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New botanical gardens give the flavor of Maine

One of the newest botanical gardens in the US has a rare waterfront location.

(Page 2 of 2)

What sets the Boothbay gardens apart is the waterfront location, said Dan Stark, executive director of the American Public Gardens Association. He knows of only one other botanical garden — the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden in Mendocino, Calif. — with coastal property.

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The setting in Maine left an impression on Susan Hilditch of St. Andrews, New Brunswick, who has been to four other botanical gardens across Canada. “This is right up at the top,” said Hilditch, who was visiting with a friend in late June.

The land in Boothbay at one time was destined to be developed into a subdivision. But instead, in 1996, it was purchased by a group of local residents intent on creating Maine’s first botanical garden.

Supporters over the years have raised $12 million to turn their dream into reality. After years in the making, the garden opened in June 2007 with a goal of 25,000 people passing through. More than 40,000 showed up, and Heffernan hopes for 45,000 to 50,000 this year.

Besides the gardens, the site has permanent and visiting art exhibits, both inside the visitor center and on the grounds.

The feature art this spring and summer is stainless steel kinetic sculptures by Massachusetts sculptor George Sherwood that seem to come alive in the wind.

Some of the sculptures take on the appearance of birds flying or flower petals swaying in the breeze. The largest sculpture, 30 feet tall, looks like giant tendrils reaching for the sky.

The gardens also host musical performances, including the Portland Symphony Orchestra, a string quartet and a steel drum band this summer.

If You Go...

COASTAL MAINE BOTANICAL GARDENS, Barters Island Road, Boothbay, Maine; or 207-633-4333. Open year-round, daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Adults, $10; seniors $8; children 5-17, $5; children under 5, free; Family (two adults and two children), $25. Free admission January through March.

BOOTHBAY HARBOR PENINSULA: The Boothbay Harbor region is a tourist destination with quaint village streets, rocky shores, lighthouses and harbors filled with lobster boats, windjammers and pleasure boats;

TIPS: The gardens are in fullest bloom in the summer, but each season has distinctive horticultural attractions. In winter, the grounds are open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers.