Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

History of the Gardens

Rose Garden and Visitor Center under construction 2006After 16 years of planning, planting and building, we celebrated the Grand Opening of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on June 13, 2007. This magnificent and ambitious project began with a kernel of an idea generated by Rollins Hale of Boothbay Harbor. He and other mid-coast Maine residents who shared the belief that northern New England in general, and Maine in particular, were in need of a botanical garden founded the grassroots organization in 1991. Early members of the Board of Directors envisioned ornamental gardens, enhanced natural woodlands and quintessential Maine landscapes meeting nature-education, research and horticultural needs of the region and state. After a prolonged and thorough search for an appropriate site, in 1996 members of the Board of Directors purchased 128 acres of pristine land with 3,600 feet of tidal shore frontage in Boothbay. This was possible due to the unhesitating willingness of some Directors to use their own homes as collateral. With steadfast commitment to the organization’s vision, these members and hundreds of volunteers established a foundation of insightful planning, which helped to make Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens a jewel of rare quality among North American gardens.
Tulipa Rainbow Coalition, Courtesy Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Tulipa Rainbow Coalition, Courtesy Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Courtesy B. Freeman
The enormous scope of the plan included designs from Maine landscape architects, as well as firms of international renown. Early master planning was accomplished with the expert help of Leighton & Associates. The Giles Rhododendron & Perennial Garden and the Shoreland Garden of Native Plants were among the first areas planted, beginning in 2001 and 2002. That was during the tenure of our first executive director, Tom Flood, who served from 2001 to 2003. Bruce John Riddell, ASLA, an exceptional landscape architect from Bar Harbor, Maine, was part of the design team for the, Rhododendron Garden, and also designed the Haney Hillside Garden with its one-of-a-kind landings and benches, and the Vayo Meditation Garden featuring a carved stone basin and granite from throughout the state. He created initial planting plans for the Central Gardens. Maureen Heffernan joined the small-but-growing staff as executive director in early 2004. She contacted Herb Schaal, FASLA, a widely acclaimed landscape architect and principal of EDAW in Fort Collins, Colorado, with whom she had collaborated on a previous project. He was then hired to complete the final landscape master plan for the Central Gardens. Terrence J. DeWan Associates of Yarmouth, Maine, also provided design services. Jorgensen Landscaping of Bath, Maine, built the Central Gardens.
Water Views, Courtesy B. Freeman
Water Views, Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens, Courtesy B. Freeman
Concurrently, Quinn Evans Architects of Washington, D.C., designed the elegant Maine Cottage-style Visitor Center. Ouellet Associates of Brunswick, Maine, began construction in fall of 2005; and in June of 2006, the administrative offices were moved to the new building from rented space in The Old Firehouse in Boothbay center. From 2001 to that point, the antique firehouse, 1.5 miles from the Gardens, had been the center of operations for both grounds and administrative staff members. The first office space occupied by the Gardens was on “Bank Square” in Boothbay Harbor. The 9,500-square-foot Center provides educational space, visitor amenities, rental opportunities, and meeting and office space for staff and volunteers in a beautiful setting. May 1, 2007, marked the opening of the Center’s delightful Gift Shop and Kitchen Garden Café. In the building’s appealing central area, Kerr Hall, soaring spaces and a tall, fieldstone Saxon Fireplace create interest. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has more than 2,000 books related to gardening and horticulture; most were donated during a two-year campaign to build the library’s collection. In 2005, the Gardens received an incredible gift of an additional 120 acres from the Pine Tree Conservation Society.  As a result of this generous gift of land adjacent to the original 128 acres, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is now comprised of 248 acres, which makes it the largest botanical garden in New England. The property boasts nearly a mile of tidal salt water frontage. It is also one of a very few waterfront botanical gardens in the United States. Detailed planning for the new land will begin after the gardens in the main campus are completed. In June of 2009, we opened the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses. This exquisite garden of about an acre adjacent to the Visitor Center allows all visitors to get in touch with their five major senses. It also includes many features that make its delights accessible to the disabled.
Courtesy Maine Botanical Garden
Courtesy Maine Botanical Garden, B. Freeman
That same year, we began construction on the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden. With themes derived from beloved children’s literature by authors with a Maine connection, this garden will appeal to the imagination of youngsters and their grown-ups. It will offer many exciting opportunities to learn about and interact with nature. A greenhouse once used on Mt. Desert Island was donated to the Gardens in 2006 and, in 2009, was reconstructed beside the Kulp Horticulture Building. In 2005, the Gardens received an incredible gift of an additional 120 acres from the Pine Tree Conservation Society.  As a result of this generous gift of land adjacent to the original 128 acres, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is now comprised of 248 acres, which makes it the largest botanical garden in New England. The property boasts nearly a mile of
Water View, Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens, B. Freeman
Water View, Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens, B. Freeman
salt water frontage. It is also one of a very few waterfront botanical gardens in the United States. Detailed planning for the new land will begin after the gardens in the main campus are completed. In June of 2009, we opened the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses. This exquisite garden of about an acre adjacent to the Visitor Center allows all visitors to get in touch with their five major senses. It also includes many features that make its delights accessible to the disabled. That same year, we began construction on the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden. With themes derived from beloved children’s literature by authors with a Maine connection, this garden will appeal to the imagination of youngsters and their grown-ups. It will offer many exciting opportunities to learn about and interact with nature. A greenhouse once used on Mt. Desert Island was donated to the Gardens in 2006 and, in 2009, was reconstructed beside the Kulp Horticulture Building.
Plantings on the Hillside, Courtesy Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Plantings on the Hillside, Courtesy Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, B. Freeman
For more information: mainegardens.org Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is a proud participant of the Boston Flower and Garden Show "Blooms" taking place from March 24 thru March 28.

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