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Garden Visit: Stedman Buttrick Garden at Minute Man National Historical Park

The Buttrick Garden lies on the banks of the historical Concord River in Massachusetts, where in April of 1775 some of the first shots were fired in the American Revolution.  Major John Buttrick was, in fact, the military leader who first ordered militia to fire upon the British at the North Bridge. “Fire, fellow soldiers, for God’s sake fire!” he is quoted as saying.  At the time the war broke out, Buttrick was a well respected farmer whose family had resided in Concord for more than a hundred years.

Below: The Old North Bridge, site of one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War, is a popular stop for tourists visiting Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord.
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minuteman 265 Above: Major John Buttrick’s house was built in 1712, years before the Revolutionary War. It is now part of the Minute Man National Historical Park.

The Buttrick family lived on the Liberty Road property from before the Revolutionary War until 1962, when the National Park Service purchased it and it became part of Minute Man National Historical Park.  Included in the purchase was the Buttrick Garden and Mansion,  not built by Major Buttrick but his great great grandson, Stedman Buttrick. The brick mansion, built in 1911, now serves as the park’s headquarters and visitor center.

Below: The sunken garden, featuring day lilies, peonies and other perennials, with the Buttrick mansion in the background.
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According to articles in the 1950s and 1960s in National Geographic and Better Homes and Gardens magazines, the Buttrick garden was sublime, with peonies, day lilies and more than 200 varieties of bearded iris, many propagated by Buttrick himself.  According to the accounts, the blue and white Buttrick irises appeared in a number of American and British flower shows.
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Above: Boxwood frames the iris garden, now past its bloom.
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Above: Peonies in pink and white mix with daylilies, iris and many other perennials at the Buttrick Garden, which spans several acres.
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Above: One of the iron gates to the sunken garden shows some damage and is permanently locked.
minuteman 251 minuteman 193 Above: Cobblestones form circular shapes along the paths at the Buttrick Garden.
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Above:  Giant beech trees dot the landscape around the North Bridge Visitor Center at Minute Man National Park.

Years after the National Park Service took over the property, the historical Concord garden seems a little trodden and worn, and, frankly, in need of an upgrade and a just a little more loving care and nourishment. Cobblestone paths are in disrepair, garden beds are overcome with weeds and the once flourishing irises seem to be dwindling in numbers. How many of those original 200 varieties of irises, I wonder, are simply no more?

Still, the garden, the North Bridge and all of the park lands at Minute Man are still worthy of a lengthy and thoughtful visit. They are especially worthwhile this time of year, just before Independence Day, when perhaps we think most about our founding fathers and the birth of our country.  This year, no doubt, I will be thinking freedom, liberty and just a little more compost under those peonies and irises, please.

If You Go:

The Buttrick Garden is located at Minute Man National Park in Concord, Massachusetts.

5 Father’s Day Gifts for the Gardener (Made in Maine!)

Looking for a Father’s Day gift for the dad with a green thumb? Turns out, Maine has a number of small businesses that make garden tools and other related gardening products. He’ll love that it’s something he can use, and that it’s “Made in Maine,” a phrase which suggests a certain quality, creativity and independence all rolled into one. Here are five cool gifts with connections to Maine for your pop who loves to garden:

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From Top:

  • Sure, Ashfield Tool is based in Ashfield, Massachusetts, but its key component, a birch wood handle, is made in Maine. This harrow by Ashfield is also known as a hand tiller, used to break up clumps of soil.  ashfieldtools.com
  • Hunting Camp Soap from Portland Apothecary is a scrub soap with bits of pumice for extra abrasiveness,  because sometimes a guy needs a good hearty scrub. portlandgeneralstore.com
  • The Original Pike’s Garden Hod is something any gardening dad should have, whether he grows food or flowers. This is the genuine Maine hod, a type of trug used to carry harvested products.  stores.mainegarden.com
  • Not Far From the Tree, written by Maine’s apple expert John Bunker.  Book available from the Maine Farmers and Garden Association MOFGA.
  • Byer of Maine makes all sorts of garden furniture, but it is its Brazilian hammocks that get all the attention. Byer is the sole U.S. distributor of Amazonas hammocks, woven from recycled textiles. Available at byerofmaine.com
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Garden Visit: Stonehouse Farm in Bath, Maine

Melina Banks and her husband Erik  moved from Greenwich, Connecticut back in 2004 to start a farm for rescued horses on the outskirts of Bath, Maine. More than 10 years later, they have transformed the 60-acre property known as the Stonehouse Farm into an English country manor style estate, complete with pasture for horses, chickens and other animals. But Melina Banks’ endless days of hard labor and exceptional creativity have added another very appropriate dimension: an elaborate series of gardens that start at the front door and roll on for several acres.  True to English country garden style, there are lily ponds, perennial beds, classical statuary, topiary, birdbaths, large jardinieres and numerous little surprises.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Stonehouse Farm dates back to about 1800.  Maine’s first governor, William King,  purchased the home as a hunting lodge in 1808.  Over the years, it’s had various uses, including as a dairy farm, a tavern and a marine hospital. The large granite stones used in the construction of the main house reportedly came directly from the property.

The Stonehouse Farm gardens were on view this weekend as part of the Sagadahoc Preservation Society’s 13th annual House & Garden Tour, a rare treat because they are usually not open to the public. Open the slideshow by clicking on one of the images below:

For a complete list of 2015 Maine Garden Tours, click here.

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