Friday, August 29, 2014

Postcards from Maine: The Rockefeller Garden

I made our August 21 reservation to visit the Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor back in May and felt strange doing it online for the first time. Over the past 20 years, I've always had to spend about an hour inside our little bungalow in Southwest Harbor one afternoon, resigned to making a dozen or more phone calls. (One of the first perks of having a cell phone was getting to do this outside.)


Abby Aldrich Rockefeller's old-fashioned flower garden is on the family's private property, up an unmarked road. It has public viewings only at 11 am and 1 pm on Thursdays during the season. For decades, it has been one of the most closely guarded secrets on Mount Desert Island. Until recently, everyone booked their reservations by making repeated calls to a telephone number that hardly anyone ever gave out. Even so, the line was continuously busy during the three-hour window you were permitted to call, only on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the week you wished to visit.

We were given that precious number 20 years ago, after my husband charmed a lady innkeeper with the story of how he and his brother ran around chasing butterflies (and wrecking plants) with their nets in the garden when they were little and his family summered in Bar Harbor. Since we've had the number, we've given it out to others maybe... twice. Whenever rebels tried to post the number online, the Rockefeller family requested that it be taken down.

I want to point out that there was no screening process once you had the number. I never had a problem, anyway. I presume that as long as you behaved yourself with the nice lady on the other end of the line, they'd let you in no matter who you were and where you went, or did go, to school. People who want to visit such a garden tend to be pretty much the same kind of people. Flower people — but not the Haight Ashbury kind.

But the jig is up — you can now book your reservations online and well before the date you wish to visit. Notice, however, that I'm not giving you the link, or the precious phone number, which is still operative if you want the old-school reservation experience. You can find it by Googling, but I'm sorry to tell you that the garden is fully booked for the rest of the season, which ends next Thursday. But keep it in mind for next summer.

Click any photo to enlarge:

You enter the garden through mossy, well-groomed woods.

The garden is protected by a Chinese wall.

One path is lined with about a dozen large Chinese statues.

So many familiar flowers — petunias, geraniums, phlox, ageratum, and many more —
 identified with tags so you can learn the exact variety.

The plants are in beds around a central rectangle of grass.

The vase gate and ferns.

The beds are planted for steady blooming, and interesting color and height contrasts.

Even though the garden was fully booked, it didn't feel crowded. 

A buddha sculpture in a wooded area.

Another Buddha visible through the Moon Gate.

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