Colonial Gardening

Betsy GrecoeOn February 6th in a beautiful meeting room at the College Club in Boston, the Garden Club of the Back Bay hosted a presentation by Betsy Grecoe who took us on an exploration of colonial gardening.  Photos of her trips to Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, Monticello, the John Quincy Adams house, and the Whipple House in Ipswich illustrated the garden style of the 17th to early 19th centuries.

Betsy, who is a retired high school English teacher and was vice president of the Tewksbury Garden Club, has traveled with her husband up and down the east coast to visit these gardens as well as others.


The Beginning

Colonial gardens, at least in the beginning, were mainly for sustenance gardening – growing vegetable and herbs for the family.  Raised beds were built with boards or rocks to hold the soil.  These gardens grew vegetables we are familiar with today such as carrots, cabbage, turnips, and onions.

Most of the gardens, however, were “physic” gardens – herbs grown for medicinal purposes – and included lavender (also used as an insecticide), valerian, lemon balm, ladies bed straw (yellow flowered plant used for sore muscles), comfrey, tansy, rose hips, rosemary (used to improve memory). However, herbs, such as St. John’s wort, were also used as dyes for fabric and yarn as were black walnut hulls.  And, of course, they were also used for cooking such as chives, sage, basil, and lovage (tastes like celery).

Pleasure Gardens

The merchant and wealthy classes enjoyed pleasure gardens, which would be laid out in a geometric design.  There were wide paths with beds outlined by boxwood as well as a center treatment such as a sundial.  The paths were sometimes in a religious cross pattern to reflect the belief that “a garden affords a way to study God’s wisdom and the beauty of creation, Betsy explained.  This I didn’t know and will certainly be looking for examples of this when I next visit colonial gardens.

Gardening was considered an activity for a wise man since he needed to know Latin, math, design, and soil composition.  The garden reflected religion, morality, science, and “makes for a hearty, healthy moral home.”  I found this interesting because Eudora Welty  in her short stories of the South makes references to the idea that the condition of a garden reflects the morality of the owner.

To get the most out of the growing season, glass bell jars and hot frames were used to protect plants from frost.  Hot frames look like cold frames but use manure to heat the soil and create warmth for the plants.

Flowers you will generally see in a colonial garden include Love Lies Bleeding, globe amaranth, columbine, as well as roses.  Apparently, William Bradford brought rose bushes from England and planted them at the settlement in Plymouth in 1620.

In the better gardens, there would often also be a “folly” (small building of wood or stone used solely for decoration) in the garden, perhaps with a shade well to water the garden.  On the edge of the garden would be the “necessary,” or privy, made of brick or wood in a high-style.




Founders of Our Country as Gardeners

After the American Revolution, the trend was more toward naturalistic gardens to reflect the ideals of the new nation,  which included preserving nature and living more simply than those in Europe.

Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were avid gardeners.  Washington freed gardens from geometric design, if only by softening the corners of the beds.  He softened the driveways by making them winding instead of straight.  He insisted on growing American trees that he gathered from around the country and included red bud (looks similar to a cherry tree), maple, and dogwood trees.


Jefferson strived for practical beauty.  He placed Monticello on a hill for the view and terraced on the south side to grow vegetables and fruit for the entire plantation including slaves.  He was the first person in the U.S. to grow tomatoes, which were thought to be poisonous by the general population at that time.

The home of  John Quincy and Abigail Adams in Quincy, Massachusetts has an historic orchard and an 18th century style formal garden.  It contains thousands of annuals and perennials including the Yorkist Rose Tree planted by Abigail in 1788.  The scent of lilac trees and roses would waft through the open windows into the house.

This property was more simple and smaller than that of Mount Vernon and Monticello.  After the revolution, the open lawn was more curved than linear and with the trees planted at the edges of the lawn the landscape looked more naturalistic.

Restoring a Colonial Garden

So how does one restore a colonial garden that has reverted back to fields, especially if you’re not sure of its exact location?  Well, aerial photographs come in handy as they reveal the shadows of the outline and paths of the garden that lie beneath the grassed over fields.  Also, the owners frequently left descriptions of their gardens in diaries and journals along with drawings and photographs.  The style of the original house and similar ones in the  neighborhood can indicate the type of garden grown.  Newspapers, catalogs, and surveys of the time can also reveal a great deal.

I’ve been to restored colonial gardens at the Codman House in Lincoln, Massachusetts and the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut.  You can almost feel the presence of the original gardeners who designed and continually tended to their gardens, showering them with love and devotion.  We can see similarities to our own modern gardens especially with plants such as delphiniums, echinacea, and roses, and perhaps pick up some old ideas made new again.

We are lucky on the east coast, especially in New England, to enjoy a plethora of historical properties from our early history that often include gardens.  Without fail, the properties and gardens  are restored, maintained, and shared with the public by colonial history experts and a group of dedicated volunteers.  The Public Gardens section of this website describes several colonial homes and gardens, with more to come!

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New Gardens To the Public Garden Section of Garden Tours New England

It’s been awhile since I’ve added gardens to the Public Garden section of this website.  I’m now adding the following seven gardens:

  • Two gardens in Connecticut:
    Palmer Arboretum in Woodstock
    Hill-Stead Museum Garden in Farmington
  • Two gardens associated with the University of Maine:
    Lyle Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden in Orono
    Rogers Farm Demonstration Garden in Old Town
  • Two gardens in Massachusetts:
    Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Gardens in Boston
    Beauport, Sleeper McCann House Gardens in Gloucester
  • One garden in Vermont:
    Marsh-Billings-Rockerfeller Garden in Woodstock

I have not forgotten New Hampshire and Rhode Island!  Those gardens will be in the next batch.

I don’t think you’ll find a more interesting mix of gardens – they’re each so unique.  I received requests from members of the Palmer Arboretum and from the University of Maine to include their gardens.  They either sent information or sent pointers to information on the internet.  I welcome such requests because very often these gardens are not listed in any book or are on any garden or arboretum websites.  So if you know of a public garden that generally would not be known, please send me the information or a pointer to information and I will include it in the next batch of gardens.

Palmer Arboretum in Woodstock, CT

Founded in 1914, this arboretum fell into disrepair over the decades but was restored in 1985 by a group of concerned citizens.  Trees include a huge purple beech, a grove of false cypresses, gingko, English oak, amongst many others including a grove of Devil’s walking stick that kids will enjoy.

Hill-Stead Museum Garden in Farmington, CT

This estate took five years to create starting in 1896 and belonged to the industrialist Alfred Pope.  It was his daughter Theodate, a pioneering female architect, who designed the house and, with landscape architect Warren Manning, created a landscape that echoed that of the 18th century farmsteads.  With Beatrix Farrand, the renowned landscape designer, she redesigned the asymmetrical sunken garden with tall drystone walls, a summer house, brick paths, and flower beds.

