The Coastal Main Botanical Gardens, nearly 300 acres in Boothbay, Maine, is one of the nicest (and newest) botanical gardens we’d ever visited. It was opend in 2007. My wife and I were there last Fall, and it’s stayed with us ever since. The majority of the gardens were outside and native plantings – a change from legacy botanical gardens that featured plants from around the world in conservatories and glass houses.
It’s open mid-April through October each year. We were there last October. We’ll have to make a point of seeing it earlier in the year next time, but Fall was beautiful. It was the end of the season, there were very few guests – at times it felt like we were alone in the park – and it was cold. Jacket and gloves weather. It was so empty, and so close to the end of season, they told us to take home any of the hundreds of pumpkins they had as part of the garden displays. We did and gave them to some local dinner companions that night.
Well organized with nice amenities (cafe, shop, education center) you could spend a couple hours there enjoying the highlights, or spend a day there exploring all the trails, picnicking, and reading every label.
We had the better part of an afternoon, and walked quite a bit through their Five Senses Garden, Event Lawn, Woodland Garden, Forest Pond, Arbor Garden, Hillside Garden, Children’s Garden, and Education Garden, among others. We didn’t see the Butterfly House, as it was too far past the butterfly season at the time.
It was nice to have a botanical “park” with trails and woods to walk through. Our Buffalo Botanical Gardens is sort of landlocked and really features what is inside the building, although it’s got some fine small exterior gardens.
We were very impressed with the Fairy Garden along one of the forested trails. A sign encouraged kids (and adults too) to build fairy houses – but only with things found in the forest. When waling u to it, you didn’t see too much, but taking a closer look, there were dozens and dozens of fairy houses made from sticks, bark, moss, rocks, leaves, and pine needles. We though they were charming (and a few looked like something out of the Blair Witch Project). It was nice that they expected people to use what materials were on hand – and to see the creativity!
Like most botanical gardens, there are art exhibitions, both indoor hung on walls, and as sculpture throughout the garden. Our favorite piece was the twirling wind sculpture of modernistic ginkgo leaves.
They have a Gardens Aglow winter event (they were wrapping trees with lights when we were there), which looked like it might be a fun thing to do on these days when it gets dark so early.
It had one of the best kid’s gardens I’ve seen too. Everything was done in the New England vernacular – from the cedar-shingled, copula-topped architecture of the sheds to the boat adorned ponds, to the bird and bear sculptures.
The park is not near too many other things – but is just over an hour away from Portland, Maine, so if you’re out that way, it is totally worth it.