Sneak Preview: Coastal Maine Botanical Garden’s Children’s Garden


Yesterday I toured the new Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, in Boothbay. Wow! Based on Maine children’s literature, landscape architect Herb Schaal, FASLA, has created a magical world of wonder, brought to life by project Nick Caristo in nine months. It’s an interactive experience without any buttons to push or techological gizmos. It’s natural, it’s beautiful, it fires the imagination, and I’m guessing it will be as popular with parents and grandparents as with kids. Put it on your Must Visit list, and plan to return again and again. Label this a family treasure.

The Grand Opening celebration on Thursday, July 8, kicks off at 9 a.m. with children’s activities on CMBA’s great lawn, moves to welcoming remarks at 10:30 a.m., then it really gets rolling with a parade at 11:15 a.m. Expect children’s literary characters brought to life. Following the parade, the chicken and frogs will be let loose in the children’s garden, and what kid wouldn’t want to miss that? Activities will continue throughout the day, with refreshments in the Seagull pavilion.

CBMA is magical in itself, and last year’s addition of the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses already was a kid pleaser, with its touch-sniff-listen-taste in addition to see attributes (a reflexology labyrinth to be walked barefoot, scented plantes, herbs, waterfall, etc.), but the new children’s garden is a natural world designed just for them.

In the Children’s Garden:

• Visit with a topiary Miss Rumphius in the Lupine Meadow

• climb upon Sal’s bear from Robert McCLoskey’s Blueberries for Sal (the wonderful statue was created by Nancy Schon, the same artist who made the Make Way for Ducklings statue in Boston’s Public Garden)

• walk across stepping stones and bridges connecting the Blueberry Islands

• pull traps from McCloskey’s Burt Dow Deepwater Man’s Tidely Idley

• play amidst the spouting whales inspired by Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee by Chris VanDusen

• watch the long johns flirt with the housedress from Ethel Pochoki’s Rosebud and Red Flannel

Kids can

• play amidst rock dragons (like the spouting whales, crafted by Carol Hanson)

• wander through Veronica’s Maze

• hide in a cozy bear den

• clamber around a huge tree house with rope bridge connecting two sections (the treehouse itself, thanks to its design, is wheelchair acceessible, as is most of the garden)

• jump stumps in the forest

• build fairy houses in the woods

• vote for the fastest-growing beans in a pole bean contest

They also can borrow a book from about 300 Maine-related children’s literature titles in the library, and read it anywhere in the garden, or listen to someone read to them from the huge, handcrafted from driftwood storyteller’s chair.

Later this month, Barry Dana, former chief of the Penobscot Nation, will be building a wigwam, firepit, and even a birchbark canoe in garden’s the Wabanaki Village.

And that’s just a taste of the magic in this two-acre wonder.