Lyle Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden in Orono, ME

Started in the 1960′s, this garden allows you to view a collection of over 2500 woody and herbaceous plants.
Rogers Farm Demonstration Garden in Old Town, ME

This garden includes several gardens including an All-America Selections Display garden, a Japanese garden, a native plant garden as well as  a perennial border.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Gardens in Boston, MA

The museum has been undergoing renovations and expansion the past several years including that of  the outdoor gardens.  The interior courtyard garden is constantly changing its display of plants and so there is always something new to see.

Beauport, Sleeper McCann House Gardens in Gloucester, MA

The gardens here have also been undergoing renovation since 2009, restoring them to how they looked in the 1920′s and 1930′s.  They reflect the Arts and Crafts movement of the day where a naturalistic landscape gradually changes to more formal garden “rooms.”

Marsh-Billings-Rockerfeller Garden in Woodstock, VT

Part of the Marsh-Billings-Rockerfeller national park, the garden was started by Mary Rockerfeller in the 1950′s.  It reflects her love of color especially of blue.  There are also an azalea and rhododendron garden, a rock garden, and a cutting garden.

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Organizing a Garden Tour

Organizing a Garden Tour
I’m pleased to introduce another new section to Garden Tours New England: Organizing a Garden Tour.

Like many of you, I’ve gone on numerous garden tours over the years and have often marveled at the seamless organization that makes a garden tour a success. Every detail is covered from selling the tickets, to producing brochures and maps, and ensuring everyone has a good time at each garden.

That said, I’ve been on several garden tours where I’ve been frustrated with a map that is hard to read, had difficulty finding the gardens because of a lack of signs, or visited a garden that did not offer water to quench my thirst on a hot summer day.

So what goes into a successful, well-executed garden tour? That is what I will attempt to outline in this section.

For any organization, putting together a garden tour involves commitment and a lot of work. It can be a daunting task for those who have done it before and know what they are doing. It can seem overwhelming for those who have never organized a garden tour before. In this new section, I want to give organizations a place to start. Of course there will be variations depending on the needs, resources and size of an organization or community. But this section will offer a structure of tasks that is common to all and lay the groundwork for what needs to be done.

I gathered this information from interviewing people who have extensive experience organizing garden tours for their organizations. I want to thank the following people for graciously sharing their knowledge with me:

Polly Shumaker of the South Church Congregational Church in Concord, New Hamphshire.

Mary Burke of the South Church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Gretchen Judd of the Peterborough Garden Club in New Hampshire

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Tasha Tudor Books

In June’s blog Gardening with Tasha Tudor, I listed books about Tasha Tudor. Here are summaries of those books.

Drawn from New England: Tasha Tudor, A Portrait in Words and Pictures by Bethany Tudor, 1979

Bethany Tudor, Tasha’s eldest daughter, describes what it was like to grow up in the Tudor-McCready family in the 40′s and 50′s. She provides us with details of her family history not offered in other books, such as a more complete picture of Tasha’s father William Starling Burgess who not only designed yachts, but also small planes that he also built, and was a poet and storyteller. She describes Tasha’s childhood growing up in Aunt Gwen’s home in Connecticut; the bohemian existence greatly influenced the direction of her life. We learn what inspired her to become an illustrator and the difficulty in getting her first book published. We also get an inside look at Bethany’s life growing up in an old house in New Hampshire without running water and electricity with her family raising farm animals and growing their own food. Even though they worked hard as a family, Tasha also made their life almost magical with festivities throughout the year, especially at Christmas, and with activities such as marionette shows and a Sparrow Post with their dolls with miniature cards and catalogs. We learn more about how her love of Corgis began and how they inspired her work. And, finally, Bethany talks about Tasha’s move to Vermont, her life there, and the success she continued to have with her work. The book contains many photographs not found elsewhere. It is a loving tribute to a mother who provided inspiration, creativity, and a work ethic for her children.

The Private World of Tasha Tudor by Tasha Tudor and Richard Brown, 1992

In this book, we learn about Tasha Tudor, her life and work as the four seasons progress at her home in Corgi Cottage in Marlboro, Vermont. Richard Brown gives an overview of her life in the introduction from her Boston society beginnings, her accomplished parents, her life with her Aunt Gwen that shaped her ideas of what she wanted to do in life, her marriage and children, and her career as an illustrator. The book uses the four seasons as a backdrop to Tasha’s recollections of her life – memories and insights into what she experienced from a very early age to the present. It also allows the reader to see how she lives at Corgi Cottage from her love of the 1830′s with her collection of antique clothing and implements, to gardening and to her pets. We see her spinning and weaving, and learn more about her fascination with dolls and how she created a world around them that her children could enjoy. The book is like a personal visit with Tasha at her home, listening to her memories and philosophy on life, seeing how she lives, and experiencing some of the magic of the life she’s created.

The Tasha Tudor Cookbook: Recipes and Reminiscences from Corgi Cottage, Tasha Tudor, 1993

This book reminds you that the best meals are simple and basic and made with love. It’s wonderful to see the recipes (or “receipts”) that are referred to in the books about Tasha Tudor such as roast chicken and mashed potatoes, and the New Year’s dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It includes how to roast a turkey in a tin kitchen; although most of us don’t cook in a fireplace or have a tin kitchen, it is still interesting to read how it’s done. Of course, the book wouldn’t be complete without her Scottish nanny’s Dundee cake and hot cross buns. Each recipe in the book is introduced by Tasha with stories of how they came to be and advice on cooking the dish.

Tasha Tudor’s Garden, Tovah Martin and Richard Brown, 1994

Tovah Martin was a friend of Tasha Tudor and visited her many times at her home in Marlboro, Vermont. She describes Tasha’s home and goes through the seasons with Tasha in her garden, letting Tasha talk about her ideas and stories about gardening. Although Tasha says she did not plan her garden, a structure is evident with the terraces providing support and boundaries within which Tasha creates and changes garden areas as she goes along. Coming from a long line of gardeners, Tasha avidly seeks out heirloom seeds and plants. In spring, her garden is awash in all types of bulbs especially daffodils and tulips along with the blue forget-me-nots. She loves primroses and plants seeds in the fall to enjoy plants in the spring. In June, the azaleas, bluebells, her mother’s lettuce poppies, “bomb type” peonies, and many roses set the stage for summer solstice with a Midsummer’s Eve party held in her lupine meadow. Tasha works hard but has help from family and friends with whom she’ll enjoy her daily ritual of tea time; later in the day she sketches in the garden. There’s a rhythm to her day that includes milking the goats and taking care of her animals. We learn about her secret garden as well as her secrets for growing lush flowers and vegetables (such as manure tea). Her meadow is filled with wildflowers featuring lupine, daisies, lavender rocket, black-eyed susan, and echinacea. She makes all sorts of wonderful treats from her fruit trees and berries. In the fall, we see her harvesting and storing potatoes, her favorite, and other root vegetables as well as drying herbs and planting yet more bulbs to welcome the spring.

Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts by Tovah Martin and Richard Brown, 1995

This book provides an overview of the tasks and activities that Tasha performed daily to live the 1830′s lifestyle she so loved ; the word “crafts” was used in the title for want of a better word. We learn more about the 1740 farmhouse that her son Seth built for her and its contents; that everything in the house has a purpose including chests, buckets, utensils, as well as baskets she’s made for vegetables and laundry. Tovah is by her side as she shows her what she does each day over the course of the changing seasons: gardening, weaving fabric, washing, dying, and spinning wool, taking care of her chickens and goats, cheese making, candle making, soap making, cooking on the woodstove, cider making, preparing for Christmas and Easter, quilting, dressmaking, and doll making. This is not a how-to book, but rather a look at the skills that Tasha has cultivated over the decades. In the course of showing the activities she so dearly loves to do, she talks about her life, her way of living and how it has evolved. Richard Brown captures in photos what Tovah so beautifully describes in text. There’s even a beautiful photo of the blue Canton tea set that Tasha often talked about and has been in her family for centuries.

The Art of Tasha Tudor by Harry Davis, 2000

Harry Davis, who studied art, became Tasha Tudor’s business partner in the 1980′s. He provides a detailed picture of her life from childhood to adulthood, including her marriage to William McCready and their four children. This personal background gives the reader a better understanding of not only the spirit at the core of her being, but also the challenges that life brought her and how she met them. As he is an artist also, he gave an insightful overview of her artistic development from her early art education to her career as an illustrator and author. At the same time, he describes her life in the 40′s and 50′s that she led with her family and inspired so many of her works. She enjoys her new freedom in the 1960′s with her children grown and having divorced McCready. Her creative endeavors continue with her move to Vermont in 1971 where she lived the 1830′s life she dreamed of, caring for her animals, particularly the Corgis, that permeated her later works.

Forever Christmas by Harry Davis, 2000

Although this book was not sanctioned by Tasha Tudor because of an acrimonious parting with Harry Davis, it nonetheless offers a view of Christmases celebrated by Tasha Tudor and her family. Harry Davis, who has treasured his Tasha Tudor Advent calendar since he was a child, takes us through the Christmas season with Tasha revealing the rituals and activities of the season that makes the season magic for her and others. Starting with the boxwood Advent wreath that Tasha has made for decades, we see her lovingly weave through it a red satin ribbon that adorned the pews at her parents’ wedding. On St. Nicholas day (December 6), she celebrates with an Advent tea featuring Dundee cake, a recipe from her Scottish nanny. She tells how she and her children would start making gifts in the summer – all gifts given are handmade; she talks about the gifts that were special to her as a child. Harry describes her fascination with snow from a child making snow horses with her friend Rose to making snow lanterns later in life. Then there’s the gingerbread ornaments for which she is famous, having made them for the White House. She doesn’t forget the animals at Christmas, hanging doughnuts on trees for the birds and giving treats to chickens, goats, Corgis, and parrots. It all culminates on Christmas Eve when they make a candlelit trek through the woods to the creche on the stone ledge. Christmas day we see the preparations for dinner featuring turkey roasted by the fire in a tin kitchen that has been in Tasha’s family for generations. The day ends with the lighting of the candles on the Christmas tree adorned with ornaments going back to 1858. There’s much more to discover in this book whose photos of her preparing for Christmas and illustrations from her books are exquisite.

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Tasha Tudor Museum, Brattleboro, Vermont

I drove out to Brattleboro, Vermont on a rainy day with wonderful vistas of the changing foliage along the way.  I was excited to be finally visiting the Tasha Tudor Museum.  As you may recall, I attended a talk about Tasha Tudor and her garden given by Winslow Tudor, her grandson, in June.  I’ve read all the books written about her and was looking forward to seeing the artifacts of her life, especially her collection of antique dresses, or frocks as she liked to call them.

The exhibit “Frocks” goes until October 20th when the museum also closes for the season.  Because I want to get this blog out as soon as possible so others will be aware that there are only a few weeks left to visit the museum, I won’t have all the book summaries completed.  I’ll post the summaries as I complete them.

The museum is located in the Jeremiah Beal House on Western Avenue in West Brattleboro, which is owned by the Brattleboro Historical Society. The Beal House is a Federal Style brick building from the early 1800s and may have been a stop on the Underground Railway before the Civil War.

The Tasha Tudor museum occupies just two rooms on the second floor of the Beal House.  Opened in 2009, this is their third season as a museum.  Leigh Branson, the museum’s curator, warmly greets you as you enter and will answer any questions that you may have.  I asked Leigh why they were in such a small space.  She said that they wanted to start small, especially since the recession was well underway when they opened in 2009, and they wanted to learn about the policies and procedures necessary to run a museum effectively on a small scale first before taking on a larger space.  The museum has been well received since it opened and has many supporters. So in time, they will move to a larger space and perhaps be able to offer classes as well as display more of Tasha’s items from her work and her home.

The first room that you enter is dominated by an early 19th century counter-balance loom on which Tasha wove many fabrics in between cooking and doing other chores.  Occasionally, there is someone who can demonstrate how the loom works.  There’s also a display in the corner of cards, illustrations, soaps, and other items for sale.

In the next room is the current exhibit of Tasha’s antique dresses or frocks.  The exhibit includes seven of the many antique dresses that Tasha owned.  Her dress collection had been on loan to Colonial Williamsburg and most of this collection was auctioned off in 2007; Tasha bequeathed several of her favorites to her family who have loaned them to the museum for the exhibit.

As you may know, Tasha was enamored with the 1830′s and 1840′s and how people lived then.  It was a simpler time in that there was far less technology than we’re used to now.  But it also entailed a great deal of arduous work without benefit of electricity and running water.  Tasha emulated this lifestyle – raising farm animals, growing vegetables and flowers, making her own clothes – while raising  her four children in a 19th century farmhouse in New Hampshire.  However, Tasha didn’t look at this way of living as arduous; she loved the time period, known as the Romantic Era, that spoke to her soul and spirit.

Tasha loved to wear her antique dresses, which she started collecting at the age of nine, as they made her feel feminine and part of this time period.  Collectors would frown upon her wearing the antique dresses, but Tasha felt they were there to be enjoyed and wore them often.

She also made her own dresses from that time period.  She had the gift of being able to see a picture of a dress and to work out a pattern from which she could make the dress, sewing it by hand and with an antique treadle sewing machine.  Her vast knowledge of historic clothing gave her the confidence to add her own creative touches to her dresses and other items.

One of the dresses that she made was an 1870′s purple bustle dress with details such as piping, a watch pocket, and a bustle back.  She used the sewing machine to put together the main pieces and then hand-stitched the detailing in the front.

