Distant Hill Gardens in the News

“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” Maya Angelou

Standing Tall

We are proud to have had two magazine articles published in 2012 highlighting Distant Hill Gardens and our Stone Circle. And we were named Cheshire County Conservation District's 'Educator of the Year' for 2014 and the New Hampshire Association of Conservation District's Educator of the Year for 2015.

The outdoor fire pit ‘living room’ at Distant Hill Gardens.

A Year at Distant Hill

An article about Distant Hill was published in New Hampshire Home magazine in the January/February 2012 issue.


The Stone Circle at Distant Hill Gardens in Walpole, New Hampshire.

'The Stone Circle at Distant Hill'

Published in the Summer Solstice 2012 issue of 'Club Meg News'.

photo by Michael Moore
photo by Michael Moore

Keene Sentinel Article About Michael Nerrie -

CEO (Chief Environmental Observer)

at Distant Hill Gardens and Nature Trail


On May 18th, 2013, the Keene Sentinel published an article titled: "Walpole's Nerrie still remembers how to play" written by contributing writer Melanie Plenda. Check it out below...


Michael Nerrie sitting on a large sitting-stone inside the Stone Circle at Distant Hill Gardens
photo by Michael Moore

Michael Nerrie of Distant Hill Gardens is show here accepting the 2015 award from Linda Brownson, the president of the NHACD.
Michael Nerrie accepting the 2015 NHACD Educator of the Year Award.

Educator of the Year Award


Distant Hill Gardens received the 'Educator of the Year Award' from the Cheshire County Conservation District (CCCD) in 2014, and from the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts (NHACD) in 2015 for our efforts to educate the public on the advantages of conservation through our many environmental and horticulture based workshops and talks.



5th-graders Kaleb Lawrence, left, and Riley Leining partner up on the construction of their bee houses. The bee houses were bulit under the guidance of Michael Nerrie, chief environmental observer of Distant Hill Gardens in Walpole.
5th-graders Kaleb Lawrence, left, and Riley Leining partner up on the construction of their bee houses.

Bee House Building with

Alstead School 5th-graders


Keene Sentinel Article

Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2016 



The 5th grade at Vilas Middle School in Alstead, NH, built bee houses for native reed-nesting bees recently under the guidance of Michael Nerrie, Chief Environmental Observer (CEO) at Distant Hill Gardens.


The sugarhouse overlooks a beautiful landscaped pond.
The sugarhouse overlooks a beautiful landscaped pond.

'A Visit to Distant Hill'

Posted in the online magazine 'Only in New Hampshire'

July 09, 2016 by Kelly A. Burch


At Distant Hill Gardens you’ll experience natural areas, stunning gardens, and plenty of wildlife just waiting to wow you.


A trip here is a nature lovers dream come true. Have a peak!


The following is an article written by

Michael Nerrie for the 'Home & Garden' magazine of the Keene Sentinel newspaper.

Landscaping for Wildlife

 Gardening with a Purpose


"Biological diversity is the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it."

E.O. Wilson



Old School Landscaping


Thirty years ago, when my wife Kathy and I began developing our Walpole property we would later name Distant Hill Gardens, our very first purchase of plants was the New Hampshire State Nursery ‘Song Bird Package’. We were excited when the bare-root seedlings arrived that spring and we quickly planted them with high hopes for their future growth. Little did we know that years later the multiflora rose, autumn olive, and oriental bittersweet the State Nursery sold us in 1988 would all be placed on the New Hampshire list of non-native invasive plants!


In 1990 we began working on the ornamental gardens at Distant Hill in earnest. In those early gardening years our winters were spent thumbing through nursery catalogs looking for trees, shrubs, vines, groundcovers, and perennials that offered the showiest flowers, the longest bloom time, the best fall color, and all with the promise of little or no insect damage. Looks were everything!


We were following the accepted definition for landscaping at the time: to improve the aesthetics of a property by including visually beautiful, unblemished plants within the landscape. The relationship of the plants in the landscape to the overall ecosystem and its biodiversity was rarely discussed.


