New botanical gardens give the flavor of Maine
One of the newest botanical gardens in the US has a rare waterfront location.
BOOTHBAY, Maine (AP) — The coast of Maine is probably better known for lobsters and windjammers than rose gardens and flowering dogwood trees.
But at one of America’s newest gardens, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, you’ll find nearly 1,300 varieties of plants, world-class sculptures and a restaurant that uses herbs grown on the grounds.
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The garden also has trails that offer classic Maine scenery, from evergreen trees to lobster boats.
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, in their second year of operation, are located on a peaceful 248-acre plot on the edge of the Back River, a tidal waterway that flows into the Sheepscot River and the Atlantic Ocean.
Visitors have 10 ornamental gardens to choose from, along with over two miles of trails through forests of towering spruce, pine and fir trees.
A shoreland trail meanders along half a mile of the river, giving a view of islands, lobster buoys and a fishing cooperative on the opposite shore where lobstermen sell their catches.
Here you’ll get a full flavor of Maine, from the coastal scenery to granite ledges and outcroppings on the garden grounds that were formed by glaciers thousands of years ago.
The visitor center has Maine-made furniture and the restaurant features breads, produce, cheeses, mustards ,and other foods — even root beer — grown or manufactured in Maine.
“We always say you can see all of Maine here,” said Executive Director Maureen Heffernan.
The Boothbay Harbor peninsula along rocky midcoast Maine is itself a summer tourist destination with a quintessential harbor, gift shops and seafood shacks and restaurants.
Excursion boats take people on whale-watching tours and day trips to Monhegan, an island with an active arts community.
The entrance is a winding dirt road through the woods leading to a high-ceilinged visitor center designed by Quinn Evans Architects, a Washington architectural firm that specializes in traditional design.
The building has a gift shop, a classroom/library, and a restaurant where people can eat inside or at tables on an outdoor garden terrace.
Outside, each ornamental garden has a distinctive theme: There’s the rose garden, the pond garden, the meditation garden, and the rhododendron and perennial garden, which has a waterfall, more than 10,000 flowering bulbs and 120-plus different types of rhododendrons.
If trees are to your liking, the Kousa dogwoods put on a show throughout the summer with their white, yellow and pink flowers. Hundreds of white-barked birch trees line a dirt road through the woods, forming the picturesque “Birch Allee,” or birch alley.
The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is one of the newest gardens nationally.
There are more than 600 public gardens across the country, about a quarter of which could be categorized as “botanical gardens,” which focus not just on displaying plants, but on research and education as well.