Thursday, July 28, 2011


We were invited to join a group of friends to visit their favorite place on the Maine Coast. This place just happens to be an island and they just happen to have a boat. So our adventure begins in Northeast Harbor as we climb aboard and set off with a picnic basket full of food. The journey across the bay, past the Cranberry Islands is stunning with the mountains of Mount Desert Island spanning the view towards land. This must be what Champlain first saw as he approached from the sea in 1604.

Bear Island Light

The Bear Island Light is quite a sight from the water. It brings to mind the painting Bear Island, Northeast Harbor, 1855, by Fitz Henry Lane. In Lane's painting the lighthouse stands on cleared cliff top, without trees, a change from how it is seen today.

The marker (seen below) was painted by Frederic Church 1851. This is how it looks today.
It is quite amazing almost startling to see places that were painted by the likes of Church, Fitz Henry Lane, John Kensett, John Marin and Marsden Hartley, here along Maine's coast. It all feels so familiar and is an artist's paradise.

Frederic E. Church
Beacon off Mount Desert Island, 1851

Passing the red gong buoy we continue to our island destination. Our experienced Captain and First Mate making way across the bay.
The island approaches and we head for a mooring.
See you on the island. We hear it is magical.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BLUE HILL, MAINE....A Garden on the Bay

Blue Hill, Maine

James & I were invited by friends to join them for a few days at their house in Blue Hill. We happily accepted.

James and I ( as well as our daughter Ana) spent many summers in the tiny hamlet of Sargentville, Maine. Sargentville is just to the south of of Blue Hill, on the shore of Eggemoggin Reach. It was here that I learned to garden. My mentor, Julia, was an elegant and gracious gardener from Atlanta that kept a summer home and garden here in Maine. For me, her garden defined a Maine perennial garden. Julia's garden was filled with tall phlox of white and pinks, blue dephiniums, pale yellow yarrow, white astilbe, lavender & pink somniferum poppies and perennial yellow foxglove .The flowers were always swaying in the cooling breeze.

So, with that bit of nostalgia it's time to move on to a garden that was part of the recent Blue Hill Garden Tour.

The gardens began at the front of the house, in an area surrounding the front porch. There were lovely perennials including delphiniums, roses, and campanulas. Very lovely against the simple white columns of the porch.

But around the back of the house was the real show. The narrow path along the side of the house opened up the a garden on the bay.
Sun dappled ferns and astilbes line a path leading to stairs that descend to the rocky shore.

Japanese Iris add color and grace with a beacon of chartreuse Lady's Mantle below.

This garden makes the most of it's place at water's edge by using the bay a garden element. Maine has no shortage of rocks. This garden had both rocks left by nature and beautifully constructed stone walls.

One of the things I loved about this garden was the rhythm and structure the trees played. It's the old "reveal and conceal" concept. Trees limbed up to allow us to look through, yet in the distance a lower tree left as specimen at the shore. It's a brave gardener to do this and not give way to cutting clear the entire shore. This garden extends out to a small peninsula where there is plenty of water to see all around and those two sculptural trees to give scale to that stunning view.

When we began a garden here in NH, we found it rather different than gardening on the Maine coast. The season in Maine in condensed, so plants that flower over 5 months in NH, flower over 3 months there. In our NH garden we have plants that started in Julia's garden, were divided to begin our Maine garden, now continue in our current garden. The plants love the moist often foggy air sea air followed by north wind clearing. Who's to blame them.

It is worth a visit to a Downeast Maine garden, whether in Blue Hill, Mount Dessert area.
Garden tours provide a great opportunity to see private gardens.

While the Blue Hill Peninsula is very beautiful I cannot think of a public garden . There are a few public gardens on Mount Desert Island:

The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden , designed by Beatrix Farrand

The Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden, both designed by Charles Savage

For more on our trip to Blue Hill, Maine from the painter's point of view, click on:
(week #17)

Monday, July 18, 2011


Before it is too late it is time to take a walk through the Rose Garden.

This charming fountain, known here as Squirt, was a gift to me from James. She stands in her pool in the center of the rose garden. She always seems to be smiling.

It is difficult to single out favorite roses, but right now I would choose the following three....

Rosa Mundi

This rose is splendid. What color! It is a favorite of bees and a favorite of ours.
It has been the subject of two paintings by James, one of which is in the collection of
The New Britian Museum of American Art, New Britian, CT.

The Apothecary's Rose

This is the rose that started it all.
In our garden it is always a favorite, outstanding in color and fragrance. This rose is the one we dry for small bowls of potpourri for the house.

Great Maiden's Blush

The third rose on my list of this year's favorites is the 'Great Maiden's Blush'. The fragrance of this rose says "rose". It is impossible to walk past shrub rose and not stop to put your nose to it. I always carry a blossom back into the house. Intoxicating!

Roses are just beginning to climb the rose post that James designed and built. We chose a hearty Canadian Explorer Rose 'John Cabot' to climb, with 'Shropshire Lad ' (Austin) at it's base.

Departing the rose garden I walk out through the lavender lined walk. I have been cutting and drying the lavender. The dried lavender and rose petals will be a fragrant and lovely reminder of the garden when the snows of February cover the garden.