A Garden Encounter

Meeting my fantasy garden along the coast of Maine

One of my favorite fantasies is that I pick up my entire garden and set it down somewhere along the rocky coast of Maine.

My fantasy garden sits right beside the shining blue sea, with  seagulls and the occasional osprey swooping overhead.  A gentle sea fog keeps it moist all summer long and, with winters running 10℉ warmer or more than here in Vermont, a whole new palette of plants becomes available.

While my fantasy garden will never happen, perhaps the next best thing is to be invited into just such a garden and strike up a conversation with its charming  gardener. And this is exactly how it happened last week.

Maine encounter

Dick and I, along with my brother Patrick from England, were exploring Ocean Point at the far end of the Liniken peninsula, one of the numerous long fingers of land along the Maine coast that stretch down into the Atlantic ocean.  We were surprised—and quite delighted— to find a public trail running above the rocky shoreline at Ocean Point,  and the trail actually traversing the private back lawns of the gray-shingled coastal homes.

And here, less than thirty feet from the trail, was this beautiful garden.  You could not miss it—it was a perfect gift for all who passed by.

A medley of ‘hot’ daylilies

A feast of daylilies in all shades of ‘hot’ colors in this Maine seaside garden

What a sight—masses of daylilies at their peak of perfection,  embracing all the ‘hot’ colors you can imagine!  They lit up the garden like fireworks.

Colors ranged from vibrant reds and oranges, deep buttery yellows, all the way to this palest yellow,
There were also pink tinged beauties such as this one with the yellow throat that caught Dick’s eye!










Cool blue hydrangeas complete the picture

Cool’ blue Hydrangea macrophylla is a wonderful standout against ‘hot’ colored companions

But, for me, the real stand-outs of the garden were surely the robust clumps of hydrangeas, each with a dozen or more enormous sky-blue flower heads (panicles) set off by huge dark green leaves.

The contrast of their ‘cool blue’ flowers beside the ‘hot’ colors of the daylilies was nothing short of stunning.

Sky blue Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nikko Blue’ grows to perfection in this Liniken garden.

These were Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) and we had seen them growing all around the Boothbay area. With their sky blue flowers that last for four weeks or longer, they seem like the perfect garden plant—providing you have the right conditions.

They like an acid soil and are hardy to Zone 6; they are also salt tolerant, making they are an ideal match for this windswept location.

But alas, since Hydrangea macrophylla are only hardy to Zone 6, they are certainly not suitable for my Vermont garden.

So reluctantly I conclude the only place I will be able to create this particular pairing of hot and cool colors will be in my ‘fantasy garden’.

Of course there are several other types of hydrangeas that grow in colder climates. These are mostly creamy white,  including the fall flowering Hydrangea paniculata that populates many a cemetery in Vermont (when I was a student at Vermont Technical College we used to call it the Cemetery Plant);  the floppy Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’; and the climbing Hydrangea anomala subs. petiolaris.

And repeated attempts to breed a hardier Hydrangea macrophylla have not been particularly successful in my experience. In particular I found H. Endless Summer’ to be a total  a bummer for my location. I have various other ‘on trial’ in my garden and nothing exciting to report.

 Meet the gardener

Chatting with the gardener was the highlight of our day

There we were, stopped dead in our tracks, savoring this rainbow of colors, when suddenly the gardener herself appeared, scissors in hand, all ready to deadhead her daylilies!

She smiled and waved and I waved back. Then, she beckoned to us to come on in.

Of course, as gardeners will, we got chatting about gardens, first our own and then about the nearby Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens where Dick, Patrick and I had spent the entire previous day.

But then  we discovered that she had grown up in Summit, New Jersey, living not far from Dick’s old house. More talk about shared acquaintances followed until, some thirty minutes later, we resumed our walk.

We even returned the following morning for Dick to take these photographs I am sharing with you here, and also to continue our chat!

But it was only after we left that I realized I had neglected to ask her name.

So, dear Liniken gardener—

—if you read this post please know how much your hospitality was appreciated by this fellow gardener. Thank you so much for both your time and for your beautiful garden.

And to all my other readers—

—the message in this story is for us all to make time to experience and enjoy the chance encounters, of gardens and of gardeners, that we may meet along the trail.

To quote my friend Abi Sessions:

To deepen your experience, you need to slow down and hold yourself open to whatever happens along the way!

6 Responses to “A Garden Encounter”

  1. Marilyn McDowell

    I love this story. Now it has me fantasizing about a garden near the sea. What a wonderful time for you. Hope to see you soon.

  2. barbara andres

    This is wonderful! Thank you. We know just what you mean about unforgettable encounters along the way. I’ll be interested to ask you Fri. at the concert about the Coastal garden. (I also need to find some of those gorgeous monkshood colors I don’t have.) Barbara Andres

  3. Jeanne Daniele

    Yellow and orange Daylillies and blue Hydrangeas capture perfectly the delicious feeling of Summer -sun and sparkling sea. It’s an unforgettable, but elusive combination somewhat achieved in our VT gardens by pairing Coreopsis or Sunflowers or Marigolds with Monkshood or Morning glories or blue glass bottle trees.I am delighted that you and your husband shared your lovely ( and real! )Coastal experience with us. Thank you Judith !

  4. Betsy and Chris Betts

    Dear Judith and Dick,
    Just found the beautiful tribute to our seaside garden that you so beautifully wrote about and the photography was truly inspiring. We are so glad that you enjoyed our garden as we too love working in it. At this moment the daylilies are almost finished, but the beautiful blues of the Hydrangeas still linger on. We are sad to have it over. Amazing that Dick lived hardly a block away from where I grew up in Summit. The circle grows closer with each year and it seems to evolve around the gardens. We so appreciate all that you wrote about and how special it made us feel. Thank you again and if we ever get to Vermont we will definitely come to see your gardens. Your blog and website are very inspiring.
    Thank you for all…Betsy and Chris Betts
    East Boothbay, Maine

    • Judith Irven

      How wonderful to see you found the story. it was a beautiful day indeed, and you are so gracious to share your garden with complete strangers who happen to stroll along the trail.
      Happy gardening! Judith

  5. Nan Gregory

    I’ll have to look for that path next time I’m in Boothbay. We go to Ocean Point often but I haven’t noticed the pathway. I have finally been successful with endless Summer hydrangeas in my cold garden. Last fall I bought pop up tents for winter garden protection and left them on until May. My hydrangeas bloomed heavily this year. The few that didn’t have tents on them had about one flower if that. Improvements.com sells the pop up tents. They come in three sizes and I’m using them for some other vulnerable plants as well.
    Thank you for this great discovery.


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