The Garden at Pineland Farms
Earlier this week, I had one of those busy afternoons that involve several hours of darting from place to place doing a variety of errands. As I often do on a day like this, I scheduled an oasis of calm in the middle of all the busyness. That oasis was a visit to the garden at Pineland Farms.
For much of the twentieth century, Pineland Center in New Gloucester, Maine was a residential institution for the developmentally disabled. When it closed in the mid-1990s, the question arose of what would be done with its extensive property, which included dormitory-style buildings that had housed residents, single-family houses where some staff members had lived, and a working farm that had provided food for the institution. Eventually, the property was sold to the non-profit Libra Foundation, which converted it to a harmonious blend of uses that include a business park with commercial office space, a conference center and facilities for special events, and a recreation center with trails for walking, running and cross-country skiing. Some of the former staff houses have been turned into guest cottages. And the working farm was expanded into its own self-supporting corporation that grows fresh produce, raises chickens, maintains a dairy herd and cheese-making operation, and runs a farm market and cafe featuring local food.
The market initially drew me to Pineland Farms, and I have found it a great source of high quality local food. I had been shopping at the farm market regularly for at least two years before my curiosity finally drew me across the main road to the fenced-in garden. One day, instead of driving by the garden on the way to my next stop, I pulled into the small parking area and stepped through the garden gate into a world of serene beauty that has drawn me back over and over.
In keeping with the general approach at Pineland Farms, the one-acre garden serves multiple purposes. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, and berries grown in the garden are sold at the farm market, and flowers cut from the garden are used in arrangements for special functions. But this is primarily a perennial garden designed for quiet enjoyment. Seating areas scattered throughout the garden invite visitors to stop and stay awhile.
Because Pineland Farms is only a few miles from my house, in the next town over, and because the growing conditions are similar to my own, the garden provides me not only with a pleasurable respite from chores but with ideas for my own garden. There is a good chance that a plant that grows here will grow in my garden. The garden also suggests new ways to use plants that I am already growing. For example, I have both pink peonies and Geranium ‘Brookside’ growing in my garden, but I hadn’t thought of growing them together, and I would never have dreamed of combining them with peach-toned flowers (below).
Seeing this stunning combination expands my gardening horizons. I will continue to visit this garden regularly, both for relaxation and for inspiration. If you find yourself in the vicinity of New Gloucester, Maine, you should consider visiting too.