That’s a Mighty Fine Garden, Kristen Monson!

KristenI was lucky enough to visit the oasis that Kristen Monson calls her home on a quiet Sunday morning in July. Her house sits on one acre of land off Route 111 in Nashua, and the privacy was palatable, like a little cabin in the woods. When I walked to her door, I noticed a black cat skitter away, who was one of the many strays that Kris keeps fed.

Kristen was born and raised in Nashua and bought this property 41 years ago, when it was no more than a tiny cabin on the acre of property that still had an outhouse on site! She bought it dirt cheap from the then-owner of a nearby trailer park. What was then a “tiny house” in the truest of terms has been transformed into a modest sized home with lots of light in the main room, perennial garden and a raised bed vegetable garden with enough space for the many stone statues (many of them frogs!) that Kris and her partner Tom have collected over the years. In addition to the gardens, her property also houses her dog grooming business.

Kris went to art school for a short time in Boston before considering veterinary school. She ended up getting a job as a groomer, which combined her love of animals and her love of art. Kris said that she sees grooming as a form of sculpture, and has bred and shown poodles (and has the ribbons to prove it) and rode in horse competitions in the 70s. She has transferred her obvious artistic talent to her land, as it truly took an artist to find the potential in a property that when purchased, was filled with sand and rock. All of the soil for her gardens had to be hauled in, and she mentioned that she usually spreads about 7 yards of mulch per year and amends the soil with cow manure. Many of the perennials were given to her by friends and customers, and she purchases annuals locally. The brick and stone work around the properly is entirely Kris’s doing, and it is gorgeous!

Kris’s gardens feature clematis, daylilies, a large patch of sweet smelling tall phlox and cleome, which looks to me like hot pink fireworks. A star shaped mirror adds character to a door in the wooden fence, and around it climbs a trumpet flower. To the left, bright red scarlet runner beans climb up string attached to a large section of the fence. Kris and Tom enjoy the beans fresh, but also freeze them to eat through the winter. In the vegetable garden, there is oregano, a few tomatoes, mint, parsley, mesclun mix, and a new raspberry plant is getting established. Around her property wild blackberries grows, which are abundant or scare depending on the year.

Larger areas of the property are filled in with myrtle and lily of the valley, which she doesn’t recommend since they are so invasive. There is a lovely wooden walkway (like a little bridge!) that leads to the grooming business attached to the back of the house. When I commented on how much her customers must enjoy seeing her gardens along the way, she smiled with pride and said they definitely do, and a statue of a poodle welcomes them.

At the back of the property, there is an old, large brick fireplace, original to the house, but it is merely for decoration, with perennials surrounding it. Since the property is encased with mature trees, it is quite muggy, and Kris said the mosquitos can be pretty bad. Their home has a lovely screened in porch where they can enjoy the gardens and watch the birds, a newer hobby that the couple enjoys, without being munched by mosquitos all evening.

When I asked Kirsten about any “epic fails” she said that they have had no luck with fruit trees but the property is a “constant work in progress”. When asked what her next project would be, she said laughed and said “Sell it!”

Showing me faded photos of the house as it was sold to her, Kris’s much deserved pride shines through. Before I left, I had coffee in the kitchen with Kris and Tom, and I was sent off with a bagful of oregano, parsley, and a bouquet of tall phlox. She also picked me a handful of mint, which she instructed me to transform into a mint mojito. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get going on that.

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Article and photography by Holly Klump, GCCG Board Member/Volunteer

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