The Garden Spotter

Spotted: Michelle Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden Sets Permanent Roots


As the 2016 presidential election draws closer, the campaign seems to be getting nastier and nastier. But let’s forget about all that for a bit, shall we? And talk about something more positive that has happened in Washington lately.

On the South Lawn of the White House last week, First Lady Michelle Obama joined a group of school children for what no doubt will be her last harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden, at least as a resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Bearing fresh-picked greens and her signature wide smile, Mrs. Obama also announced plans for the continuation of the garden she created seven years ago, regardless of who takes office next January.

Thanks to a $2.5 million grant from Burpee, the White House Kitchen Garden will be funded for at least the next 17 years, the first lady said, and it will continue to be maintained by the U.S National Park Service.

White House Kitchen Garden

Groundbreaking in 2009/White House photo

Planted in 2009, the White House Kitchen Garden helped promote Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move initiative to end childhood obesity. Over the years, it also produced food for White House meals, state dinners and even local hunger programs. It was the subject of a 2012 book by Michelle Obama, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. And it has no doubt inspired many other Americans to grow vegetables in their own backyards. (more…)

Garden Visit: The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden


abby aldrich rockefeller garden abby aldrich rockefeller garden The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor has been on my bucket list of Maine gardens to visit for several years, but I always seemed to miss the chance at winning a spot on their limited calendar. The garden, designed by the legendary landscape architect Beatrix Farrand for John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in the 1920’s, is open only for private tours on Thursdays from late July to mid September. So this year I felt like I won the lottery, because not only did I get a reservation, I was granted a visit on the year the U.S. National Park Service and nearby Acadia National Park were to celebrate their official centennial. (more…)

Garden Tours: 6 Tips for Visitors


garden tours Throughout the Maine summer, garden tours abound. One weekend may find you meandering through the historical estates of Camden, while another you might be touring the colorful urban garden plots of Munjoy Hill in Portland. (more…)

Round Pond, Maine: Saving the Lupine Field


lupine When residents of tiny Round Pond Village, Maine found out last year that their beloved lupine field could be developed into condominiums, they took quick action. (more…)

The List: Maine Garden Tours 2016


stonehouse farm


What: Herb Walks at the Avena Botanicals Garden led by owner and noted Maine herbalist Deb Soule at 219 Mill Street, Rockport, Maine.

When: 3:30 – 4:30 pm on the following Wednesdays: June 15, June 29, July 6, July 20, August 3, August 17

Details:  $5; no advanced registration required


What: Belfast Open Garden Days

When: Fridays, from June 17 until August 12, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. rain or shine

Details: $5 per garden or $30 for all eight; complete list of gardens at


What: Buxton Garden Club Tour of five flower and vegetable gardens

When: Saturday, June 18, 2016 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Details: $12 per person or 2/$20


What: Sagadahoc Preservation Inc. Historic House and Garden Tour, featuring homes and gardens in Day’s Ferry and Woolwich

When: Saturday, June 18, 2016 10 pm – 3:30 pm

Details: $25 in advance; $30 day of event. More information at


What: Congregation Bet Ha’am  at 81 Westbrook Street in South Portland is hosting a garden tour featuring three gardens at one location: a secluded sanctuary garden with year round reflecting pool, a planted bio-retention basin and an entry courtyard garden.

When: Sunday, June 19, 2016, 10 am – 2 pm

Details: $15 in advance through search bet ha’am; $20 day of event. Coffee cakes and minted beverages will be served and a raffle of Felco #2 pruners will be offered.


What: Peony Society of Maine Garden Tours of several gardens in Bangor

When: June 18 and June 25, 9 am to 4 pm

Details: Tour begins at 1348 Ohio Street, Bangor; a $3 donation is appreciated.


What: “Our Neighbors’ Gardens” tour in Rockland, the seventh annual garden tour sponsored by Friends of Rockland Public Library. Seven gardens on display, including pocket gardens in the South End to cottage gardens in the town center. All profits to Rockland Public Library.

When: Saturday, June 25, 10 am until 2 pm

Details: $12 in advance and $15 day of tour. Tickets available at library. More information:


What:  Incredible Edible Milbridge invites the public to an open garden day in Cherryfield featuring the 3,200 square-foot organic garden of mixed vegetables, flowers and herbs owned by Curtis and Marion LaFollette, both artists.

When: June 25 and September 3 beginning at 9 a.m.

Details: Tours are free but advanced registration is required. Call 207-546-7667 for more information.


What: Glendarragh Lavender Farm at 151 Searsmont Road in Appleton

When: daily 10 am until 3pm through July 17

Details: Tour lavender fields in peak bloom and watch harvest process, there is a store on premises; more information, call 207-236-8151


What: Incredible Edible Milbridge is also sponsoring a garden tour of the Anderson garden in Back Bay, Milbridge. Barbara and Andy Anderson have a greenhouse, a pond for irrigation, and freeze and can much of their garden bounty for the winter. Come see how they do it!

When: Saturday, July 9, beginning at 9 am

Details: Tours are free but advanced registration is required. Call 207-546-7667 for more information.


