While I really, truly should not be encouraging more travel (especially if it relies on fossil fuels), I can’t help suggest that anyone finding themselves anywhere near Booth Bay, Maine take a side trip to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden (CMBG). It is a refreshing site for your eyes and for your souls. Rarely do we get the chance to stroll in such beautiful surroundings for hours and hours. The mission of this fairly young botanical wonder (it opened in 2007) is to inspire meaningful connections among people, plants and nature, and that it does.

CMBG is the largest botanic garden in New England made up of 295 acres of which 17 have been made into some of the most charming and awe-inspiring gardens championing native Maine plants that I, and probably you, have ever seen. The concept for this botanical garden began in 1991 when a small group of mid-coast Maine residents had a dream of building a world class public garden. Sixteen years later, CMBG opened and has been a top U.S. botanical destination ever since.

Coincidentally, 16 individual garden sites are contained in this marvel, each having its own backstory and unique plantings. Some of my favorites are included in this posting. I’m betting that one of the most popular gardens is the Native Butterfly and Moth House. This consists of a 2,160 square foot Gothic style hoophouse with a planting scheme fit to support moths and butterflies throughout their life cycles. Visitors have the opportunity to observe these vital insects from birth through metamorphosis into adult butterflies or moths. Surrounding gardens are whimsical yet offer nectar and food plants for adults and caterpillars (larvae).

Butterfly House at Coastal Maine Botanic Garden. Photo by dmp2022

The Great Lawn was modeled after 19th century landscape parks and creates a sense of openness amid the surrounding forested areas. The Lerner Garden of the 5 senses is less than an acre in size but the path winds it way through plants and sights that delight the sense of smell, hearing, sight, touch and taste (please don’t eat the daisies). Slater Forest Pond Garden was built on a low lying site perfect for a pond adding more life to the gardens with aquatic creatures.

A gift from the Burpee Foundation funded the Burpee kitchen garden that was started in 2006. It provides the chefs at the Kitchen Garden Café with herbs, vegetables, fruits and edible flowers for their culinary creations. Visitors get to see a choice selection of many food producing plants tucked neatly into raised beds with a cooling fountain centerpiece.

Burpee Kitchen Garden. Photo by dmp2022.
Fountain centerpiece in Kitchen Garden. Photo by dmp2019.

A favorite of children (young and old) is the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden. I love the tool arch and the little shed with a green roof. Apparently this 2 acre parcel of woods, ponds and theme gardens was inspired by several of Maine’s childrens’ book authors including E. B. White (Charlotte’s Web).

Entrance to Children’s Garden. Photo by dmp2019.

On a hot summer day, the Haney Hillside Garden is cool and soothing. It features 3 terraces linked by switchback trails on a steep, rocky hillside. Paths lead past the water and moss terraces and at the bottom sits a subtle, yet perfectly situated, large glass orb created by New York sculptor, Henry Richardson.

Glass orb in Haney Hillside Garden. Photo by dmp2022.

Other gardens include the Cleaver Lawn, the Arbor Garden, Founder’s Grove, Vayou Meditation Garden, the Shoreline Trail and Landing, the Giles Rhododendron and Perennial Garden and one can’t forget the Fairy House Village where visitors are welcome to create shelters and other dwellings for these tiny, mythical creatures. According to the sign for this garden, the tradition of building fairy houses began in the woods of nearly Monhegan Island.

Fairy House Village. Photo by dmp2022

As if these absolutely gorgeous gardens, statuary, sculptures, water features and hardscapes aren’t enough to take it, five giant trolls await discovery by you. They are mammoth recycled wood creations by the Danish artist, Thomas Dambo. His trolls are found around the world (www.trollmap.com) and convey a message of sustainability as well as one of global connections. Our actions affect everyone else on the planet and we need to cultivate a sense of care for all our natural resources and fellow inhabitants, especially with all the havoc climate change is creating throughout the earth.

One of Thomas Dambo’s trolls. Photo by dmp2022.

As Guardians of the Seeds, the trolls are there to teach us and reinforce the importance of the Maine woods but really about all trees. We know trees as purveyors of shade, carbon storage units, able to prevent erosion and filter air and water but did you know that trees provide homes for 50% of the planet’s land-dwelling animals? Or did you know that right now there are about 3 trillion trees in a world of almost 8 billion people – that’s about 375 trees per person. Not a lot when you think about it. Trees are essential for healthy ecosystems that keep us alive.