Looking back on it now, it is hard to believe that the terms “invasive”, “native”, and “biodiversity” were not in the landscaping lexicon of the time. As late as 1998, the year I completed the New Hampshire Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program, there was still no mention of the advantages of landscaping with natives plants, no discussion of invasive plants, nor any talk about the importance of biodiversity.


Landscaping Redefined


Thankfully, over the past decade the focus of landscaping solely on aesthetic criteria has been slowly changing. We are beginning to realize that the plants we include in our gardens can meet our need for a visually beautiful landscape and still play an important role in improving biological diversity.


This new shift in thinking often recommends the planting of only native plants in our gardens. Studies have show that native plants tend to support more caterpillar and insect species and therefore will draw more wildlife and be more beneficial to the ecosystem in general than alien plants. I feel, however, there is a problem with the vague and varied definitions of “native” used by the many voices in the discussion. Some gardeners are purists and follow their definition of “native” to the letter, not taking in to account a non-native plant’s attributes and ability to add to biological diversity and a functioning habitat for wildlife.


Doug Tallamay in his landmark book ‘Bringing Nature Home’ discusses using a functional definition of "native" as opposed to a chronological or geographic definition. Instead of thinking of a native plant as one that grew here prior to a certain date, such as before European colonization, we should think of a native plant as one that has evolved in a location long enough to be able to establish a specialized relationships with the ecosystem. It doesn’t really matters how long a plant has been present. What matters is that a plant is a functioning part of the ecosystem as a whole. As Tallamay states: “Let nature define nativity”.


A good example of this is the common or purple lilac (Syringa vulgaris) a flowering shrub native to the Balkans in Eastern Europe and brought here by the colonists. Common lilacs are alien plants if you are using either the chronological or geographic definitions for a non-native. However, lilacs are known to support 40 species of native caterpillars and are more valuable in that regard than many true native plants. I can’t imagine our New England landscape without our New Hampshire State flower, the purple lilac, and neither can the caterpillars and butterflies that now depend on this non-native alien!


Gardening With a Purpose


In designing our landscape at Distant Hill Gardens, we are still concerned with providing a diversity of visual form, texture, and color to the garden for the human eye, but we believe that we as gardeners can play an important role in sustaining local biological diversity by providing a diversity of plants, both natives and well-vetted non-natives. Although we have just begun to scratch the surface in our understanding of the interactions between our gardens and the natural world in which we live, what is becoming clear is that the greater the diversity of well-chosen plants we include in our landscapes the greater the overall biological diversity.


For too long we have considered our landscapes to be visually beautiful sanctuaries, separate from nature. It's time to step back and realize the larger role our gardens play in sustaining the diversity of life that is essential for a healthy and beautiful world.

Michael Nerrie


April 8, 2016

The following is an article written by Michael Nerrie for the June Blog posting of the Cheshire County Conservation District


Michael was an Associate Supervisor for the CCCD

Local Pollinators Need Our Help!
Pollinator populations worldwide are in decline, and they need our help. Whether you have 100 acres of land or just a small garden plot, there are a number of things you can do to encourage diversity and abundance of these vitally important creatures in the landscape:
Develop a Wildflower-Rich Garden
  • Provide a diverse assortment of nectar and pollen-rich flowers.
  • Incorporate caterpillar host plants, such as milkweed, for butterfly and moth larva.
  • Include a variety of flowering shrubs, trees, perennials, and annuals that bloom from spring to fall.
  • Use flowers of different sizes, shapes, and colors to attract the largest number of pollinator species.
  • Plant in clumps, rather than single plants. Pollinators will be able to visit more blooms.
  • Look for a sunny site when choosing a location for your planting.
  • Minimize your lawn area. And mow what lawn you do have less often and higher, allowing some of the shorter wildflowers such as white clover to bloom.
  • ‘Ditch the Doubles’ Hybridized double flowers are much harder for pollinators to use.
  • Use more native plants. They often attract more pollinators than non-native plants.
Provide Pollinator Nesting Sites
  • Leave patches of bare soil in you yard. The majority of native bees are ground nesters.
  • Include grasses and overgrown areas for nesting and cover sites for pollinators and beneficial insects.
  • Don’t clean up all plants in the fall. Some insects will use them to overwinter.
  • Build or buy some bee nesting boxes. Many native bees will thank you.
Just say NO to Pesticides and Herbicides
  • Most insecticides are highly toxic to pollinators. Try a nonchemical solution to insect problems by promoting and/or purchasing beneficial insects such as ladybugs.
  • Avoid using herbicides. Many weeds, such as the non-native dandelion, are an important spring nectar and pollen source for pollinators.
  • All wildlife, not just pollinators, benefit from the absence of insecticides and herbicides in their habitats.
The CCCD Takes Action for Pollinators
A number of groups nationwide have begun work on slowing, and hopefully reversing, the precipitous decline of pollinator populations. At the forefront of the local effort is the Cheshire County Conservation District (CCCD). It began its ‘Pollinator Habitat Initiative’ in 2013 as a way to help landowners manage their property for native pollinators, and to increase awareness of the importance of pollinators and pollinator conservation. The Conservation District received two major grants to install, maintain, and monitor more than 20 pollinator habitat sites around the county. It is still early, but the data the CCCD has collected so far from its pollinator sites regarding pollinator numbers and species diversity is encouraging. 

