Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

The barn and vegetable garden inspired by E.B. White’s, Charlotte’s Web

The Bibby and Harold Alfond Children’s Garden, designed by landscape architect, Herb Schaal.

The skiff inspired by the book Tidely-Idley by Bert Dow

Opened July 8, 2010, this remarkable garden was inspired by well-known children’s books by Maine authors. The garden was created to inspire fun and discovery for children of all ages. Divided into separate spaces, each possess an individual identity.

Inspired by the book Down to the Sea with Mr. MaGee, by Chris Van Dusen

This garden has many design features unique, colorful, educational, and thoroughly interesting. One such garden is the learning garden with edible plants.

There is an English inspired design, the maze garden.

This two-acre garden is unique for a public garden in that it was designed to only have one entrance and one exit. To ensure safety for children, the garden is enclosed with fencing, vegetation and walls. There is also trained staff to ensure and watch for the safety of the children.

The learning garden has built structures like the play cottage with the prairie dropseed grass roof. Many of the plants in this garden encourage butterflies, both flying and as caterpillars.

More interactive play.

Mr. McGregor’s Garden

The archway is created by super-sized garden tools. This is such a creative and whimsical touch. It plays with scale also, to make one psychologically feel small and childlike, part of a storybook world.

Fun in the treehouse for kids, but I bet a few adults climb up too. The treehouse overlooks a bear cave, now how much fun is that?

Does this little boy not look like he is right out of a storybook?

The interactive art play area has kids loving the water feature.

The maze area

The Seagull Pavilion

You can see in this image how much these structures are used.

I toured these gardens with Carolyn, from Carolyn’s Shade Gardens. We had a wonderful time and she did a post on the natural stone seating found in the gardens, Natural Rock Garden Seating. My photos are less topic specific in that I take the photos from an overall design perspective.

Look for her to highlight certain plants from this garden. We found so many unique specimens grown in some of the most unlikeliest of conditions. And growing very well, I might add. She might have a post on that as we talked about how and why they might be growing so well in shade and sun conditions not recommended, and how if a viewer tries this at home, they could be a bit disappointed. It was how they partnered plants and their underground watering system that made the plants flourish. Plus all the volunteer care. I hope she does this post because I know she took photos and it would prove very useful to gardeners.

And here is a conceptual project that I designed for an adaptive reuse of an old building, turning it into a Children’s Art Center. The redesigned interior of the building is below.

What you are seeing below is the proposed new construction in the Alleyway Mews, in addition to mixed use development to revitalize an existing urban area in Buffalo. It was a corridor streetscape featuring the Children’s Art Center as a centerpiece.

Shop owners are to live in the buildings where they sell their goods, or the space above are to be rented as apartments.

The Alleyway at the Children’s Art Center, below, was designed as an interactive garden, play area  and outdoor covered sales and demonstration area for the kids. The project was not built, but was highly acclaimed as an innovative use of urban space. It was presented to the city to generate interest in urban adaptive reuse and an affinity for the arts starting at a young age. I constructed a model (not shown) that was displayed in the office of the sitting mayor.

I did this project in 1994 to 1995. It has many of the components used in the Coastal Maine Children’s Garden, such as the over-sized whimsical elements. Also, the small town feel and interactive play elements to encourage discovery and learning.

I have many drawings of the distinctive features, but this post is long enough already. It was a large project, and also not shown, was the Children’s Theatrical Center at the other end of the Mews.  The Mews was to encourage family pedestrian traffic in a park-like condition, with shops and residential dwellings along the way. The project was compiled in a book which included all the complexity of the concept and illustrated all the detailed ideas.

This image above is the narrow pocket park in the Alleyway. It is a greenspace needed for a busy urban life. The garden art was to be all child-like and bigger than life, characters you might find in children’s books. And of course, the kids get to be ‘famous’ having their names or footprints stamped in concrete like below.

There will be much more from the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens coming up on GWGT. We have more garden walks too, plus a look around the Falls at the end of Summer.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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25 Responses to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

  1. sharon says:

    thoroughly charming!!

  2. Sadun blogi says:

    What a lovely and beautiful place to visit!

