A quaint little bridge helps guests cross the pond. In the background, the statue of a bear roams the gardens.
Photo Credit : Bethany Bourgault
Tucked away in the woods of Boothbay, Maine, is a horticultural maze of blossoming beauty: the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a must-see for anyone visiting the midcoast region.
My trip to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens began at the visitor center, where guests can pick up a map and read a bit more about the gardens they’re about to explore. There’s also a reading room, a café (stocked with freshly grown produce, of course), and a gift shop — though I saved these for later in my visit.
First, it was time to explore. I spent the entire afternoon wandering along trails through tulips, daffodils, and other blooms of every size and color. There were ponds filled with frogs and lily pads, charming wooden bridges stretching across streams, and shaded nooks with benches where you can rest and take it all in.
Distinguished by its velvety leaves, “Silver Carpet” lamb’s ears grows naturally in the area.
The main attractions include a whimsical children’s garden, the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses, and the Burpee Kitchen Garden, where much of the produce used in the café is grown. There’s a treehouse and a “bear cave” for adventurous young ones, plus longer hiking trails for anyone wanting to escape into the forest. Artwork throughout the gardens adds an extra pop of creativity, and a patch of woods dubbed the Fairy House Village encourages visitors to use the sticks and rocks around them to build homes for local sprites.
Since the gardens were built with sustainability in mind, the trails were designed to affect the environment as little as possible. Many of the plants that were originally on the property (like the gardens’ famous 400-plus lady’s slippers) are thriving just as they would in the wild. The gardens’ Bosarge Family Education Center has even been called “the greenest building in Maine.” Its solar panels, rainwater collection system, and innovative insulation help it function as a zero net energy building.
Flowers aren’t the only things growing at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, either. When first opened in 2007, the gardens occupied a mere 128 acres. Since then they’ve more than doubled in size, and now span more than 300 acres. And there’s more growing still to do. The gardens’ flourishing popularity has required the creation of a new master plan to allow for further expansion in the future.
After my visit, I can see why the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens have become so popular. It’s the type of place that fairy tales are written about, with acres upon acres of natural beauty to inspire the imaginations of all ages. The gardens certainly inspired me — and now I can’t wait to go back.
COASTAL MAINE BOTANICAL GARDENS
132 Botanical Gardens Dr., Boothbay. 207-633-8000; mainegardens.org
Have you ever visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens?
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.