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From Barren to Beautiful


May 04, 2021

Garden Club of Mount Desert Leads Collaboration to Create a Welcoming Harbor

Despite the name, Maine’s Mount Desert Island is no desert. In fact, the barren mountain tops that led Samuel de Champlain to give it the name are surrounded by forested beauty. That said, in 2013, when the village of Northeast Harbor finished construction of the new marina and Chamber of Commerce buildings, there was no budget left for landscaping, and the view that welcomed visitors from land and sea was bare and dismal. The Garden Club of Mount Desert (GCMD) spearheaded a collaboration with the village, the Harbor Master, the Summer Residents Association, and others, to fund, design, and create a beautiful, low-maintenance, sustainable seaside landscape.  

The multifaceted effort included the organizing, gardening, and horticultural talents of GCMD members and a design by noted landscape architect Bruce Ridell, who designed the Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Garden in Southwest Harbor and parts of the Maine Botanical Gardens. Of equal importance were the significant donations of materials and labor from a local irrigation systems company. Irrigation was a critical aspect as climate change is causing warmer summers with recent droughts affecting the garden plans. By the end of 2016, the bare, unwelcoming area was transformed by a hardscaping of pavers, boulders, and a bench. Native perennials, trees, and groundcovers provided plant material.

Each year, GCMD members have improved on their creation. They plant more bulbs each fall. A pollinator bed of common milkweed was added, attracting so many monarchs that the club has placed a plaque with educational details there. Last December, in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and in honor of a well-loved resident, GCMD raised funds to plant a handsome, white spruce specimen —just right for Christmas lights. 




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Native Plants Gain National Recognition
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