  3. The Maine children’s garden is delightful. Thanks for sharing your sketches, even though the project wasn’t brought to fruition. It’s very cool!

  4. Barbie says:

    The most delightful garden EVER!! I love the detail and the fun element. The garden tool arch I would love to use in my garden ……hmmmm……

  5. Ogee says:

    Love the large blocks of color and the whimsey. I’m afraid to share with our gardeners for fear we will see oversized dog toys growing out of our beds! Your sketches are beautiful. Such talent!

  6. I love the Children’s Garden. Those whale rocks are super….and a water feature at that…super. I like your designs, a pedestrian friendly place where all have something that draws them in…… I love it.

  7. I love that they designed the garden’s based on local author’s books! I find children’s gardens so inspiring and they bring out the child in me. I love the water feature and the maze. I love the concept of your idea for the public green space. It is a shame they didn’t implement your design!

  8. Laurrie says:

    We were at Coastal Maine gardens last summer, and it is delightful to see those familiar sights here. It’s a new garden, so it is interesting to see maturing changes even in the one year since I was there. I do remember being amazed at how bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) grew absolutely everywhere and in all conditions, but I can’t get a two foot square plot of it to take in my garden!

  9. meredehuit says:

    Carolyn posted on Maine today as well… between the two of you, I’m dying to visit. Been on my bucket list for years. I love the touch of whimsy in these gardens!

  10. karensrosegarden says:

    What a magical little place those garden’s are.

  11. Wow wow wow! Thoroughly enchanting. I run a school garden, and Scott O’Dell was associated with our little town (Island of the Blue Dolphins.) Makes me wonder how we could somehow capture that in our garden…… Have you ever been to the San Diego Botanic Gardens? They have an incredible children’s garden too.

  12. thanks for the tour. i enjoyed the scale and architectural detail.

  13. What a Beautiful Place and Plenty to Explore – Great Photos – thanks for sharing! Happy Day:)

  14. Scott Weber says:

    Wow…that’s actually REALLY nice for a children’s garden…very charming 🙂

  15. Andrea says:

    Thank you so much for the tour Donna, and the awesome pictures. You and Caroline are so privileged to see lots of gardens. I’ll be heading on to hers.

  16. astridshome says:

    What fun!! Since I can’t be a kid again, maybe I’ll take the grandkids and enjoy the “kidsy” stuff vicariously! Thanks for a great post about a great place!

  17. GirlSprout says:

    It looks like a delightful place for children and adults alike. I took my nephew to the Children’s Museum in New Orleans last month, but this garden looks like much more fun.

  18. Donna, I love the way you so effectively and entertainingly share gardens with us in photos and narrative. Going through a garden “with” you is almost as good as being there in person (and if we just had the visual experience, we would miss all the fascinating background you share).

    I also enjoyed the sketches. We’ve always known you are a first-class garden architect, but the sketches show how top-notch you are designing buildings and public spaces.

  19. A beautiful and perfect garden for children indeed!

  20. HolleyGarden says:

    This garden is FABULOUS!!! I would love to go there – and of course, take some children with me! 😉 Enjoyed looking at your sketches, too. I especially like the View West – with its “Alley Oops”! Super creative!

  21. Deborah - d.mooncrab says:

    I would love to wander around there all day. 🙂

  22. I love the whimsy and beauty of this garden and would spend the whole day just exploring and enjoying it…to be childlike again. Too bad they did not build your brilliant project…it is exactly what we need in our cities.

  23. I love the very traditional feel of the playhouse with the oh so timely green roof. I’m so inspired by it and the amount and depth of high quality posts. Keep up the great posts.

  24. Maine is my favorite place in the world…hope to vacation next Summer again out there, and we will be visiting this garden….thank you for all the wonderful images!!!

  25. Great photos and descriptions of the children’s garden at CMBG and thanks for the link. Our trip was so much fun. I really didn’t take enough photos of plants to do the type of post you suggest—you should do it. I did a general post on CMBG in December 2010. I looked at this post on the iPad at my house and it didn’t download most of the photos…errrrr!!!

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