What: 25th Annual Gardens in the Watershed Tour, a self-guided tour featuring seven gardens on the St. Georges peninsula, all with waterfront views

When: Sunday, July 10, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Details: $25, tickets available


What: 10th Annual Hidden Gardens of Munjoy Hill sponsored by Friends of the Eastern Promenade, Portland, Maine

When: Sunday, July 10, 2016

Details: $15 in advance; $20 day of event


What: Castine House and Garden Tour, sponsored by the Castine Historical Society, promises to be a special day. Held just once every five years, this year’s tour will feature 13 of the most spectacular homes, 4 gardens, and the Dyce Head Light House.

When: Wednesday, July 13, 2016, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Details: $35 in advance; $40 day of event; more 


What: Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Searsport Open Garden Days

When: Thursdays, July 14 through September 8, 2016; two sessions each day

Details: Free, but reservations are required and spacing is limited. To reserve online, go to To reserve by phone, call 207-276-3330 Monday through Friday from 9 am to 3 pm


What: Cape Elizabeth Garden Tour featuring 12 homes and gardens in Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough sponsored by the Fort Williams Park Foundation, Maine Home and Design Magazine and other organizations and businesses.

When: Saturday, July 16, 2016 9 a.m. – 4 p.m rain or shine

Details: Cost $25 in advance and $30 day of event; proceeds benefit Fort Williams Foundation Arboretum Projects


What: Camden Garden Club’s 2016 House & Garden Tour called “Jewel of the Maine Coast” featuring homes and gardens in the first garden tour back in 1948

When: Thursday, July 21, 2016, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Details: $35 ahead (tickets available at select locations beginning June 21); $40 day of event


What: Boothbay Region Garden Club 2016 Home and Garden Tour

When: Friday, July 22, 2016

Details: For more information


What: The Garden Club of Mt. Desert holds its annual Open Garden Day recognizing and celebrating the centennial of Acadia National Park and featuring old style summer cottages.

When: Saturday, July 23, 2016, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Details: $35 in advance; $40 day of event For more information, visit@


What: 2016 Appledore Island Walking Tour Cruise takes place on various one-day dates from mid July through mid August. Explore/hike the island of the Maine/New Hampshire coastline and visit the recreated annual garden of poet and writer Celia Thaxter, who lived on Appledore and wrote a book about it called An Island Garden.

When: Various dates, Sunday, July 17 through Friday, August 19, 2016

Details: $50 adult; $40 children; more details and register online at


What: The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor is open for two hour tour sessions every Thursday.

When: Thursdays, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. and 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., July 14 through September 8

Details: Phone reservations begin June 14 from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m.; online reservations begin Tuesday, May 31, at 9 a.m. Visit

Shop Visit: Vena’s Fizz House in Portland


To call Vena’s Fizz House simply a craft beverage shop or a bar would be doing a great injustice to this two-year old establishment in the heart of Portland’s Old Port District.  To be sure, Vena’s is a one of a kind – a store, bar, soda shop, and history lesson all rolled into one.  craft cocktails

Vena’s Fizz House is the creation of Steve and Joanna Corman, whose great grandmother was one of the leaders in Maine’s temperance movement in the 1920’s.  The shop is named for Irvina, also known as “Vena.” Initially, the pair sold only sodas and mocktails, but later added alcohol to the menu. They also sell the ingredients they use to make the drinks they sell, drinks that carry names like Tootsie Soda Pop, Ginger-tini, and Elderflower Vodka Collins.

craft cocktails

These aren’t just craft cocktails or mocktails, but, in many cases, drinks from much earlier times. Thankfully, the Cormans provide some explanations on their menus. A shrub, for example, is a vinegar drink that dates back to American Colonial Period. Bitters are a concentrated extraction of herbs, bark, roots or flowers that were once used as a digestive aid. Phosphates are an early form of soda that went out of vogue in the 1950’s. And simple syrups are nothing more than a syrup made from sugar and fruit. craft cocktails

craft cocktails

The Cormans obviously like to share everything. They stock hundreds of ingredients, many of them organic and sourced in Maine, and they have a website that has a special recipe section for trying the drinks at home. If you’d like to acquire even more knowledge about mixing craft cocktails, you can even take a class at Vena’s, or attend a tasting event. And if you’re wondering what to give your Valentine this year, think about a trip to Vena’s to enjoy a Love Potion#9, Lumberjack Love, or maybe a delicious-sounding Chocolate Cherry Cordial. The word around the Old Port is “they work.”

If You Go:

Gardens Aglow at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens


It’s such a beautiful sight, walking in the winter wonderland at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay.  Normally, the plants would be going dormant— they still are in reality— 200,000 lights strung all along the walkways, plants, trees and buildings of the central gardens have extended the season in ways not easily imagined. “Gardens Aglow” is magical. gardens aglow 208 gardens aglow 141 Under white lights, the once poofy white hydrangea balls take on a golden hue. The tiny buildings in the Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden, illuminated in gold and red, look like a gingerbread village that no child could resist. And the gardens’ pools and their lily pads must be confusing the mallard ducks, who are said to be able to see red and green lights more vividly than us humans. gardens aglow 229 gardens aglow 225 gardens aglow 098 All lit up, even trees that have lost most of their leaves seem to have more to give this late in autumn.
gardens aglow 157 gardens aglow 019 gardens aglow 177 I visited on a rainy Sunday night and didn’t regret it at all, as the rain added a sheen to everything and a beauty I felt privileged to see.  I’d go back again during or after a snowfall because I suspect it will be an entirely different and beautiful show.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I have to say: Gardens Aglow is a must see this holiday season.


If You Go:


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