Saturday, September 12, 2009

Botanical Gardens

Saturday. September 12, 2009

Half an hour before high tide here at Wells, Maine. The water is about 50 feet from the seawall right now and is approaching closer with each new wave. Surfers are in their glory with the tides as the water is the warmest it has been in 100 years. Swimmers don't want to leave the water either. The afternoon rain kept many away but just after the dinner hour, people in raincoats, some with umbrellas, many walking dogs, will try to squeeze out a little more of New England summer as we know it.

Our time in Boothbay at the Maine Coastal Botanical Gardens was in full sun and pleasurable. The brightness made taking pictures difficult with my limited skills but the pictures should help those of you who have not visited to gain an appreciation for what has been built. This botanical majesty experienced a sixteen year evolution that culminated in its June 2007 grand opening. 126 acres were purchased in 1996 that included 3600 feet of tidal shore frontage. In 2005, another 120 acres were added as a gift from the Pine Tree Conservation Society. This is a massive project and a great tribute to it originators, its Board of Directors and its benefactors.

The Visitor Center pictured above is 9500 square feet small. It offers a garden cafe, a gift shop, lots of educational space and a library. Currently there is an outstanding art exhibit on display.

As we parked this year, I was instantly reminded of my visit in 2006, when I pulled in by a mass planting of a daylily named Patio Parade planted under a single October Glory maple tree. That year was more dry than this so the tree leaves displayed oranges and bright reds. This year the leaves only show a hint of color. The mass flower planting format is repeated at MCBG and is one I have begun to employ in my own gardens. Large blocks of the same plant bloom with an obvious presence that always begs "What's the name, what's the name?"

As soon as you pay your admission, you're directed out the side doors to the front lawn. This is a spacious lawn surrounded by flowers and paths. To the right is the demonstration vegetable garden outside the cafe end of the facility. A prominent metal sculpture of a feeding elk bends forward near some miscanthus that waves silvery in the sun. Wendy Klemperer is the sculptor here and her "reimagined" work of deer, elk, wolves, foxes and even a quilled porcupine greet you, first on the entrance road and later throughout the gardens.

As you walk the perimeter of the lawn, a fascinating piece of stainless steel floats in the wind. This is named "Wind Orchid" by George Sherwood who calls his work quite appropriately, "kinetic sculpture".

The sculptural work of Klemperer, Sherwood and many others at MCBG is curated by June LaCombe SCULPTURE. It provides thoughtful mystery and enthusiasm to the gardens, and of course, their visitors.

As you look to the right entering the lawn, the horizon suggests the presence of the ocean. As your eyes move closer, ahead and to the left, the flowers become more and more awesome. I had the opportunity to see these gardens in their infancy and this week's viewing left me just speechless.

Stone work is everywhere as walkways, stone art work and hard scape abound. The hardness of the stone softens the gardens through mass, design and texture and each piece beckons the visitor to walk on and see more.

Rudbeckias, eupatoriums, actaeas and many grasses, some as tall as 8-9 feet, draw attention and suggest "You can build like this too!" Every garden makes its own statement and over time the message is more clear.

As Gail and I sat with Alex within the gazebo, surrounded by the fragrance of countless roses, we shared praise for the spectacular gardens we had just started to explore. The Maine Coastal Botanical Gardens is certainly a special place!

I welcome comments about your visits and even this virtual visit which I hope has been successful for you. More gardens and garden thoughts soon!

Writing from Wells, Maine where the tide retreats with a pleasant thunder.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

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