Uniquely Maine –Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Herons in the Forest Pond

Although it was beastly hot (89°F in the shade) yesterday, we enjoyed our visit to the Coastal Maine Bontanical Gardens. The Garden is located on a mid-coast peninsula along the tidal Sheepscot River in Boothbay, with nearly a mile of river frontage. It is a truly spectacular site, with huge craggy ledge rising from the ground, steep gullys, and native woodland. There are currently six distinct areas: the Visitor Center with Great Lawn, Rose and Kitchen Gardens, the Forest Pond, and the Woodland, Hillside, Meditation and Rhododendron Gardens. It was relentlessly sunny, so I took few photos, but will post some.

Each area featured a mix of native and non-native plants and pleasant gravel walking paths. Currently on exhibit are kinetic sculptures by artist George Sherwood, amazing work of primarily stainless steel, most of which moved even in the slight air currents yesterday. If I had any disposable income to speak of I’d buy a piece immediately, but alas, OPEC ate my disposable income.

A good deal of construction was ongoing, to the garden of the five senses due to open next year and a children’s garden in 2010. The noise of the construction was unfortunately omnipresent, which really in my opinion detracted from our visit enough to make me wish we planned to come on a weekend. As gorgeous as these herons were, the incessant beeping of the backhoe was enough to make me move on pretty quickly

The Garden is still young, and I’m sure most of the efforts (and rightly so) are going toward the structural details –landscaping, stonework, establishing trees and woody shrubs, and construction of buildings and new gardens, but I was surprisingly underwhelmed by the flower gardens. Most of the perennial flower beds were in the sunny areas near the great lawn. They featured roses, of course in the Rose Garden, but also hosta (lots in full, relentless sun), zillions of astilbe, Russian sage, lamb’s ear, salvia, coneflower, yarrow, campanula, lavender, geranium, Japanese Iris, turtlehead, gaura, cimicifuga, a few daylilys, clematis, a few delphinium.

Nice plants all, but fairly common, and I must say, I did not feel these were planted in very interesting ways. I hate seeing hosta in full sun anyway, but the all plantings were strangely lifeless. Again, maybe it is because the garden is still young, but everything appeared to be marching neatly in order, plants lined up by height like a grade school photo. It was very flat, and posed looking, with no enthusiastic over-achievers

The terrace near the Carved Orb on the Hillside Garden path

shooting over their neighbors, or spilling out of their assigned places. Even though I need to move a lot of plants around in my garden, it made me appreciate it even more when I got home to see it.

The stonework, however, was fantastic. I didn’t get a photo, but by the great lawn was a stone terrace made with huge pieces of cut stone, with various forms of thyme growing between the stones –gorgeous. Along the hillside garden path was a stunning glass globe titled “Carved Orb,” set beside a stone terrace with huge stone benches for those wanting a rest or time to reflect.

Hillside Garden art view
Hillside Garden art view

Past the Hillside Garden lies the Meditation Garden, overlooking the tidal Sheepscot River. The garden

Meditation Garden with stone basin

Meditation Garden with stone basin

features a stone terrace with an enormous carved basin begging to be touched. Stone seats surround the garden which lied in dappled sunlight in the late morning. Above the terrace, a braided stone path led to more stone seating and an overlook of the Garden and Sheepscot River.

Path leading to a seated overlook of the Meditation Garden and Sheepscot River

A new feature in the garden is the large waterfall and

pond in the Rhododendron Garden. It was stunning. The pond lies at the bottom of the hilly rhodie garden, and the waterfall drains into the pond across the pond from the rhodies. It was new enough that the paths were still being finished and some nearby plantings added as we walked around the waterfall. Most of the rhodies had gone by, but it was an extensive collection, set in a naturalistic, shaded setting. We had to dodge a sprinkler to get down to the pond, but the mist felt pretty good by that time, as we’d been through 2/3 of the garden by then and it was approaching noon and hot.

