Gardens Worth Visiting: The McLaughlin Garden
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.
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.
|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.
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.
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).
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.