Next to it was a Pierre Deux dress in a tan cotton fabric that Tasha made in 1984.  Pierre Deux was a luxury textile and decor company that specialized in French Country style.  Tasha met the owner Pierre Moulin, who subsequently had her make sample dresses for a possible collection to market and sell.  She made the samples but the project never went further.  He did use the samples for a window display in connection with the Steven Sondheim play Sunday in the Park with George.

Contrasting with the simple Pierre Deux dress was an 1830′s antique dress next to it – a paisley floral cotton day dress.  This dress reflected the Romantic Era fashion at the time with a wide swooping neckline, large mutton sleeves, a narrow waist, and a bell-shaped skirt.  Very feminine and in remarkably good condition.

An evening version of this dress came next in brown silk taffeta.  This was likely worn for more formal occasions such as a dinner or dance, or a coming out ball for a society debutante.  Even though Tasha was born into a family that figured prominently in 19th century Boston society, she had no interest in debutante balls, much to the chagrin of her mother and older brother Frederic.  As she said, “I didn’t give a damn about that, I just wanted to work in my garden and milk my cow.”

The formal brown silk gown was followed by Tasha’s favorite dress – an 1840′s silk pink and bronze striped dress with tassels and a silk pelerine, or cape.   On the inside of the pelerine, Tasha found a tag that showed it had been displayed in the 1911 Scottish Exhibition of Natural History, Art, and Industry as a wedding dress.

In contrast to the formal wedding dress, an 1840′s wool dress that Tasha wore in autumn and winter followed.  You can see it the book Tasha Tudor’s Garden.  It had brown, red, and blue striping with hemline pleats, popular at that time.  She paired it with a wool shawl, a neck kerchief, half apron, and layers of petticoats, and wool stockings.  Even though it was rare, she wore it daily.

The last dress was a purple cotton frock with a floating panel on the back that Tasha copied from an 1880′s original.  You can see this dress in the documentary Take Joy: the Magical World of Tasha Tudor.

Prior to this dress, Tasha wore her “Stillwater” dress.  Stillwater was her imagined New England religious sect that promotes the idea of a peaceful life filled with joy.  The Stillwater dress designed and made Tasha had a gathered skirt attached to a fitted button down bodice with tapered sleeves.  You can see her wearing it in the book Tasha Tudor’s Garden.  She would wear these dresses until they were practically rags, so it is hard to find an original.

Leigh said that they want children to feel welcome at the museum and have things that they are allowed to touch.  So there are some toys, dolls, and marionettes as well as a trunk of dress up clothes for children to enjoy, allowing the adults with them time to take in the exhibit as well as Tasha Tudor books and merchandise.

I highly recommend a visit to this exhibit.  It’s one thing to read about her dresses, it’s quite another to actually see the dresses and more fully understand and appreciate Tasha’s love for the time period from which they came.  I think the museum will expand in the next several years as support for their mission grows.  A larger space will allow them to display more of the items from Tasha’s life and perhaps offer classes in the skills that Tasha used daily, such as weaving and cooking.  In the meantime, the museum will continue to feature exhibits.  The next one may be about the dolls Tasha created.

Tours of Tasha’s house in Marlboro, Vermont are offered in the summer.  These are very popular and tickets sell out fast.  Start looking in February of a list of tours.  See the websites and for more information.

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Castle Hill at the Crane Estate

Photo gallery
This would have been a fine day for one of Florence Crane’s tea parties at Castle Hill in Ipswich, Massachusetts.  Although by September, the summer season would be over and she would have returned to their home in Chicago.  Florence Crane was the wife of Richard Crane, a wealthy industrialist who purchased Castle Hill in 1910.

On Saturday, September 8th, my husband and I went on the landscape tour of Castle Hill on the Crane Estate, which took an hour and a half.  It’s one of the few grand estates left that has not been carved up and sold off.


As I have described in my public gardens section for Castle Hill, the property was originally given in 1637 to John Winthrop, Jr., son of Massachusetts’ first governor.  After a succession of owners in the next two centuries, it ended up as the property of John Burnham Brown, who transformed the house and property into a gentleman farmer’s estate with roadways and tree plantings that enhanced the dramatic views of the surrounding area especially the beach.

When Brown sold the estate in 1910 to Chicago industrialist Richard Crane, the estate was once again  elevated to a whole new level.  He built an Italian Renaissance-style villa as a summer retreat for his wife, Florence, and his children, Cornelius and Florence atop Castle Hill.  He also hired the Olmsted Brothers to design a landscape that integrated indoor and outdoor spaces, an idea popular with owners of country estates at that time.

Florence did not like Italianate villa, which she thought was drafty and cold.  So in 1924, Crane had the villa replaced with a 59-room English Stuart-style mansion designed by architect David Adler.  The house was modeled after Belton House near Grantham, Lincolnshire, England.

Crane died in 1931 and Florence in 1949, at which time the property including the beach was donated to the non-profit conservation and historic preservation organization, The Trustees of Reservations, who now run the estate and conduct tours.

Landscape Tour

The Trustees of Reservations offer both house and landscape tours.  My husband and I went on the landscape tour, saving the house tour for another day.

Volunteer Bill Effner led an informative and entertaining tour of the estate.  He has worked here for several years as well as having attended concerts at the estate from the 1960s through the 1980s.  So I think there is little he doesn’t know about the estate.





Grand Allee

We started at the Great House leaving out the back French doors to the stunning view of the Grand Allee whose half mile long hilly slope undulates to the sea.  This has undergone a restoration in the past three years with its 700 trees of mostly spruce and cedar, which had become overgrown, being replaced.  This uncovered the statuary that lines the allee and that were repaired or replaced.  Lights were installed so that evening concerts can be enjoyed.

Crane was good to his employees and staff.  So when the house was completed in 1927, his 3600 employees sent him a gift of a pair of art deco griffins, which now adorn the back of the house looking out onto the Grand Allee.  From the back of the house, you can see the Isle of Shoals on a clear day.


Richard Crane made his fortune in pipes and other supplies for bathrooms.  Timing can be everything and, in his case, when indoor plumbing became possible in the late 1800′s, he was there to supply the goods.  As Crane was very involved in the development of the estate, he made sure it had the latest and greatest in plumbing.

All of the outbuildings and structures such as walls on the estate are in the same Italianate style of the first house that was built for the Crane estate and later replaced with the Stuart-style mansion.

Maze and Bowling Green

From the back of the house, we walked over to the east side of the house.  In this Italianate walled area, there originally was a maze of arborvitae, which is now gone, and a grass tennis court.   When clay courts came into vogue, the tennis courts were moved to another part of the estate.  The grass tennis court became a bowling green for lawn sports such as croquet and bocce.  Underneath this whole area was a cistern of 130,000 gallons of water that Crane had installed to capture the run-off from the roof.  This supplied the house with its water.  The cistern was recently reactivated with the renovation of the Grand Allee.

