A few weeks ago, Hubby and I spent a day strolling through the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay with my cousins Liz and Paula. Although the gardens had taken on the fading tinge of fall, for us they were no less intoxicating than they would have been at the height of the blooming season… the breathtaking color in the trees in sharp contract with the muted palate of spent blooms below, against the singular blue of a sunny autumn sky.
I’ve been to many such gardens, starting out as a tiny child with the gardens at the historic Hotel Hershey, which my parents loved. That property has been vastly enlarged in the decades since. Lovely and understated, in summer it provides a quiet oasis overlooking the frenetic activity at nearby Hershey Park. Many of the gardens in the Mid-Atlantic have risen up, as legacies, from the sweeping estates of another era—Chanticleer and Longwood, in south central Pennsylvania, for example. The enchanting public garden in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which we visited just last year, was developed from scratch, for its sake, as was this treasure along the Maine Coast.
In fact, development of these lush gardens in Maine by comparison is relatively recent. The story is an inspiring one: the founders purchased the original 148-acre plot using their own homes as collateral. Their goal was a “people’s garden” where “visitors of all ages and abilities to create and to explore meaningful connections to plants and nature at their own pace.” Today, the gardens, which opened in 2007, welcome over 200,000 visitors a year, from all over the globe. Now that is a legacy.
Love and thanks to Liz, who arranged and patiently chauffeured our outing; to Paula for always making us smile; to Hubby, who is secure enough to be in the company of three giddy cousins for an entire day; and to my friend Marina Reznor, who provided a primer on the gardens’ interesting history and urged us to make the trip. Liz and Paula, of course, had been there before.