June 15, 2013

Maine garden earning national praise

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and its director have been named the best in the country, thanks to William Cullina's vision and labor.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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William Cullina, executive dorector of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, is surrounded by hybrid Peonies and a multitude of other plants in the Bibby and Harold Children's Garden. He and his organization won the Award of Excellence from the National Garden Clubs, Inc..

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Visitors enjoy the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay on Friday, June 14, 2013.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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The popular botanical attraction has come a long way since Cullina, a Connecticut native, came to work as curator and director of horticulture a few years ago.

When Cullina, his wife and three children arrived in Maine, the gardens had a visitors center, roses, a rhododendron garden and not much else. The Haney Hillside Garden had been built, but then decimated by the big Patriots Day storm in 2007.

Since then, a children's garden has been added, along with a "five senses" garden, an event lawn and an education building. Haney Hillside has been repaired, and the rhododendron garden has tripled in size and gained a waterfall.

"It's really grown," Cullina said. "I like to say I got in on the mezzanine and not the ground floor. ... Most botanical gardens are kind of done, you know, and to be able to be involved in a new one like this is kind of a rare thing."

Rebecca Hutcheson, chair of the board of overseers for the botanical gardens, said Cullina has a way of looking at things from a different point of view that makes others look at things differently.

She said the wide variety of educational opportunities he has developed attracts people to the gardens, and that his national reputation as an author and lecturer helps draw high-quality speakers.

"He's a very imaginative person, and he's done a lot toward plant research and has a national reputation in that," Hutcheson said. "From the point of view of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, having that national reputation just raises people's view of our garden so much. Because of his reputation, people will take a look at it and be drawn to come here."

Cullina said the garden had 90,000 visitors last year, and is expected to draw 100,000 soon. He thinks that by adding some of the programs being considered, it could reach 200,000 visitors in the future.

"That's the challenge going forward, is to keep this place true to Maine and true to its roots but keep it fresh and to keep it growing," Cullina said. "I feel like we're starting to really have a true economic impact in the midcoast, and hopefully for the state, in a smaller way."

The quality of the visit, not just the number of visitors, is just as important to Cullina. That's why the TripAdvisor award made him so proud.

"To be this out-of-the-way place in Maine, and not to have the resources and population that other places have, and to build something that gives so many people so much joy, it's just something that I'm proud of," he said, "and I know that everybody that's been involved with it is proud of it too."

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@mainetoday.com

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Additional Photos

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Firewitch Cheddar Pinks contrast with the stone walkway at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay on Friday, June 14, 2013.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

  


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