After a hundred years of exposure to the sea air, the concrete stairs and terraces in the bowling green area have deteriorated with the surfaces crumbling.  So the bowling green area will be restored and reopened to the public for games, concerts, weddings, and other events.

The Formal or Italian Garden

On the west side of the house, the Italianate area that was a garden has been renovated, although not restored.  A path lined with hostas, rhododendrons, and ferns leads you to what was Florence’s formal garden, which consisted mainly of blue larkspur or delphinium, purple canterbury bells, and white Madonna lilies.  A pergola once adorned the tops of the stone pillars here.  There was a fountain in the center of the garden and two tea houses at the corners, where Florence would hold her tea parties.

There can sometimes be surprises even after an estate has been around for a hundred years.  Shoe prints were recently discovered on a set of cement steps leading down into the garden area.  It appears they could be the shoe prints of the Crane children, Cornelius and Florence, when they were quite young as well as the paw print of the family dog.

Continuing on, you come to what was the wildflower garden, popular in the 1920′s, that consisted of hostas, ferns, and mountain laurel.  This was not maintained.

Rose Garden

It leads to what was the rose garden, which only a photo can show how grand it was when it was created in 1913.  It also explains why the cost and maintenance of restoring such a garden would be prohibitive, at least for a non-profit organization.





From here, we walked past what was the garage and chauffeur’s quarters.  Being in the plumbing business and up on the latest technology, Crane installed a car wash with overhead pipes!

Casino Complex

Round the corner and at the foot of the Grand Allee, we come upon what was known as the casino complex.  Although we tend to associate that word with gambling, in fact the word means “small house” in Italian.  These Italianate buildings were designed to house single male guests, who were not allowed to stay in the Great House where the women were staying.  I’ve no doubt the males were quite happy with this arrangement since the bachelor’s quarters at the casino were quite comfortable with a pool and ballroom with a bar to enjoy.  And I’m sure there was plenty of staff to wait on them.

Right now, the pool area is a lawn.  However, the pool will be restored with statuary, but minus water for liability reasons.  In the 50′s and 60′s this area was the stage for jazz concerts featuring such luminaries as Duke Ellington and Count Basie.  This switched to classical concerts in the 70′s and 80′s.

Inn at Castle Hill

From the casino complex,  a road offering spectacular views of the beach and property leads to the Brown Cottage, which is now the Inn at Castle Hill.  The oldest building on the estate, this house as well as the estate was originally owned by J.B. Brown, a gentleman farmer who made his fortune in railroad construction.  He renovated the “cottage”, which was further upgraded by Richard Crane’s son, Cornelius in the 1940s.  Cornelius also added a tavern or English-style pub in the 1950s.  In 2000, the house and tavern were reopened as the Inn at Castle Hill, a luxury bed and breakfast that helps support the estate.

Farm Complex

Next, we come upon the farm complex made up of Italianate buildings that allowed the estate to be relatively self sufficient.  Unusual for the time, the farm buildings had windows and housed cows, chickens, a dairy, horse stables, a silo, workshops, an ice house, and workers’ quarters.  There was also a power house that provided the estate with its own electricity.

Crane had a fear of fires so he made sure the buildings were safe as well as providing a small fire station with a fire engine.  The greenhouse, which helped provide the estate with food and flowers in the winter, will soon be renovated and open to the public.  The barn was the venue for concerts in the 1980s and is now used as a summer camp for kids.

Across the way, you see an area surrounded by Italianate stone walls anchored by stone round towers at either end.    One of these towers served as an art studio for Cornelius’s second wife, Mine.  The area that is grassed over now was a vegetable garden planted in 1917 and supplied the house with produce.


What is amazing about this tour is that no matter where you look the views are unspoiled whether it be of parts of the estate, such as the garden areas, or surrounding the estate, such as Crane’s Beach, Choate Island, or the salt meadows.  You can truly get a sense of what it was like for the Crane family and their employees to live here.  It was a peaceful oasis and probably a happy place since Mr. Crane was a genial, enterprising man good not only to his family (replaces a villa with a mansion for his wife!), but also to the many who worked on the estate to make it all possible.

Like many such wealthy families, the Cranes entertained continually throughout the summer season, allowing others to enjoy the paradise they helped to create.  The world changed rapidly after the two World Wars, making this lifestyle unsustainable.  It is wonderful to have an organization such as the Trustees of Reservations to help preserve this slice of history.

The landscape tours continue on Thursdays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., until October 27th.

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Florence Griswold Museum Garden, Old Lyme, Connecticut

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We were just passing through this area while waiting for our son to arrive on the New London ferry.  It was just enough time to enjoy the Florence Griswold Museum garden, or Miss Florence’s garden as it is known, in Old Lyme, Connecticut.   It is a grandmother’s garden  filled with old-fashioned blooms such as hollyhock, iris, foxglove, poppies, phlox, and daylilies.

The garden was actually started in the mid 1800′s by Florence’s father, Robert Griswold, a sea captain at their Georgian-style mansion built in 1817.  When the family fell on hard times after the Civil War, they started a school and then a boardinghouse at their home.  In 1899, an artist Henry Ward Ranger visited and decided it would be a perfect place to establish a school of landscape painting.  And thus the Lyme Art Colony was born with such illustrious members as Willard Metcalf, Matilda Brown, William Chadwick, and Childe Hassam, who changed the focus to impressionism in 1903.

Miss Florence was a kind and generous hostess who made the artists comfortable and encouraged their efforts.  They drew their inspiration from her garden as well as the surrounding landscape – the winding Lieutenant River, which eventually meets the Connecticut River, passing through the salt meadows.  The surrounding landscape also included rundown structures and buildings in the village of Old Lyme and the town of Lyme.  These were remnants of former shipbuilding days as well as old farms, and grist, saw, paper, and textile mills.  It all made for nostalgic and picturesque scenes for their paintings.

Miss Florence’s garden followed in the Colonial Revival tradition gaining popularity in the later 1800′s, in contrast to the more formal Victorian estate gardens.  We may look at the 19th century as being a more simple time, but in the late 1800′s people started looking back to the Colonial era, before the Industrial Revolution, as a refuge from what they perceived as the frantic pace of their modern life.  The Colonial Revival gardens harkened back to a less pretentious time, with rectangular beds filled with old-fashioned flowers in the English cottage style.

Miss Florence was keenly interested in horticulture and was constantly seeking out new plants and ordering seeds from catalogues.  She filled her home with her arrangements and helped several artists establish gardens at their own homes.

After her death in 1937, the garden fell into disrepair.  An archeological dig in 1998 helped the Museum identify the boundaries of the garden, walkways as well as orchard and outbuildings.  With the help of paintings and photographs, the garden was restored to how it looked in 1910.  It not only contains traditional blooms but also has vegetables such as squash, pumpkin, and asparagus.

