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Gardens Worth Visiting: The McLaughlin Garden

May 30, 2010

Lilacs in bloom at the McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Recently, I did something I’ve been meaning to do for years. I drove the 25 minutes north from my house to the town of South Paris, Maine to visit the McLaughlin Garden during the annual lilac display. I have been to the McLaughlin Garden many times, usually during high summer, but I have never before managed to get there in late spring to see the lilacs.

Mature plantings just inside the McLaughlin Garden entrance (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) The McLaughlin Garden is the former home and garden of Bernard McLaughlin, who began the garden in 1936 and continued to develop it until his death in 1995 at age 98. For most of these years, McLaughlin worked the garden alone; and although he had no formal horticultural training, he became known as someone whom other gardeners sought out for advice. At some point, he began to open his garden to the public, letting people know when they could visit by the simple expedient of leaving the gate open. After McLaughlin’s death, conflict broke out between family members, who began moving some of the most prized plants in preparation for selling the property, and devotees of the garden who wanted it kept intact. Eventually, a non-profit foundation was formed to raise money and buy the property for the purpose of preserving and maintaining the garden. Today, the foundation is working in cooperation with Bernard McLaughlin’s family to restore the historic garden.

Lilac display at McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) On the day of my spring visit, the lilacs did not disappoint, and their scent suffused the garden. But this is a mature and densely planted garden, and there were also many other plants to see.

Other flowering shrubs included azalea, rhododendron and viburnum.

Rhododendron bloom at McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Viburnum in bloom at McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

Spring perennials included forget-me-nots (Mysotis sylvestris), irises, trollius, shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia), and a pea-type flower that I think may be Baptisia viridis.

McLaughlin Garden forget-me-nots (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) McLaughlin Garden irises (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Trollius flower at McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) McLaughlin Garden trollius (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
McLaughlin Garden shooting stars (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) McLaughlin Garden baptisia (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

Because I am in the early stages of planning a new mostly-shady flower bed at the edge of the woods, I was particularly interested in the McLaughlin Garden’s collection of beautiful spring woodland flowers. These include several different varieties of trillium, solomon’s seal (Polygonatum), foamflower (Tiarella), bellwort (Uvularia), and my favorite for providing both dramatic foliage and beautiful flowers, mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum).

Trillium at McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Solomon's seal at McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Tiarella at McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Bellwort blooming at McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Mayapple in bloom at McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Mayapple flower - McLaughlin Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

The McLaughlin Garden is located on route 26 in South Paris, Maine. I don’t know of any way to get to South Paris other than by automobile; but, once there, the McLaughlin property is located within easy walking distance of the central business district. The McLaughlin Garden is open daily from May through October.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2010 3:55 pm

    It was good to “go along with you” to this beautiful place. I may never make it up there myself, so this was a treat. Husband & I enjoy visiting and re-visiting local gardens. Our park system includes several parks devoted to a particular theme – roses, bulbs, etc.

  2. May 30, 2010 5:54 pm

    Lovely woodland blooms Jean. I love the Mayapple and finally have one growing here and hope it will survive the Bishop’s weed and flourish. I just love that one simple flower hidden beneath the leaves. It is great that these gardens will be saved … what an honor to Bernard and a gift for all who visit. I love the layout of this post.

  3. May 30, 2010 7:30 pm

    Everything there looks so cool and refreshing.

    How precious to invite visitors by simply leaving the gate open.

  4. May 31, 2010 5:24 am

    This looks like a lovely place to visit. I recently visited the garden of a Vermont artist and saw the Mayapple in bloom. I took great delight in the flowers hidden beneath the foliage, though at the time I did not know what it was. I was happy to see its identification here, and would love to plant some near the edge of the woods near our house. I also discovered that the American Mayapple is a native of southern Vermont woodlands. Thank you so much for the id. 🙂

    • April 6, 2012 12:09 pm

      Is the Mayapple the same as May flowers that grow in the wild?. My father used to bring me May flowers every spring but never revealed their locations. I would love to find some on my walks but never have.

  5. May 31, 2010 12:43 pm

    Wonderful post, thanks for the tour!! So nice that you made it in time for the lilacs, they are so special and lovely. I think I will buy another one today (can’t have too many). Your pictures are beautiful, I especially like the viburnum next to the rhodo pic. It reminds me of a lacecap hydrangea, gorgeous. 🙂

  6. May 31, 2010 1:40 pm

    Hi Jean – your post inspired me!

    I work near a place called the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. It is simply a treasure trove, and yet I haven’t been there is so long. Time for a field trip!! (I need some inspiration on native plants.)

  7. June 1, 2010 6:34 am

    How fortunate for the gardening world that this beauty has been saved for the public. Thanks for sharing your visit there.

  8. June 1, 2010 11:11 am

    If only scent could trasmit across a blog site!

  9. June 1, 2010 10:53 pm

    I am glad this special garden has been preserved. I am sure Mr. McLaughlin would be pleased, after he spent so many years nurturing this garden, to see the public continue to enjoy it today. I fell in love with lilacs after seeing a few at a local nursery. They smell wonderful! Sadly, most will not prosper in my climate. I am tempted to try the one or two that are advertised to grow this far south.

  10. Diane permalink
    June 2, 2010 2:46 am

    Thank you for your visit to my blog and for linking mine on your site. You have a lovely blog!

    We have visited Maine and it is a beautiful part of your country!


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