Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The Associated Press
SEAL HARBOR — Some of Maine's most popular destinations are located on Mount Desert Island, including Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. But the island is also home to several remarkable gardens, all connected to the renowned landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, whose philosophy of garden design emphasized native plants and using natural landscapes to define outdoor spaces.
In this July 12, 2012 photo, visitors sit on a rock bench to view the scenery at the Asticou Azalea Garden pond in Northeast Harbor, Maine. The garden includes plants from the collection of renowned landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, who has connections to several gardens in the area, including the nearby Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, a private garden thatís only open to the public a few days a year. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
This July 12, 2012 photo shows the pond at the Asticou Azalea Garden in Northeast Harbor, Maine. Asticou includes plants once owned by the renowned landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, who also designed the nearby Abby Aldrich Rockefeller garden, a private garden open to the public just a few days a year. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
If You Go...
THUYA AND ASTICOU AZALEA GARDENS: http://www.gardenpreserve.org. Located in Northeast Harbor, Maine, on Mount Desert Island. Asticou is at the intersection of Routes 198 and 3, and Thuya is a half-mile away on Route 3. Open daylight hours, May to October, $5 suggested donation for each garden.
ABBY ALDRICH ROCKEFELLER GARDEN: http://rockgardenmaine.wordpress.com/. Located in Seal Harbor, Maine, on Mount Desert Island. A private garden open to the public one day a week in late July, August and early September, by reservation only, with two-hour slots filling up well in advance. Check availability online.
GARLAND FARM: http://www.beatrixfarrandsociety.org. Located on Route 3 near Bar Harbor, Maine. Open Thursdays, 1 p.m.-5 p.m., June 21-Sept. 13.
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Opportunities for hiking, swimming, boating, nature walks and other activities on Mount Desert Island abound, along with accommodations ranging from campsites to hotels. The island is home to Acadia National Park, http://www.nps.gov/acad/ and Bar Harbor, http://www.visitmaine.com/region/downeast/bar_harbor/ or http://www.downeastacadia.com. Other area gardens include the Charlotte Rhoades Park and Butterfly Garden in Southwest Harbor and the Mount Desert Island Historical Society's Somesville Historical Museum and Gardens.
One of the gardens, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, is a private garden that's open to the public, by reservation only, just a few days a year. But the other two, Thuya Garden and Asticou Azalea Garden in Northeast Harbor, which contain plants from Farrand's Bar Harbor home, welcome visitors daily for much of the spring, summer and fall.
All three gardens use natural settings so artfully that it's sometimes hard to tell where the landscaping ends and nature begins.
Farrand, the sole woman among the founders of the American Society of Landscape Architects, was born in New York in 1872 and died in Bar Harbor in 1959. She designed gardens for the White House, consulted at Princeton and other institutions, and had many prominent private clients, including John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife Abby.
Farrand worked with Abby Rockefeller to design the private garden in Seal Harbor between 1926 and 1930. The property is still owned by the Rockefeller family. Each summer, the garden opens to the public one day a week, but reservations fill up fast. As of mid-July, only a handful of slots were left for late August and early September. And there's no sneaking in: To be admitted, your name must be on a checklist at the entrance, which is virtually unmarked and hard to find even with directions. Photos are permitted only for personal use.
Once inside, most visitors head to the rectangular lawn, where the borders burst with colorful flowers and plants familiar to any backyard gardener, from bright purple clematis vines to gray-green dusty miller. But in some ways the Rockefeller garden is at its most stunning away from the sunny flower beds, where the landscaping melts into the woods. Forested paths are carpeted by velvety moss; giant hostas and feathery ferns offer contrasting textures and a palette of greens. A stone wall punctuated by doorways shaped like the full moon or a bottle give the feeling of stepping into a secret garden hidden in a magical forest. The property also displays centuries-old Asian art, ranging from Buddhas to tall stone figures lining the walkways.
David Bennett, a landscape architect in Washington D.C., has visited the Rockefeller garden as part of his research for restoration of Farrand's kitchen garden at The Mount, the country estate in Lenox, Mass., created by Farrand's aunt, writer Edith Wharton. Bennett says Farrand wanted her gardens to "fit into their natural settings. She had a strong appreciation for the natural character of the land and the appropriate way of integrating a designed landscape with its natural context."
She used plants to create "impressionistic" effects of texture and color, and was also known for creating outdoor "garden rooms," with "the idea of moving through a landscape in a sequence, from one space to another, where each space has its own character," Bennett said. "One space may be very shady and enclosed, and you pass through a hedge or a row of trees or through an actual gate in a wall to enter a very sunny and open space."
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This July 2011 photo provided by the Beatrix Farrand Society shows the restored terrace garden at Garland Farm in Bar Harbor, Maine, where Farrand, a renowned landscape designer, lived and designed her last gardens. Farrand is connected to several gardens in the area, including a private garden designed for Abby Aldrich Rockefeller that's open to the public just a few days a year. (AP Photo/Beatrix Farrand Society)
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This July 12, 2012 image shows snapdragons at Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor, Maine. Thuya's collection includes plants from renowned landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, who has connections to several gardens in the area, including a nearby private garden she designed for Abby Aldrich Rockefeller thatís only open to the public a few days a year. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
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This July 12, 2012 photo shows a wooded path lined with moss and ferns at the Asticou Azalea Garden in Northeast Harbor, Maine. The Asticou contains plants from the collection of renowned landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, who also designed the nearby Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, a private garden open to the public just a few days a year. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
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This 2010 photo provided by the Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve shows colorful flowers at Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor, Maine. Thuyaís collection includes plants from renowned landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, who created the nearby Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, a privately owned garden thatís open to the public just a few days a year. (AP Photo/Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve, Jason Ashur)