Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Sensory Garden In Maine

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A beautiful morning here on the mountain. We're back in Vermont where the morning temperature is just 40 degrees and the heavy dew is dripping from goldenrod that are already turning brown with age. Maine was beautiful and we are already sentimental for the sound of the ocean. The morning chatter of the ravens is a slim replacement but in fact, it's part of Vermont.

The newest garden at the Maine Coastal Botanical Gardens is the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses. I had been following the grand opening of this garden and wanted to attend the official opening in June when I blew the engine in my truck. Life has priorities and my visit had to be postponed. One of the staff at the reception center told me that the day of the celebration was a bit damp with four inches of rain and slim attendance. I wasn't the only one missing.

The sensory garden is a combination of sunken garden, pond, stream, walkways, trees, shrubs, plants, sculpture and a fountain that challenge all the senses. Looking down from above, the stone floor reminds me of the trilobite fossils that prevail in the rocks that line Lake Champlain here in Vermont.

Visitors stop and bare their feet to walk the paths and extend their use of "foot senses", long ago neglected. I watched one child close her eyes and follow the course with giggles and wide smiles.

I often marvel at seeing garden floors such as this one displayed in gardening magazines as if they appear out of no where in your garden. Just collecting stones, let along "planting" them, takes patience and mastery. Few folks even know how to mix cement anymore. The finished product, however, always brings compliments and "how'd you do it's?"

The plantings are special and I found myself spending more time with each planting than I probably had at other places at MCBG. It might have been the newness but I think it was simply that this is a really special place that affords opportunities for everyone, with or without missing senses or hampered accessibility. I really liked it!

Here are a few pictures. They won't replace a visit but they will make you want to go!

The pond and fountain area are visible from the natural bridge or anyplace on the surrounding walkways. Between the sound from the fountain or the streams, a tranquility prevails over the chatter of happy kids. The granite sculpture in the background affords a chance to "touch" the drilled carvings visually and by actual touch. As we design our own gardens, it's good to think about how we intend our visitors to master and absorb our key garden components.

I always enjoy water gardens and lilies draw my attention. Rural Maine has thousands of small ponds and lakes full of water lilies and I'm sure there are some businesses hidden away someplace where lilies are raised commercially. In this pond, I kept looking under the lilies to try to spot a fish but I think the pond is fishless although frogs like it here.

Some plants such as this cardamon are perfect for a sensory garden because they bring so many talents with them. I am not familiar with the plant or its herbal uses but I was struck by the seed heads which form their very own sculpture.

The designers did a super job with colors and textures and I cannot offer enough praise for the product. Gail and I have always been partial to heucheras and apparently we are not alone. Aside from the multitude of ways people pronounce "heuchera" (check out Heucheras & Heucherellas by Dan Heims & Grahame Ware, Timber Press), these examples of 'Caramel' were great as were the Heuchera 'Frosted Violet'.

This next silver sage named 'Hobbit's Foot' also caught our attention. I doubt it will grow well here in zone 4 but it is so appropriate in the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses. I almost wanted to pat it but I held off, rubbing the head of a nearby rabbit sculpture instead. I shouldn't have but there was something beckoning about the smooth head of that stone bunny.

Trees and shrubs abound and this Tiger Eyes Staghorn Sumac is an eye catcher I had only seen on websites before. The color was appropriate for the season and the sumac worked so well with surrounding colors and textures. My mind momentarily went into rewind mode and I recalled the Glory maples in the front parking lot under planted with masses of Hemerocallis 'Patio Parade'--more examples of very good use of a color some folks say they are tiring of. There's no way I could be bored with the opportunity of Tiger Eyes.

There's plenty to experience at the sensory gardens. I'll get back to this soon but for now, it's time to get going on our own gardens. Time is short, the heavy frosts will be here soon, and there's lots of summer clean up to do. If you happen to drive by the nursery and the gate is open, stop by for a garden chat. There's always time to talk gardens, compare notes.

Writing again from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the loons still call as maple leaves turn yellow, orange and red.

Fall gardening wishes,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

Still shipping very healthy plants until mid October from Vermont Flower Farm


lynn'sgarden said...

George, these are beautiful photographs! I LOVE the stone/pebble design and the water garden. Hope you and the gang got your much deserved rest.
Our temps are dipping here's been really nice actually. I enjoyed touring the gardens from your last couple posts..thanks for sharing!

George Africa said...

Hi Lynn;

Glad you enjoyed the photos.Sometime I want to make it to three gardens up Acadia/Bar Harbor way. Included on my list are the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Gardens.

There's also something special about the coast of Maine and roses. I can smell the fragrance just thinking about Maine.


Clark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clark said...

Hi I love this place, where is it located??? I would like to visit it some day, it has beautiful plants and flowers. Maybe I could swim in that river hahaha, well bye for now.

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