The following is an article written by

Michael Nerrie for the April Blog posting for the

Cheshire County Conservation District.


Michael was an Associate Supervisor for the CCCD


Welcoming Spring

 One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of March thaw, is the Spring.” ~ Aldo Leopold


Spring is Coming...


Here at Distant Hill Gardens & Nature Trail, in the hills of southwestern New Hampshire, over three feet of snow fell in the month of March. Although the calendar tells me that the season of renewal is upon us, gazing out a window at the head-high snow banks lining our driveway makes me think that spring will never arrive. But there is hope, for the early sounds of spring are in the air - literally!


As they typically do in early March, a large flock of red-winged blackbirds returned to Distant Hill. And they made their presence known in no uncertain terms. Singing from the tops of trees, the simultaneous clamor of hundreds of these avian songsters couldn’t be ignored. The cacophony of songs and calls of these early spring migrants was, at times, almost deafening. But after a long silent winter, I find the rich musical ‘conk-a-ree’ of the male red-winged blackbird to be an uplifting sound, no matter the decibel level.


Another sound of the season heard recently here at Distant Hill, a sound not heard since fall, was the ‘honk’ of Canada geese. The ponds were still mostly frozen when they arrived, but the few patches of open water here and there were irresistible to these migrating waterfowl. Heard in spring, their honking is yet another promising sign that warmer weather will prevail. Heard in fall however, their somewhat harsh refrain is a bit foreboding!


Spring Has Arrived!


But the sounds that I most eagerly await each spring, the sounds that prove to me that winter is truly over, come not from the sky above but from two species of native frogs: the wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) and the spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer). Both of these harbingers of spring freeze solid during the cold winter months, but as our wetlands and vernal pools begin to thaw, so will these cold-hardy amphibians. Even before all the snow and ice has melted, a loud chorus of newly awakened spring voices will be heard.


Often heard but seldom seen, spring peepers are the most vocal of these two frog species. In small numbers the ‘peep’ of the diminutive, inch-long ‘Pinkletink’ (its common name on Martha’s Vineyard) is soothing and melodious. But in a large army (the term for a group of frogs), the collective sound can be unbelievably loud.


The wood frog, although twice the size of its smaller cousin, has a call that is a much more restrained. And, unlike spring peepers who will breed in any wetland including permanent water bodies such as ponds or lakes, the wood frog breeds exclusively in seasonal vernal pools. They spend most of the year in wooded uplands, migrating to these ephemeral pools during the first rains of spring to breed. The males call to the females with a distinctive ‘quack-quack’, described by some as “ducks in the woods.”


Any day now, when we get a big soaking evening rain with temperatures above 40 degrees, the amphibian migration to vernal pools and ponds will begin. The sound of wood frogs and peepers will be the confirmation that we all have been waiting for: confirmation that spring has finally, truly, and definitely arrived!


Michael Nerrie  04/04/2018

One Of The Most Underrated Summer Destinations In New Hampshire


Here’s an article from July 2020 about Distant Hill Gardens written by Michelle and posted online to the website Only in New Hampshire