July 15th, 2014
When I heard that TripAdvisor visitor/reviewers were rating the upstart Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens higher than any other American public garden – including Pennsylvania’s own Longwood Gardens – I thought, “C’mon, there’s some social-media manipulating going on there.”
But after seeing this young 248-acre garden in the small coastal town of Boothbay, Maine, two weeks ago, I can see why. (Judge for yourself in a Photo Gallery I’ve posted on CMBG.)
This place is one of the top 10 public gardens I’ve ever seen. Maybe even in the top 5.
The 1-acre Lerner Garden of the Five Senses alone is worth the 9-hour drive from Harrisburg. See Boston, have some Maine lobster and keep going to Bar Harbor while you’re up there.
Only about 18 acres of the 248-acre tract is in cultivated gardens far. If the quality of those is any indication, CMBG could end up being considered in the same breath as Canada’s Butchart Gardens, England’s Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, and, of course, Longwood (which TripAdvisor visitors rate as No. 2 on their satisfaction list).
World-class quality was the incredibly brash idea right from the start of this unlikely project.
CMBG’s genesis is a mostly joking comment that Boothbay businessman, the late Rollie Hale, got from a friend back in 1991.
Hale, an avid gardener, was talking with the friend about public gardens when the friend said, “You should start a botanical garden.”
That got Hale thinking. He talked to some gardening friends, and they realized that Maine was one of only three U.S. states without a botanical garden.
They considered that an affront and began exploring the idea of bringing a botanical garden to mid-coast Maine.