his trees.

“A woodland garden, he points out, is an ecosystem, ‘a machine that goes by itself.’ There is no need to water it because pine needles and dead leaves provide a mulch that keeps the ground moist, as does the shade. This mulch is also a natural fertilizer.” Also: “Nothing has to be mowed.”

In May, 2004—just days before Evergreen’s annual public opening—John Walters interviewed Robert Gillmore about the garden for New Hampshire Public Radio’s half-hour program, “The Front Porch.” The interview aired on June 3. Click here to listen. Audio courtesy of NHPR.

After touring Evergreen with Robert Gillmore, columnist John Clayton of the Manchester, New Hampshire, Union Leader described the garden in a front-page story on June 15, 2006.

Clayton called Evergreen “gorgeous” and added: “With all due apologies to Joyce Carol Oates, Evergreen is ‘a garden of earthly delights.’”

Since Gillmore “first opened his grounds to visitors in 1994,” Clayton wrote, “more than 10,000 guests have walked along the serpentine paths, moving past erratic glacial boulders, through evergreen shrubs, past soaring rhododendrons and towering white pines.”

Evergreen “only covers an acre,” Clayton noted, “but after an hour roaming on the meandering paths, it’s easy to imagine you’re walking in the Great North Woods when, in fact, you’re less than a quarter of a mile from Goffstown’s landmark popcorn stand.”

As you walk through Gillmore’s garden, Clayton continued, “you can feel the passion he brings to his work.”

“‘Notice the amphitheater effect,’” Gillmore said “as he pointed up the slope. ‘Because of the grade, the plants in back aren’t absorbed by those in front.  This grade was easy to design, because the land told me what do.’”

Evergreen’s plants, according to Clayton, combine to form “a lush carpet, a glorious mass.”

“If I’m making it sound as if there’s a zen-like quality to Robert Gillmore,” Clayton wrote, “there is. There is also a zen-like effect—an inner peace of sorts—that washes over you when you’re walking in his garden.

“It’s a riot of nature, yet serenity prevails.

“Consider the natural, seasonal streamlet that spills over large boulders,” Clayton explained.  “It’s like a scene from a Japanese garden, and its clean lines reflect another Gillmore corollary.

“‘I call it gardening by subtraction,’” Gillmore said. “‘The brook was hidden by a lot of wild honeysuckle… I removed the honeysuckle…  and it exposed a beautiful stream bed.

“‘Gardening by subtraction can make a place clean and more park-like, and it doesn’t cost anything but your labor…. To me, it‘s like unwrapping a present. It’s like the thing Michelangelo tried to explain. The sculpture already exists in the marble. In this case, it’s the woodland garden. The potential is in the site, but you have to realize it.’

“I realized that I could have spent the entire day roaming about Evergreen. It is an intoxicating place….

“You can find out more” about Gillmore’s landscape philosophy in his books, Clayton wrote.

“But even better than the books?

“Visit Evergreen….

“A little piece of paradise awaits.”

In 2009, Evergreen was the subject of a five-page article in the May/June issue of New Hampshire Home.

The author, New Hampshire garden columnist Robin Sweetser, wrote that “a visit to Evergreen is truly inspirational.”  She said Robert Gillmore has “transformed a shaded, rock-strewn hillside into an elegant woodland paradise.”

Titled “Made for Shade,” her article was lavishly illustrated with five images by the magazine’s photographer, John Hession.

In a story in the Manchester Union Leader on May 29, 2007, reporter Stephen Beale wrote:

“Robert Gillmore is a landscape designer who practices what he preaches.

“‘In gardening, consult the genius of the place in all,’” Gillmore says, quoting a line from a poem by Alexander Pope.

“In other words, work with the landscape to bring out its hidden potential for beauty. Where he lives, that means sculpting his garden around the soaring white pine trees and glacial rocks that dot his property.”

“‘It’s a process I call gardening by subtraction,’ Gillmore said. ‘It could be called grooming.’ Removing dead wood, saplings, and other underbrush and replacing them with the low-lying ground cover makes the trees look taller and the rocks bigger.

“Meanwhile,” Beale added, “tufts of native ferns and clumps of rhododendrons…hedge in smaller spaces that function as outdoor ‘rooms.’”

“Worn foot paths that wind throughout the wooded hill accord plenty of walking for visitors. Although the land is less than an acre…there is nearly a quarter of a mile of trails, according to Gillmore.”

“The trails wrap around a small brook,” which cascades over mossy rocks and “down a steep incline into a small, still pool.”

“Before Gillmore got to it, the brook was blocked from view by a thicket of honeysuckle bushes. He pulled them all out save one. ‘Nature gives you presents and if you care you can unwrap the presents,’ he said.”

In 2010, when Evergreen began participating in the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program, reporter Kathleen D. Bailey interviewed Gillmore for a story in the June 22 Union Leader.

Gillmore “knew he had to do something with the rich natural landscape surrounding his home,” Bailey wrote, so he “created Evergreen, an ‘idealized woodland’ of mature white pines, broadleaved evergreen shrubs, evergreen groundcovers and other low-maintenance, shade-tolerant plants.

“But Evergreen proved to be too good to keep to himself, and Gillmore began opening it to the public the first weekend in June. This year he’ll show it off two more times, as a participant in the open garden days sponsored by the Garden Conservancy. Eleven of the finest private gardens in the Manchester and Monadnock regions will open their gates this Saturday and Sunday” as part of the Conservancy’s annual exhibition.

