“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” –Gertrude Jekyll
I finally took the time to return to Thuya Garden so that I could see the perennial borders in full bloom. As I approached the Thuya Lodge from the Asticou Terraces ascent, I was happy to see that the Lodge was now open for visitors. Built between 1912-16, Thuya Lodge was the summer home of Joseph Curtis – Brown University and MIT alumnus – and self-proclaimed landscape “engineer.” He began the work on his Maine estate in 1880, designing and overseeing the property development. One of his early projects was designing the eastern approach to the estate up a steep granite cliff – creating terraces and stairs out of the native granite. He incorporated rustic “gazebo” structures along the terraces overlooking Northeast Harbor.
Stepping inside the Thuya Lodge was like entering a sanctuary for the soul. I’m not quite sure how to describe the architecture and interior design of the lodge except to say that it is characterized by a rustic elegance that captured my heart. Much to my delight was the discovery of an extensive botanical library located on the second floor. I perused the collection slowly picking out titles that embellish my own gardening book collection at home.
In 1905, Joseph Curtis established a trust that would allow for the preservation of his estate as a public park, and in 1928 named his friend and local resident Charles Savage as trustee of the property. Savage was descended from a local family of farmers and fishermen and his immediate family built and operated the Asticou Inn near the Thuya Lodge estate. He was a local businessman as well as an artist, woodcarver and landscape designer. He eventually planned and executed the current perennial border using plants gleaned from the Reef Point garden of landscape architect Beatrix Farrand. The perennial border occupies what was once the site of the old apple orchard on Curtis’ property. An original apple tree still holds court over the perennial border.
The flower border is a vibrant, happy mixture of perennials and annuals with a plentiful collection of delphinium, foxglove, dahlia, nicotiana and lily varieties. I’m not quite sure I’ve witnessed such a diverse mix of nicotiana cultivars!
Best of all, there was a small hidden section of the garden where native milkweed was serving as a foraging spot for monarch caterpillars. What a special thrill to observe these ravenous creatures at work!
I am convinced that I will wander through this garden many more times before I leave the island in the Fall – to rest, renew and rejoice in all that this special place has to offer.