Posted: September 1, 2017
6 Maine public gardens (that aren’t in Boothbay)
Written by: Carey Kish
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In just 10 short years, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay has grown into a world-class destination, attracting more than 100,000 visitors annually. Situated on 295 acres with 3,600 feet of tidal shoreline on the Back River, the property features nine unique gardens connected by meandering paths, a wonderful permanent collection of sculptures and a beautiful visitor center (mainegardens.org). With so much deserved attention paid to the Boothbay garden, one might not realize that there are three dozen other gardens scattered around Maine that are worth a visit. Here’s a look at six of them.
Shrines grace the grounds of St. Anthony Franciscan Friary in Kennebunk. Photo courtesy of St. Anthony Franciscan Friary
St. Anthony Franciscan Friary
28 Beach Ave., Kennebunk. www.framon.net
Strolling through the peaceful grounds of the St. Anthony Friary in Kennebunk, the busy tourist hubbub just a short distance north at Dock Square in Kennebunkport seems a world away. The central feature of the friary is the monastery building, a striking Tudor edifice that is the former estate of Buffalo, New York industrialist William Rogers. An order of Lithuanian Franciscans purchased the property in 1947 and have made it their home ever since. There is also St. Anthony's Chapel and an English park embellished with beautiful gardens. Around the sweeping expanse of lawn are a variety of shrines and monuments, all inviting visitors "to rest, to meditate, and to pray."
University of Maine students tend to the Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamental Trials Garden. Photo courtesy of University of Maine
Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden
5762 Roger Clapp Greenhouses, Orono. umaine.edu/littlefieldgarden
This garden was established at the University of Maine in the early 1960s by Lyle Littlefield, a professor of horticulture at the time, for the purpose of evaluating woody ornamental plants for Maine gardens. Today, with a collection of 2,500 cold-hardy plantings, the important research, education and outreach continues. Located in the Hilltop area of campus, the public is welcome to view the rows and blocks of trees, mulched landscape beds, perennial plants, annual bedding plants and gazebo, as well as enjoy the birds and other wildlife that frequent the garden and pond. Please check the garden's use policies posted online before visiting.
A rock garden at Viles Arboretum in Augusta. Photo courtesy of Viles Arboretum
153 Hospital St., Augusta, dawn to dusk daily, free. vilesarboretum.org
This 224-acre gem has been delighting visitors since it was established by the Maine Forest Service in 1981. Six miles of paths wend through the pleasant woods and meadows, leading visitors to 23 collections. From the community forest demonstration and conifers to the Ellis Island sycamores and American chestnuts to the Governor's Grove and rock garden, there is much to enjoy. Scattered throughout the arboretum are two dozen works of rock and metal sculpture. The visitor center has more art exhibits, a wild animal tracks display, demonstration beehive and a stuffed moose.
A barn at McLaughlin Garden, a century-old farmstead in South Paris. Photo courtesy of McLaughlin Garden
McLaughlin Garden & Homestead
97 and 103 Main St., South Paris, dawn to dusk daily through October, free. mclaughlingarden.org
Bernard McLaughlin was just an average man who loved to garden, and over the course of 60 years beginning in 1936, he transformed a tired pasture into an amazing pleasure garden for himself and his wife, Rena. This sophisticated collection of perennials, shrubs and trees on a little over 2 acres of the century-old farmstead, which includes the historic McLaughlin home and barn, is now one of Maine's most beloved public gardens. Among the calendar of events and programs, the Jack O' Lantern Spectacular Oct. 20-21 is sure to fill the garden with plenty of Halloween fun for the whole family.
Hamilton House in South Berwick was built by a shipping magnate in 1785. Photo by Carey Kish
40 Vaughan's Lane, South Berwick, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday through Oct. 15, $10, $9 seniors, $5 students. historicnewengland.org/property/hamilton-house
Built by shipping magnate Jonathan Hamilton, this 1785 Georgian mansion occupies a picturesque location on a bluff overlooking the Salmon Falls River. The lovely 35-acre grounds feature a Colonial Revival garden of perennials and shrubs, fountains, statues and a sundial. The former garden cottage serves as the visitor center. Hourly guided tours of the two main floors of the house, a National Historic Landmark, feature two landscape murals, antique furnishings and many handcrafted works of decorative art. Right next door is Vaughan Woods Memorial State Park, 160 acres of old-growth pine and hemlock and three miles of trails.
The Asticou Azalea Garden on Mount Desert Island is a must-see. Photo by Carey Kish
Land & Garden Preserve
Thuya Garden & Lodge, 15 Thuya Drive, and Asticou Azalea Garden, 3 Sound Drive, Northeast Harbor, open daily during daylight hours, May through October, $5 suggested donation. gardenpreserve.org
In the neighborhood of Acadia National Park, this extensive preserve rewards visitors with two beautiful gardens. Set amid 140 aces on Eliot Mountain, Thuya Garden features an English semiformal landscape garden designed by Charles Savage, native Maine woodlands and Thuya Lodge, the former home of Joseph H. Curtis, who summered here around the turn of the 20th century. The incredible hand-carved cedar entrance gates exhibit 48 natural history scenes. A stone’s throw away is Asticou Azalea Garden, also the work of Charles Savage, who designed the Japanese-style garden with features adapted for the Maine coast. Meandering paths lead in leisurely fashion through the serene beauty nestled around tranquil Asticou Pond.