Azaleas, rhododendrons, and lilacs are beginning to blossom, and these Maine public gardens are full of their color and promise. Note: Some have donation boxes—give the suggested amount if you can, more if possible, but no one will badger you for payment.
• McLaughlin Garden, South Paris
Home to one of the largest collections of lilacs in the country, Bernard McLaughlin’s labor of love, now entrusted to a nonprofit, really struts its colors this weekend, May 27-30, 2011, for the annual Lilac Festival. Expect talks, walks, demonstrations, food, and other activities highlighting the 200+ lilacs blooming here during the four-day festival. Can’t make it then? This woodland and flower oasis is open Thursdays through Tuesdays, and on a midweek day, you often will have it to yourself.
• Asticou Azalea Garden, Northeast Harbor
Lovely to visit from spring through fall, from late May through June, Asticou is especially vibrant thanks to its collection of colorful azaleas and rhododendrons drawn from around the world.
• Harvey Butler Rhododendron Sanctuary, Springvale
Visit this 30-acre sanctuary owned and managed by the New England Wildflower Society in mid July to see the 5.3-acre stand of Great Laurel (Rhododendron maximum), a very rare species in Maine, in full bloom. Also here are at least 39 wildlflowers.
• Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay
Stone paths lace through the Giles Rhododendron & Perennial Garden, with hundreds of plants accented by a natural pond and a lovely waterfall. Admission to this seaside garden is $12 adults, $10 ages 65+. $6 kids 3-17, or $30 for a family comprising two adults and two kids younger than 18.