“Gillmore bought the property that would eventually become Evergreen in 1983. ‘I discovered, by incredible luck, that I owned a great site,’ he said. While he hadn’t much of an interest in landscaping, the property called out to him, and ‘it became an additional career.’”

“Gillmore’s own garden is a result of ‘overriding nature,’ he said with a laugh. ‘I decided to use what nature provided.’ He found plenty to work with in the site’s old-growth trees, boulders, stream, and native plants such as ferns.”

“‘It’s gardening by subtracting,’ Gillmore said, ‘looking at what nature provides and enhancing it, which results in a very powerful landscape design.’”

Gillmore was also interviewed by John Andrews for a story in the May 31-June 6, 2007 edition of the Hippo, Manchester, New Hampshire’s weekly tabloid publication.

“Evergreen,” Andrews wrote, “is located on just one acre of land,” but it seems “much larger.” It illustrates “how a secluded space can be created on even a small property. Berms as high as 12 feet ring the area, shielding it from neighbors and roads in a way that looks like a natural, hilly forest.”

Berms are “‘not obvious privacy barriers like fences and walls and hedges,’” Gillmore said.

Many “‘residential gardeners just don’t know about berms,’” Gillmore added. “‘Landscape architects presumably know about them, but they haven’t become mainstream, and they ought to be.’”

Allen Lessels spoke with Gillmore for a piece about Evergreen in the Early Summer, 2007, issue of the gardening magazine People Places & Plants titled “Gracious Grooming in the Woods.”

“‘People just don’t think of the woods as a garden and potential garden,’” Gillmore told Lessels. “‘It’s like the dark side of the moon—it just isn’t on their screen.’”

Lessels’ piece was illustrated with a stunning photo of Evergreen’s tall pines soaring elegantly above its large, lush sweeps of hay-scented ferns. The photo, by Eileen Oktavec, captures what Lessels called “the showcase” that Evergreen “has become.”

In 2011, Sarah Lebrun, editor of the weekly Goffstown News, spoke with Gillmore just before Evergreen’s annual public opening on the first weekend in June.

In a story on June 2, she noted the garden’s “quarter-mile of paths zigzagging throughout the property,” adding that “many visitors do not realize Evergreen is only a one-acre garden, thinking it is two or three times the size.

“’Because there are all these paths, it takes a relatively long time to walk through the garden,’” Gillmore explained. “‘So by the time people are done,’” they think “‘it’s a large space.’

“Gillmore said the garden also appears larger than it is due to ‘visual borrowing.’ The landscape is everything you see, not just the land the garden is on,” Gillmore says. “So as visitors wander through the garden, they…also take in views of neighboring land, which includes woods and cliffs.

“Gillmore bought the…property in the 1980s, before he was interested in landscaping, but it was the topography, rocks, ledge and stream…that inspired him to landscape the yard.

“‘It’s exciting to make beauty,’ said Gillmore. ‘If you incorporate’” the site into the design, “‘you will exploit’” its “‘ornamental assets….That’s what I did in Goffstown.’”

The syndicated gardening columnist and gardening book author Henry Homeyer visited Evergreen just before its annual opening in 2003.

“I have always been fond of woodland gardens,” Homeyer wrote. “I grew up on a property that had an acre or two of hardwood trees with a clearly defined path meandering through it. There was a brook with a little bridge by a pool, and a marble bench in a spot where the forest ceiling was as high as a cathedral’s.” So “it was not surprising that I would love the woodland gardens of Bob Gillmore.”

“I met Gillmore this winter, and read two of his books. They made me want to see the garden.”

“His property, which is just under acre, is blessed with glacial boulders, a stream and a stand of huge pine trees. But he has nearby neighbors, and he didn’t want to see them or hear noise from the street. He figured out how to block all that out, and without fences or hedges.

“Instead, Gillmore built earthen berms. He defines a berm as a ‘linear mound of earth…shaped like a miniature mountain range, with an undulating crest, (some) slopes that are steeper than others, and convex spurs and concave creases.’ His berms, unlike others I have seen, are not just big lumps of soil covered with grass or day lillies.”

Evergreen has regularly received extensive coverage in the Manchester Union Leader, which circulates in Goffstown and other Manchester suburbs. It’s both New Hampshire’s largest newspaper and its only statewide daily.

Two memorable examples:

► In 1995—just one year after Evergreen was first opened to the public—Union Leader reporter Tammy Annis interviewed Robert Gillmore for a major feature story, which appeared on June 25.

The two-page article was illustrated by a huge color photo, by Eileen Oktavec, of blooming pink rhododendrons covering the berm along the driveway, the highest berm in the garden.

► Evergreen’s 18th annual public opening was heralded on the front page of the Union Leader on May 31, 2011. Above the nameplate, at the very top of the page, a two-line headline announced:

“Goffstown’s woodland garden
Open to the public this weekend/Page C1”

Just to the left of the headline, a color photo showed Robert Gillmore striding up the path to the driveway; Gillmore is surrounded by large sweeps of rhododendrons and variegated white-and-green euonymus on both sides of the path.

A larger version of the photo (by Union Leader photographer Bob Lapree) appeared on the front page of the Home section (page C1). Directly beneath the photo, and above a story about Evergreen, another headline announced the opening of the “Noted” woodland garden.

Massed rhododendrons create vast sweeps of color

Photo by Eileen Oktavec

Massed rhododendrons create vast sweeps of color