There is nothing better to cheer the winter weary than a spring or summer walk through one of Maine’s many public gardens. Truth be told, some of these gems are open to the public year-round. For example, the ever-popular Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay welcomes visitors every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Admission to the 250-acre is free from November through mid-April.) According to that venue’s website, TripAdvisor named it number one on its 2013 list of Top 10 gardens in the U.S.
If you love gardens, though, don’t stop there! Dozens of private home and garden tours are open to visitors and each has its own unique version of lush splendor. Recommended sites to explore include:
Asticou Azalea Garden, Mt. Desert Island — More than 20 varieties of azaleas in a setting that includes a stream, an iris-bordered pond and a Japanese meditation garden.
Colonel Black Mansion Formal Gardens, Ellsworth — Former estate on 300 acres, featuring a lilac hedge surrounding a tea lawn and formal garden.
Cottage Garden, Lubec — Two acres of walkways, heritage roses, delphiniums, wildflowers.
Ecotat Gardens and Arboretum, Hermon — 89-acre land trust with gardens featuring more than 1,500 perennials, woodlands, 140 types of trees.
Gardens of Vesper Hill-Children’s Chapel, Rockport — Open air nondenominational chapel with views of Penobscot Bay, surrounded by lawns and formal gardens.
Gilsland Farm Sanctuary, Falmouth — Home of Maine Audubon, 65 acres of fields, woods, marshes along an estuary, wildflowers, peony gardens.
Hamilton House, South Berwick — Colonial Revival garden recently renovated, lovely walking trails through 35 acres.
Historic Conway Homestead and Museum, Camden — Restored 1770 house with native plants common before 1860 plus an historic herb garden.
Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden and Research Center, University of Maine, Orono — Displays of over 2,500 woody and herbaceous plants, special collections of crabapples, lilacs, rhododendrons, magnolias.
McLaughlin Garden, South Paris — Collections of hostas, daylilies, astilbes, iris, phlox, sedum, cimicifuga, sempervivums, lilacs, native wildflowers and ferns.
Merryspring Nature Park, Camden — 66-acre preserve featuring indigenous plants, herbs, lilies, hostas, roses, perennials.
Perkins Arboretum, Colby College, Waterville — Designated national wildlife refuge.
Pine Tree State Arboretum, Augusta — More than 200 species of trees and shrubs, antique apple orchard, “space trees” (from seed that traveled on the Space Shuttle), rock gardens.
Rose Circle, Deering Oaks Park, Portland — Award-winning rose garden with more than 600 species of roses.
St. Anthony’s Monastery Grounds and Gardens, Kennebunkport — Quiet, English-style park with walking trails along the river, wooded areas, gardens, rhododendrons.
Stone House, Freeport — Flower beds, gardens, demonstrations of organic gardening by Wolfe’s Neck Botanical Society.
Thuya Gardens, Mt. Desert Island — 1.5 acres, plants arranged by color, more than 110 varieties surrounded by woodland.
Wild Gardens of Acadia, Acadia National Park, Mt. Desert Island — 300 indigenous plants labeled and grouped in 13 sections.