The walk back to the visitor’s center took us past a gorgeous exposed ledge which looked amazingly like a slightly bemused whale. We followed the Birch Allée back; alas, the birches are still too young to give any shade and the walk along the allée was hot and dusty. Approaching the Center we passed what will be the Children’s Garden, at the moment teeming with children due to an educational program. There seems to be a good deal of programming designed for children; all well and good if you are a child, but one of my greatest disappointments, and the reason we have not become members, is the lack of interesting adult programming. The only two events listed for adults at the Center and on the website are a talk on Persian gardens later this month, and the Antiques in the Garden fundraiser featuring Martha Stewart. Maybe (most likely) I’m a freak but I would love some good programming on garden design, propagation, planting with natives, a review of invasives to avoid and strategies to be rid of the ones you have, etc. Surely I’m not the only potential member out there seeking programming other than children’s programming?

All that aside, the place was gorgeous and I urge all Mainer’s to visit. Dan and I will surely visit at least every year to see how the garden matures, and if they begin to offer something for me, I’ll become a member.

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6 Responses to “Uniquely Maine –Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens”

  1. sugarcampny Says:

    Makes me want to go next time I visit. Thanks for the mini tour.

  2. CT Grammy Says:

    What a wonderful day — wish Scotty could beam me right into that Meditation Garden this very minute (& wouldn’t that put paid to OPEC :-).

    I’d also love a program on invasives to avoid & how to deal with them, esp. Bishops weed. Here in CT the local garden shops tend to offer that type of program: Natureworks is one of the best (they have a web site). On Saturdays during the growing months she gives a walk through her garden discussing what’s in bloom, how to deadhead/cut back, feed, etc. makes an Educational & Enjoyable morning.

  3. weekend farmer Says:

    ah Maine!!! I love Maine. Bar Harbor is my favorite place in the whole world! Have you been? There is a B&B in Bangor where you can stay if you ever go there. Link on my blog. 3 Pine.

    What did the b’day boy get? : )

  4. Twinville2 Says:

    What a lovely way to spend the day. The Meditation and Rhodie gardens would have been my favorites. The pictures, I’m sure didn’t do them justice.
    I enjoy going to our Rio Grande Bio Park Gardens a few times a month. Often just sitting and relaxing. My kids love the children’s garden set up like a large castle with an termite maze, large ants, log slide, huge pumpkin, larger than life-sized veggie garden, caves, and even a huge drgaon and a moat. Fun! Makes me feel little again, too.

    Amazing that you’ve been getting such hot temps. We’re in the middle of monsoon season here in NM. With all the drizzles and clouds for the past 2 weeks, our temps have been in the low 50’s each day.
    Nothing is growing and I fear that our peaches and apricots and possibly even our apples were affected by that last late freeze in May. No orchard fruit to speak of here. I’m terribly depressed about it.
    Can you send us some of your sun and heat, please?

  5. Lauren Says:

    I’ve been to Calway Gardens, Longwood, Wintertur, Ladeu Gardens and I like Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens the best as I love the stone, sculptures and water. They have multitudes of programming for adults and just had their first garden festival with good vendors and childrens gardens. They do cooking programs, photography too. I like the art shows they do in the visitors center and outside. As a member I get info regularly and am amazed at their programming especially since they are pretty new. The best way for them to grow is through support. A friend and I are going on the trip to Holland and Belgium sponsored by the gardens during peak tulip time next April. 2 nights in a hotel in Amsterdam and a week on a riverboat, going to old cities and their biggest garden. I think this is their eighth trip.

  6. James Golden Says:

    I visited the Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens last summer, in late August, and really loved it. I want to get back soon to see what has changed. It was clearly a garden in development, with new areas under construction. Still, it has an extraordinary site and many beautiful features. I’m still envious of the stainless kinetic sculptures but can’t afford the $30,000 for the one I want in my garden.

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