But it’s not only the garden that is of interest here.  We walked to the back of the museum building, there was a cafe overlooking a scene that looks untouched since the art colony was here.  There are Adirondack chairs for the visitor to sit and take in the gentle beauty of the river slowly flowing through salt meadows on its way to the sea.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go through the museum, which houses the paintings of members of the Lyme Art Colony.  But it is a rare opportunity to see the settings for these paintings just outside the door.

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Fuller Gardens – July 27, 2012

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The drive to Fuller Gardens sets the stage nicely for the feast of the senses that this garden offers.  We came from Hampton Beach where we had dropped off our son and his friends for fun on the boardwalk.  Route 1A north took us from the beach and through North Hampton past residential areas, stores, and restaurants.  As we approached the gardens, our car hugged the winding road along the cliffs with dramatic views of the shore on one side and some rather grand estates on the other.

Alvin and Viola Fuller

It stands to reason that it would be so since Fuller Gardens was once part of the estate owned Alvin Fuller, governor of New Hampshire during the 1920′s, and his wife Viola.  Viola loved flowers, especially roses, prompting Fuller to hire renowned landscape architect Arthur Shurtleff to design the gardens of his summer estate, Runnymede-By-the-Sea.  Unfortunately, the mansion no longer exists as it was torn down in 1961, in keeping with Fuller’s wishes.

Side Garden

However, the carriage house from the 1890′s and the greenhouses are still here and provide a lovely backdrop to the rose garden that greets you as you enter the gate.  I spent a great deal of time just in the Side Garden, as this area is known, to not only photograph the beauty of the wide variety of roses, but to pause and inhale their heady fragrance at every turn.  Oh, to fill a tub with their petals and just drown in the scent!  It had just rained, so the petals were bejeweled with fresh rain drops.  Not that they needed adornment.

The Side Garden was designed in 1930 by Cherry Hill Nurseries in a circular pattern of rose beds with grass paths emanating from the antique well head in the center.  It is enclosed by a privet hedge and a cedar fence on which grow espaliered apple trees. Espaliered apple trees are basically dwarf trees trained to grow along a fence; they are easier to maintain and harvest than regular trees and provide year-round beauty.  It’s a technique started by the Romans and perfected by the French many centuries later.

Lydia Fuller Garden

From the Side Garden you enter the Lydia Fuller Garden, created in memory of Lydia Fuller Bottomley, one of the Fuller’s five children, who died in 2004.  This garden features more rosebushes leading to a fountain of a young woman kneeling to get a drink from the circular pond.  In fact, very fine statuary and fountains can be found throughout the gardens.  Alvin Fuller collected these on his frequent travels to Europe.

Colonial Revival Style

The various gardens that make up the Fuller Gardens follow the Colonial Revival tradition popular at the beginning of the 20th century.  The 2 1/2 acre lot is comprised of a series of garden “rooms”; at Fuller Gardens, you walk from the Side Garden of roses to the Lydia Fuller Garden and then to the conservatory of tropical plants.  From here it’s a short walk to the wooded Japanese Garden with its koi pond, arching bridge, and Zen lantern.  This naturally leads you to the Front Garden.


But let’s go back to the conservatory.  This greenhouse is chock full to the ceiling with tropical plants, such as bougainvillea, orchids, a huge pitcher plant, a staghorn fern resembling a moose head, as well as a great variety of succulent plants.  Leaving the conservatory, I passed fabulous beds of dish plate dahlias and other perennials nestled between the conservatory and propagation houses.




Japanese Garden

For a complete change of scene, I entered the wooded entrance to the Japanese Garden.  On a hot, sunny day, it must be a welcome reprieve.  It’s a garden meant to soothe the senses rather than stimulate them, with masses of ferns and other woodland plants, the gentle sounds of water flowing from the fountain of rocks to the bridge, with the only color being the orange, red, and yellow koi fish in the pond.

Front Garden

The path leads you to the entrance of the Front Garden where you emerge into the sunshine once again.  The Front Garden not only has a similar geometric display of roses to that of the Side Garden, but is also lined with perennials beds.  The variety of  perennials provide consistent color from spring to fall.  When I visited, beds of annuals, such as dahlias, ageratum, zinnias, and New Guinea impatiens lined the steps leading to the long beds of perennials where plants, such as catmint, yarrow, speedwell, sea holly, coneflowers, phlox, and daylilies were in bloom.  The focal point at the head of the garden is a dramatic fountain of a cherub blowing a horn, with other statuary at corners and along the side beds.

The Front Garden was designed by the Olmstead Brothers in 1938 so the Fullers could enjoy it from their second story bedroom window since they did not go into the garden often.  Also, they wanted people passing by to be able to go into the garden at anytime.  It was the Fullers way of giving back to the public after the successes they had known over the years.

The current director of the gardens is Jamie Colen.  The improvements he has made include creating a new entrance way, putting in the stone wall with a gate, improving the parking area, and installing the brick patio area at the entrance.  However, where the gardens themselves are concerned, he has kept them as historically accurate as possible based on the records of Edward Brown, the director and master gardener from the 1935 to 1943 and 1959 to 1971.

Visit Throughout the Season

Although the roses are the obvious stars of the show at Fuller Gardens with over 1700 bushes, you can enjoy the many tulips in bloom in early May as well as other bulbs and flowering shrubs as the spring progresses.  The roses bloom from late June into October.  There’s consistent color and interest from a parade of perennials from spring into fall.  In other words, it’s a great garden to visit throughout the growing season.

I noticed a few families with elderly relatives who obviously could not do much walking (I know how that is myself!).  This is the perfect garden for them as they can see it all without much exertion and rest at any point.  If anything, it would be nice to just sit and take in the color and fragrance of the roses, the beauty of the fountains and statuary, and the general ambience of Fuller Gardens – a peaceful retreat from the hectic outside world.

Hampton Beach

By the way, it’s been many years since my husband and I have been to Hampton Beach given that it was so rundown for many years.  Well, that’s all changed.  I was truly taken aback and pleased to see the vast improvements made. And these improvements, which include new bathhouses, a boardwalk, and a new Seashell Stage complex, have happened only in the past few years.  The $14 million facelift has been long overdue and can certainly be justified by the revenue the beach brings in annually – around $170 million.

So make a day of it – see Fuller Gardens, have a great seafood lunch at any of the restaurants on the way to Hampton Beach.  Stroll the boardwalk, sit in the wonderful covered areas in front of the bathhouses, enjoy an afternoon concert in the Seashell complex, or go down to the beach and relax.

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Uncanoonuc Mt. Perennials – July 21, 2012

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This summer’s great weather continued for the open house at Uncaoonuc Mt. Perennials, a plant nursery in Goffstown, New Hampshire.  Being the height of the summer season, the display beds and pots of plants were showing off their glorious blooms of color everywhere you looked.

