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Get Growing: Coastal Maine

A year ago I fell in love with the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay — and I vowed to return this year. Thanks to the hospitality of friends with a summer home in nearby Friendship, I was able to visit the fantastic gardens again last week. I still love them.

Although the floral display was different in mid July than in late June, it was still pretty spectacular. The Kousa dogwoods and hydrangeas were in full bloom along with lingering Japanese iris, many varieties of astilbes, meadowrue and gorgeous blue delphiniums. The climbing roses and clematis that so impressed me last year clambering over the rustic arbors of the Rose and Perennial Garden were gone by, but there was plenty of lavender to keep the color going.

My favorite area is the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses. Last June there were huge swaths of salvia, several kinds of blue-purple ones plus a white one. I missed them this year. Still, the garden is so beautifully designed to awaken your sense of scent, taste, sight, touch and sound that it is marvelous in any season.

Don’t leave the children at home. They would love the Garden of the Five Senses, but there is also a special children’s garden based on stories by Maine authors like “Blueberries for Sal” and “Miss Rumphius.” There are spouting whale statues, Peter Rabbit’s vegetable garden and a woodsy area where materials are provided for little ones to make their own fairy houses. It’s truly an enchanting place for children.

Throughout the botanical gardens the use of indigenous stone, imaginative water features and charming wooden structures provide the enduring bones of the design. Native plants — especially in the woodland areas — along with unusual cultivars make the visit a very educational experience.

TripAdvisor has just named the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens No. 1 among its 10 best American gardens. Not bad for a place that only opened to the public six years ago.

If you go, the gardens are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Admission is $14, $12 for seniors and $6 for children. For more information go to www.mainegardens.org.

WOODCHUCKS: After a year’s respite from damage by dratted woodchucks, the rodents have returned to Pomeroy Lane. They have devoured my ‘David’ phlox and my beloved asters. They also have nibbled on self-sown portulaca. The first evidence of their return was damage to the annual orlaya, still in its pots under the maple tree in May. Orlaya looks like a refined Queen Anne’s lace and is a Hungarian plant introduced to the garden trade by Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter in England. Thanks to the woodchuck it hasn’t survived in my garden. The latest damage was to recently planted yellow cosmos, eaten down to the ground, so it is unlikely to revive.

Bunnies abound on my property and I suspect some of the destruction is from their nibbling, but I mostly see them munching on clover in the lawn in between cavorting merrily.

I’ve wondered what good garden plants are unattractive to woodchucks.

So far I’ve noticed they stay away from Shasta daisies, peonies, black-eyed Susans, globe thistle, lady’s mantle, balloon flower and daylilies. Since I don’t grow vegetables except for tomatoes, I can’t report on which human foods they allow to thrive.

I’m about to try fox urine as a deterrent although my memory is that it doesn’t work. The only sure way to get rid of woodchucks is to trap them or use a smoke bomb in their tunnels. The problem with traps is that you must then kill the critters on your own property. It is illegal to transport them to the Pelham woods — although I know a lot of people do that. And since the woodchucks (also known as groundhogs) tend to tunnel under my barn, a smoke bomb isn’t a viable option. I don’t want to burn down the barn!

GROWING WHEAT: TEVIS Robertson-Goldberg is offering a workshop on growing wheat at Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield tomorrow, 9-11 a.m. Weather permitting, the afternoon will be spent harvesting wheat with scythe and sickle. Suggested donation is $10-$20 for the workshop. Topics included will be heritage varieties, planting to harvesting with simple machines. Crabapple Farm is conducting trials on two dozen varieties. More information at www.crabapplefarm.org.

ASHFIELD GARDEN WORKSHOP: “Serious Fertility for Your Garden” is the title of a workshop to be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Bullitt Reservation in Ashfield. Learn about minerals and molecules in your soil, amendments, composting, biochar, cover-crops and other techniques to improve your soil. The fee is $5; free for members of the Trustees of Reservations. More information at www.thetrustees.org.

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