Clean up at the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House, 2018
At the project’s five-year mark, the club planted a little-leaf linden at the south- east corner, still a feature, and a fringe tree, which is not. The yews, which had grown vigorously, were spaced out to extend the hedge that endures as a sig- nature of the garden. Also honoring the club’s early work – an armillary sundial for the center of the boxwood circle – was donated by a club member after it made an appearance in a Massachusetts Horticultural Society spring flower show.
In 1966, the Garden Club merged with the Plant Club. After the merger, other major projects competed for members’ attention. Landscape restoration at Fresh Pond Reservation was one. Another was the Longfellow House garden, then in shabby condition (it had not yet been conveyed to the National Park Service). A club committee continued to tend the grounds at Hooper-Lee-Nichols, but it was a low-key effort for the next two decades.
In 1987, CP&GC re-engaged with the maintenance and design of the garden. Members re-dug the front perennial beds, expanding and adding plantings. Thus began regular club spring and
fall work days, featuring raking, bulb planting, pruning, deadheading, and of course, weeding. In recognition of the club’s renewed commitment, Capizzi& Company pruned all the trees and shrubs on the grounds pro bono. Capizzi’s crews still hand-clip the yew hedges each year.
The boxwood circle on the west side of the house began to decline in the 1980s, and by the mid-1990s, the circle became a half-circle. In 2003, the struggling survivors were removed when the club won a grant from the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts to replant the boxwood garden. Unfortunately, the new plants suffered during the severe winter of 2003–04. The next year, they were replaced by boxwood salvaged from the Longfellow House garden which was under renovation. Sadly, these boxwood plants also declined, and were recently removed. The area awaits a new planting plan.
In 2010, the club committed to restore the garden’s front gate – a Colonial Revival feature (ca. 1916) that had fallen into deteriorated condition. A club member who is an architect volunteered to prepare drawings, and more than $10,000 was raised to rebuild the gate with new lighting and modifications to the entry’s steps.
Also in 2010, club members refocused on the east side of the house, where the orchard had been shaded out – an effort that involved adding edging, removing scrubby plants (including two of the last three fruit trees dating to 1963)
and planting new perennials. At the same time, CP&GC planted a pair of pink-flowering dogwoods in front of the east yew hedge.
In 2011, the club received another grant from the Garden Club Federation for the restoration of the grape trellis on the east side of the house. One of the contractors, Rocco Ricci whose own Cushing Street garden has been on the CPL Secret Gardens tour, donated his grapevine-pruning expertise after the trellis was rebuilt. In recognition of the grant, Hartney Greymont contributed a pruning of all the major trees on the grounds (zelkova, oaks, pine, and maple).
Club resources have been used to repair perennial beds and lawn following house painting (2005–06), electrical work (2008), snowplow damage (2009) and shutter restoration (2012–13). The front door’s brick pad and sandstone step were renovated in 2016, and drain- age edging along the front of the house was upgraded in 2022. Much of this work has been performed or facilitated by local landscaper Michael Hanlon, whose Blakeslee Street garden is also on the CPL tour.
Each year, CP&GC contributes financially to the trimming of yew hedges, lawn care, tree pruning and to special projects. Club volunteers meet at least three to four times annually for cleanups of the grounds, and a small group tends to the garden throughout the year.
Club goals for the HLN garden in 2023: rejuvenation of the perennial beds and the selection of a replacement tree for the ancient chestnut tree that had to be taken down three years ago.
—Lindsay Greimann & Annette LaMond June 2022