Although this was the first time I’d been to Uncanoonuc (pronounced un-ca-noo’-nuc), I had heard  people talk about it over the years as the place to go for perennials – great quality at a reasonable price.  I went with a friend this day and we met the owner almost immediately.  Her name is Annette, or Nettie as she likes to be called, Rynearson.  A very fit, warm, and vivacious person, she said she and her husband Mark started the nursery 32 years ago when the property was no more than pasture with a gravel pit and just a few trees.  They planted buckwheat as a cover crop to start building the soil.

Mark, who is a landscape architect, had the know how to create the layout of the property to best care for their pots of perennials and for the display beds that would show customers ways to use their plants.  The stonework, granite slabs and outcroppings, and waterfalls that Mark designed provided the foundation for the display beds, which include a large rose garden complete with a white arbor.

Nettie gave a workshop this day called “Love ‘Em & Leave ‘Em” about low-maintenance, beautiful perennials to create a “pretty yard without much fuss,” as Nettie put it.  Throughout the nursery, the plants that fall into this category have labels with a green florescent dot in the corner to make it easy for the customer to spot.

Several of the plants that Nettie discussed included:

Fairy Wings, or Epimedium, which she planted 25 years ago on the property and is thriving still.  Meant for dry shade, it has delicate foliage tinged with red in the spring that turns leathery as the season progresses.  It has pink, white, yellow, or purple spires in May that resemble orchids.  Makes an excellent ground cover.

Prairie Flame Shining Sumac, which can grow to be 6 to 7 feet high and wide.  Likes sun to part shade and is tolerant of poor soil conditions.  Has glossy foliage with yellow, fuzzy flowers in August and bright red foliage in the fall.


American Wisteria, which blooms twice and is fragrant.  Unlike the Asian Wisteria, which can take several years before it blooms, the American Wisteria blooms within the first few years.  Like all wisterias, it needs strong support.


Banana Cream Shasta Daisy.   Has large flowers that bloom over three months; a great cut flower.  Like other daisies, does need to be divided every two years so it doesn’t get woody.

First Sunshine Daylily.  Unlike other daylilies, such as Stella D’Oro, doesn’t have to be divided every 3 years.

Little Spires Russian Sage.  Has 6 to 8 weeks of bloom.  Nice, silvery foliage that is a good for contrast with other plants.

Coreopsis Zagreb is the only coreopsis that Nettie considers low-maintenance because it blooms forever without deadheading and always looks good.

Goldenrod.  Contrary to popular belief, goldenrod does not cause hay fever.  Perhaps people confuse it with ragweed.  Attracts butterflies and bees, and makes nice cut flowers.

You can go to for a complete list of low-maintenance perennials as well as information on a variety of gardening topics.

I would recommend a trip to Uncanoonuc Mt. Perennials to not only shop for any plants you may need, but to enjoy all the displays and to talk to Nettie and the knowledgeable staff about any gardening concerns that you may have.  Also, Goffstown also has a lovely downtown area with places to eat such as Putnam’s Waterview Restaurant, where my friend and I had a delicious lunch.

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Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens – June 25, 2012

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Amazed would sum up my reaction to the the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a paradise carved out of a Maine wilderness.  Just a mile from Boothbay, the area residents and those who live close by can visit easily throughout the year and watch the changing of the seasons in the gardens.  I envy them no end!

It must have been a monumental task to create these gardens because it’s a daily effort not only to maintain the gardens and create new areas, but to keep the surrounding woods from encroaching on what’s here.

History of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

The idea for the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens was born in 1991 when a group of mid-coast Maine residents felt that Maine and northern New England needed a botanical garden.  Sixteen years later, after extensive planning, building, and planting, the botanical garden opened in 2007.  It is one of the major botanical gardens in the country and one of Maine’s top attractions.

It comprises 248 acres with over half purchased (with some directors using their homes as collateral!) and half donated.  With nearly a mile of tidal shore frontage, it is one of the few waterfront botanical gardens in the country.  Renowned landscape architects from Maine, such as Bruce John Riddell of Bar Harbor, and elsewhere created the master plan and designed the gardens. The Maine cottage-style visitor center built in 2007 was designed by  Quinn Evans Architects from Washington, D.C.

Since the opening, the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses and  the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden have been added, and the Haney Hillside Garden has been renovated because of changing light and drainage conditions.  In 2011, the Bosarge Family Education Center, considered the greenest building in Maine and very energy efficient, opened and provides a venue for educational activities for the public and office space for staff.

William Cullina became director in August 2011.  He is a renowned horticulturalist, the author of five books, and a popular speaker.

Financially, the botanical gardens has depended on the generosity of donors – individuals, foundations, and the state of Maine – and has not been disappointed.  It received a challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation of $600,000 in 2005, which was met it in 2006, and since then has received several other challenges from donors.  With a goal of $24.5 million to be met by the end of 2012, they have already received most it, which has been used to construct several buildings, including the education and visitor centers, and create most of the gardens.

Besides a dedicated staff, the gardens rely a great deal on the support of volunteers.  I believe there are about 600 volunteers who work in just about every aspect of running the gardens from working in the visitor and educations centers, planting and weeding in the gardens to driving carts and leading tours.  I had the opportunity to speak with volunteers driving the carts and they are very enthusiastic and committed to the botanical gardens.  It’s easy to see why.  Besides getting to work in a beautiful environment, the botanical gardens is a very well run organization, which makes working here a pleasure and very gratifying.

Tours and Getting Around

There are free docent-led walking tours every Thursday and Saturday at 11:00 and 1:00 with no reservations required.  There is also a shuttle service to make it easier to get between gardens.  For those who might otherwise not be able to get to certain areas, the botanical gardens offer docent-led cart tours twice a day.  But these need to be reserved at least a week in advance.  I made the mistake of not doing so and am sure I missed out on some interesting information.

Because I’m recovering from some medical treatment, the use of a wheelchair was going to make it more enjoyable for me to see all the gardens.  The visitor center can provide various devices, such as wheelchairs and mobility scooters, for those who need it and provide ample information on getting around.  The staff at the visitor center and the drivers of the shuttle service went out of their way to assist my husband and me.

Blooms to Enjoy

Throughout most of the gardens, many perennials were in bloom during our visit including:

Roses:  the fuchsia-red Double Knock Out and Kashmir Roses, pink All the Rage Rose, creamy ivory-yellow Macy’s Pride Rose, dark salmon-pink Patriot Dream Rose, and the light Yellow Brick Road Rose.

Lilies:  Golden Stargazer Orienpet Lily with its soft pink color and frilly stamens, and the Star Gazer Oriental Lily in eye-popping pink and white.

Peonies:  Pastel Sunrise Japanese Peony’s soft pink petals and yellow stamens, and the yellow Bartzella.

The Maine Botanical Gardens’ website has a list of what’s in bloom each month as well as a plethora of other information on year-round events, workshops, and anything you might need to know for your visit.