Guardian the Seeds – another Troll by Thomas Dambo. Photo by dmp2022.

Good stewards of this earth can follow the teachings of the trolls and plant more trees, consume only what you need, and encourage others to become more aware of our dependency on the natural world and treat it with the respect it deserves. The future of this earth really does depend on everyone’s actions.

Dawn P.    

Mid August brings heat and harvest chores.  I must pick daily to keep up with the plants. Cucumbers, summer squash, beans, peppers and tomatoes fill the baskets. It seems the vegetables are growing fast but then I see the weeds are growing faster!

I went to Maine for a visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden. I highly recommend a visit if you find your self in the Boothbay area. I saw gardens of all kinds and sculptures artfully placed in outdoor spaces. Children are invited to create fairy houses with natural material for the fairies that live in this glorious setting. Another excursion was to Endless Summer Flower Farm, a dahlia and perennial farm located in Camden, Maine. Owner Phil Clark graciously engaged us with his 230 varieties of dahlias, all growing in his back yard and side field. Just glorious, enticing me to purchase tubers to be delivered in the spring. A flower bouquet of cut dahlias was brought back to my hosts. The flowers were very beautiful. Maine gardeners have a slightly shorter growing season and many of the same weeds as I do in Connecticut.

Now is the time to keep up the the weeds. Any plant allowed to produce will become weeds in the next several growing years. This year I discovered cilantro in every nook of open soil. While I didn’t mind the herb earlier in the season, now they have all grown four foot high with seed pods containing the spice coriander. I am trying to collect the seeds in paper bags before they burst. Once captured I store them in glass jars in the spice cabinet for crushing the seed with a mortar and pestle when I have a recipe calling for ground coriander. The leaves can be dried and saved as an herb, but should be done before the flowers form. Dill spreads in much the same way as cilantro. Both herbs have become a weed in my vegetable garden.

Other weeds having a ‘field day’, (pun intended), are crabgrass and galinsoga. Galinsoga will set flowers at the tender age of eight weeks.  It produces over 7500 seeds per plant. Seeds require no cold period, so they can germinate as soon as they mature and drop to the ground. Many seeds will overwinter, germinating next year and in subsequent years. Crabgrass is an annual that will die with the first hard frost. If allowed to produce seed, you can be sure seed produced this year will germinate in early spring next year making the weed problem worse.

I use mulch in the pathways to keep the weeds down, but the wood chips brought in harbored their own set of weed seeds. I now have fox grape, a semi-woody vine, that is difficult to pull out. I feel I will be fighting this one for a few years to come. Some people use hay on the gardens as mulch. Use straw instead, it contains less seed. Hay will add not only weed seeds but grassy seeds intended as animal food. Straw is more woody, breaks down slower than hay and is usually cut before it gets to the seed production stage. Bark mulch is a great alternative usually not infected with any weed seeds. A living mulch of clover can be used in pathways, especially if you have raised beds. Once the clover grows taller, mow or weed wack it down to a desirable height.

All of this pick of produce and pulling of weeds makes some glad the summer season is closing. But the fall growing season is just beginning. As the weather cools down, all the crops grown in the spring time can be grown again in the fall. They are, after all, cool weather crops. I start lettuce, spinach and kale directly in the garden for fall harvest. Root crops of carrots, beets, parsnip and turnip can be planted now. If the ground temperature is too warm for germination, start flats inside the house out of the sun’s direct heat. Transplant when at the two leaf stage.

I keep a bed of mixed lettuce specially chosen for cold tolerance. The other half of the bed is put in spinach. I have a 2 x 4 wood frame attached to PVC pipes covered with painter’s plastic to create a small greenhouse tent. Hinges were added so it can be easily lifted and opened. This fall crop of greens will keep producing well into December before it goes dormant for a few months. Come the last week of February and the first bit of longer sunny days, and these same plants come back to life. I prop the cover open on bricks if full sun is in the forecast so the plants don’t overheat. 100_8306100_8303

– Carol