Author: Robert Lyons, Director of the LGP
Photography: Lindsey Kerr and Laurie Metzger
The last leg of our North American Experience journey took us 3.5 hours north of Boston to the charming town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. To get there, our primary route out of Boston’s twisted and contorted system of complex intersections and rotaries was a familiar I-95. Upon our arrival, we checked into the Tugboat Inn, a slightly enigmatic hotel that echoed into the evening with the voices of seasoned, anonymous lounge singers.
After a welcomed night sleep, we boarded the van on a glorious morning saturated by bright sun, clear blue skies, and crisp temperatures that beckoned a sweatshirt or long sleeves. Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens (CMBG) was our destination and none of us had ever visited, making this destination greatly anticipated. Upon our arrival, we met up with Executive Director Bill Cullina, who escorted us through their “net zero” LEED certified administration and education building. Fascinating! We ended up in the conference room where Bill and his entourage of key staff introduced us to CMBG’s history, mission, current operations, and future plans. Their property is beautiful, and ironically became available for purchase when a developer abandoned plans for a subdivision and sold the 128 acres to the founders of what was to become CMBG. Today there are 298 total acres, 8000 members, 100,000 visitors/year, 31 permanent employees, 800 volunteers, and an annual operating budget of $3.2 million. While open year round, there is an entry fee from April 15 – October, with the remaining months free.
We couldn’t wait to get outside and Bill readily obliged. A quick pass through a recently renovated and bustling visitor center led us to the Burpee Kitchen Garden, which was cleverly integrated into the restaurant’s al fresco dining area. What a concept…many of the same plants that were harvested for the menu grew within arm’s reach. We were joined by Rodney Eason, former Longwood employee and now Director of Horticulture for CMBG. He and Bill guided us in tag team style through the green spaces and internal pathways, all bordered by artfully designed beds rampant with color or brushed with the diverse green shades of Maine’s natural vegetation. Our tour soon exited the cultivated spaces, including what we all determined was an ingenious approach to a children’s garden, and we found ourselves within a completely forested region dominated by conifers. We were indeed close to the water and Bill was excited to show us the coastline. We lingered there to catch our breath and take a group photograph before heading back to conclude our visit.Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens lived up to all the pre-visit hype and landed on our own wish list of places to see again as soon as we can!