The Lerner Garden of the Five Senses

We left the visitor center and headed for the Lerner Garden nearby.  Opened in 2008, the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses goes beyond the visual and encourages the visitor to experience the garden through the other senses as well.  And it’s designed so that all can enjoy it.

Being in a wheelchair, I got to experience having plants at eye level. My husband easily wheeled me along the stone paved  path  with a border of fragrant roses, mock orange, and other perennials on one side and a three foot high stone wall border on the other with a variety of colorful and fragrant plants such as brilliant pink oriental lilies with fragrant lavender and Caradonna salvia with its striking tall purple spikes.  It was an unusual experience for me to be sitting while seeing and smelling plants at eye level.

Next we came upon free standing wall gardens of green plants of various textures with bright blue lobelia meant to be felt and smelled as well as seen.  These wall gardens grow plants hydroponically and can grow most any plant except root vegetables.

This led to another curved path lined with eye-level stone wall beds, this time meant for tasting. There were lettuces and herbs, such as chives, along with interesting perennials such as the nodding wild onion with its pretty pink blooms.

Our senses were titillated yet again with another free standing wall garden area of red and white begonias, a grass so soft to touch, and red and green clover plants in eye-catching patterns. We continued down the path lined with yellow roses, heuchera, and salvia.

Looking to our right, it then became a scene out of Monet’s garden complete with an arched wooden bridge over a pond lined with purple gentian, pink All the Rage roses, white speedwell, and May Night salvia – a combination that is a feast for the eyes.  There were benches throughout the garden to sit and take in all the sights and sounds.

We continued down the path of Star Gazer oriental lilies, Caradonna salvia, yellow and All the Rage pink roses to enter the reflexology labyrinth whose beds were filled with drifts of white speedwell.  Here a sign invited us to take off our shoes and feel the smooth stones under our feet.  A path lined with roses, salvia, and the like led to a part of the pond with a fountain of water to add to the sounds of birds and rustling plants in the breeze.  We continued around the pond to an area with beautiful pink water lilies.  The scenes at every turn were out of a storybook garden.

From here, we easily followed the way passing some pink and lilac fairy primrose and yellow foxglove to the Slater Forest Pond where we found some azaleas still with pink blooms.  This forest pond garden features plants native to Maine such as lady’s slipper, jack-in-the-pulpit,  and solomon’s seal as well as a wide variety of water loving plants and grasses.

Because we had so much more to see, we didn’t spend as much time here as it merited.  It would have been lovely to just sit and take in all that the senses will allow.

Rose & Perennial Garden

A carpet of yellow evening primrose and white flowering Chinese dogwoods led us through the last pond area and into the Rose & Perennial Garden.  We followed the path made of unique slabs of stone to the star of this show: an arbor flanked by two pergolas.  The brilliant fuchsia red Radtko and white Meicoublan roses led us to the arbor where pink climbing roses and purple clematis adorned the corners connecting to the pergolas.  Look down and you see the face of a fellow pleased with life carved out of a boulder by William Jacobs.

Of course, there were plenty of other roses in bloom to enjoy such as the Oso Easy Peachy Cream, Yellow Brick Road, and Autumn Sunset.  And a wide variety of perennials such as blue flowering delphiniums and purple speedwell.

Haney Hillside Garden and Vayo Meditation Garden

We took the shuttle bus cart to these two gardens.  First was the Haney Hillside Garden, which is in a wooded area with a gentle sloping path lined with evergreens, rhododendrons, mountain laurel, perennial salvia and other plants. A very spiky porcupine sculpture by Wendy Klemperer made me do a double take.

The mountain laurels were in bloom with its cluster of star-like blossoms.  Especially striking was the  deep fuchsia red of Keepsake.  Did you know that it’s also known as Spoonwood because the Native Americans made spoons out of it?  It’s also Pennsylvania’s state flower.

Renovation of the Hillside garden was started in 2010 and reopened in June of 2011 with a recirculating bog pond and stone walls enclosing new plantings throughout the garden to prevent erosion.  The gently sloping wide path led to the Moss Landing.  This is a circular area paved with flagstones  and features interesting rock formations with the black Lunaform Urn adding a focal point to the area.  Being in the woods, the plants here are primarily ferns, mosses, and mountain laurel.

Following the path out, we passed the dazzling chiseled orb by Henry Richardson, and continued on to the path leading to the Vayo Meditation Garden.  Near the ocean front, this circular area features granite stone formations as well as basin sculptures by David Holmes.   These basins are like mini reflecting pools with the center area of each carved out and filled with water.  With the gentle sound of the ocean nearby and rustling of a breeze through the trees, it would have been nice to just rest here.

But, alas, we needed to move on.  We took the shuttle bus cart from here to the Giles Rhododendron Garden.

If I had been able enough, I would have loved to have walked the nearby Shoreland Trail that follows the tidal Black River and features native plants and trees.  There are coves and waterfalls to enjoy as well.

The Giles Rhododendron & Perennial Garden

At this garden, the rhododendrons were just past blooming with a few left with blossoms.  But there were other plants to enjoy such as the Black Lace Elderberry with its light pink blossoms contrasting with purple black dark fine foliage.  This area was the first garden in the botanical gardens and blends seamlessly with the surrounding woods.  The dramatic stonework and waterfalls are focal points here, especially when the rhododendrons are not in bloom.

The Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden

At the entrance to the children’s garden is a listing of events for the day.  This day there was story hour at 11:00, a chicken feeding at 12:30, and a discovery activity at the seagull pavilion at 2:00.

Kids are encouraged to engage immediately with a maze path paved with stones and the bench swings nearby (or for the parents to enjoy while watching).

Further on to the left, we were greeted to the greenhouse area by a pair of huge garden watering cans filled with shovels, hoes, and rakes.  There’s a vegetable garden with plants growing even on the roof of a garden shed.

We peeked into the story barn that invites you to enter and browse through books while waiting for story time.  A little further on, clothes were drying on the line near the playhouse with grass growing on the roof.

It was on to Blueberry Pond where kids can enjoy all sorts of activities such as walking on the giant stepping stones on the shore, rowing a boat, and other activities on the dock.  Further on, there’s a tree house perhaps like out of Robinson Crusoe.

If I were a kid, I’d be in heaven here.  Everything has the child’s perspective in mind and I can imagine them running from one place to another running, jumping, touching, and screaming with delight.

Please Visit!

We didn’t see all the areas of the botanical gardens, such as the Shoreline Trail and the Fairy Village, or have enough time to truly take in all that the gardens had to offer.  And I would loved to have taken a tour and hear interesting stories about this wonderful piece of paradise.  It will be well worth a return trip.

If you are in Maine, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens are a must see.  You don’t have to be a garden enthusiast to enjoy the beauty here.  There is something for everyone to enjoy!

And don’t forget to check out their website

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