June 5, 2011

LISTEN ... do you want to grow a secret?

Get ideas for your own yard from the many tours of private gardens and fundraisers sprouting up around Maine.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Some people say Maine has only two seasons -- winter and July.

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An image from last year’s Secret Gardens of Portland tour. This year’s tour, set for Saturday, includes a loop of properties in Deering Center with some innovative features, such as vertical gardening, permaculture, a rain garden, chickens, bees and more.

Courtesy photos

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Tour-goers get to see both gardens and homes in the Sagadahoc Preservation Inc.’s ninth annual House Tour of Architectural Gems and Hidden Gardens, which takes place Saturday in Bath.

Additional Photos Below

But if you're a gardener -- and most people in Maine are to some degree -- you know there are lots of little micro-seasons to enjoy. There's garden-prep season, planting season and plant sale season.

Beginning this week, we begin the time when private gardens across the state are opened to the public, so that others may enjoy them and gather ideas -- garden tour season.

Garden tours are also a big fundraisers for garden clubs and other local groups, not to mention a really fun way to see what others are doing with their gardens.

Some, like an upcoming tour in Cape Elizabeth, bring you to seaside estates and other oceanfront vistas. Others, like one on Munjoy Hill in Portland, show you how to be creative with small, urban spaces.

Most are self-guided, so you can take your time and see the gardens at your leisure.

Here's a look at some of the garden tours scheduled around the area in the coming weeks:


Sixth Annual Belfast Garden Club Open Garden Days, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays through Aug. 26. At gardens in Belfast and surrounding towns. $4 for each garden or $15 for a five-visit ticket. Belfastgardenclub.org; 338-3105.

Instead of opening a bunch of gardens on one day -- like a lot of garden clubs do -- the Belfast Garden Club has a summer-long series where they open one garden a week to the public. Tickets are purchased at each garden.

The Belfast garden on view this week was created specifically for the owners' roles as grandparents, so it's designed for easy maintenance and with play areas for children -- gentle slopes with steps, paths, and stone and iron frogs and rabbits. Plantings range from juniper, Siberian iris and day lilies to ground cover of pink and blue lungwort. The garden is handicapped accessible.

To see a list of upcoming open gardens and directions, go to Belfastgardenclub.org.


The Secret Gardens of Portland, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., various locations around Deering Center, Portland. $20 in advance; $25 day of the tour. Portedfound@gmail; 712-0547.

This is a self-guided tour of 10 private home gardens in Portland, mostly around the Deering Center neighborhood.

One garden is designed for four-season interest, with crocuses and tulips that start to show in March, as well as pink chrysanthemums that bloom in late fall. Another garden includes a greenhouse with fruit trees, beehives and chickens, and yet another includes more than 2,000 bulbs.

The tour is a fundraiser for the Portland Education Foundation. Tickets and maps are available at local businesses including Rosemont Bakery, Big Sky Bakery and Jet Video. The tour will be held rain or shine.

"Each year we are amazed at the beautiful creativity Portland residents have for their yards," said Mary Gross, vice president of the foundation. "(This year's gardens) really showcase innovative ways to have a sustainable, edible, yet beautiful oasis that give you a country feel nestled in the heart of the city."


Sagadahoc Preservation Ninth Annual House Tour of Architectural Gems and Hidden Gardens, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Winter Street Center, 880 Washington St., Bath. $20 in advance; $25 day of tour. Sagadahocpreservation.org; 443-8812.

Here's a two-for-one deal: gardens and houses. The tour will feature nine properties representing a range of architectural styles in the historic riverfront city. Gardens will include waterfront properties, great views and hidden in-city treasures.

The Bath Garden Club is providing arrangements for the homes, and artists from the Kennebec Art Club will be painting in the gardens and selling notecards with renderings of some of the homes.

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

The Bath tour features a variety of gardens, a lecture by former “This Old House” host Steve Thomas and more.


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