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The Garden at Pineland Farms

June 25, 2011

Iris pseudacorus blooming in June in the garden at Pineland farms (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) 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.

View through the gate to the garden at Pineland Farms (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) 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.

Seating areas in the garden at Pineland Farms invite visitors to sit and rest (photo credits: Jean Potuchek)

Fountain at the center of the Pineland Farms garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Mostly, though, I prefer to stroll along the garden’s paths. These are organized around a fountain at the center of the garden and include both wide brick paths and narrower gravel paths. The paths are curved, so that what is ahead is often hidden from view and you find yourself repeatedly coming upon delightful vignettes.
One of many delightful vignettes in the garden at Pineland Farms (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)
Another beautiful garden vignette at Pineland Farms (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

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).

Beautiful  combination of pink peonies, blue geranium and peachy yarrow in the garden at Pineland Farms (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)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.

32 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2011 3:46 pm

    We were just at the Pineland Farms Gardens last weekend taking in the view and a few photos. I love the flowers, the winding paths, and the inviting sitting areas. I especially like their little vegetable corner.

    • June 27, 2011 9:52 pm

      GrafixMuse, You’re probably even closer than I am to Pineland Farms. We’re really lucky to have this beautiful garden so readily available. When I was there last week, a couple of gardeners were busy putting up some big climbing structures in the vegetable garden, but I’m not sure what vegetables will be climbing up them.

  2. June 25, 2011 4:48 pm

    What a lovely garden to visit…the picture above looks like a lot of the beds in my yard….I love combining the peach, pink and purples…i even throw in some reds….makes for some interesting beds….some do not like to combine too many colors but I love it…your post gives me the push to do more visiting of gardens and nurseries in my area this summer…

  3. June 25, 2011 5:58 pm

    Lucky that you stepped through the garden gate! I love the winding paths. I also enjoy visiting gardens like this to get ideas for my own garden.

  4. June 25, 2011 5:58 pm

    What an absolutely beautiful place, Jean. Thanks so much for documenting it for all of us to see. I would love to visit this place, if I’m ever in that part of your country.

  5. Nell Jean permalink
    June 25, 2011 8:08 pm

    What a lovely place to visit. Thank you for capturing the serenity of the gardens.

    • June 27, 2011 9:58 pm

      Deb, Lucky indeed! When I finally stopped at the garden, I wondered what in the world had taken me so long. Now, I usually stop there at least once or twice a month during the garden season.

      Diane, I think this garden is exceptionally well done. It is beautifully planted and maintained. I appreciate the fact that the plants are generally well marked, but that the markers aren’t so obtrusive that they detract from the enjoyment.

      Nell, It is a serene place. Someday, instead of just taking a 20-minute stroll between errands, I’m going to go spend an hour or two — maybe curl up in that swing with a book.

  6. June 25, 2011 8:32 pm

    Jean, this looks like a wonderful garden, such a great place to relax.


  7. June 25, 2011 11:34 pm

    What a pretty place! A perfect spot to enjoy between errands. I love getting ideas from local places like this for ideas on what to grow and better yet what to grow together.

    • June 27, 2011 10:10 pm

      Eileen, It is a gem. I suppose I’m also spoiled by the fact that I usually only encounter 2 or 3 other people using the garden at the same time I am, so it starts to feel like my own private sanctuary.

      Catherine, Yes, what makes this place so special to me is not some extraordinary planting scheme, but the fact that it is a beautiful planting of mostly familiar plants and readily available cultivars.

  8. sequoiagardens permalink
    June 26, 2011 3:57 am

    How lovely, Jean! And how different the culture that can produce such luxurious ‘public amenities’. I can not imagine anything remotely similar in South Africa, with the exception of 5 or so National Botanic Gardens, where the emphasis is as much on the scientific as on anything else.

    • June 27, 2011 10:23 pm

      Jack, Thanks for pointing this out to me; I don’t think I had really appreciated public parks as an aspect of US culture. In my native New England, most cities and town have some kind of green space in the form of a town common or a village green right in the center of the community. And even small cities usually have some kind of public park. The small industrial city I grew up in has a 33-acre park that has a rose garden, a zoo, a small art museum, playgrounds, a space for band concerts, picnic areas, and lots of open space. I spent an incredible amount of time there as a child, swimming in the public pool in the summer, ice skating on the pond in winter, playing in the playground, going to band concerts in the summer and fireworks on independence day, and just generally hanging out. I don’t think my experience was unusual; free public parks (and often, gardens) are ubiquitous in the United States.

  9. June 26, 2011 11:45 am

    Jean, Such lovely pictures to enjoy. This will be a delightful place for my husband and I to visit soon.

    • June 27, 2011 10:24 pm

      Karen, Maybe you can combine a visit to the garden with lunch at the Dish Cafe. I haven’t eaten there, but the Portland Press Herald gave it a favorable write-up. The farm market is worth a visit, too.

  10. patientgardener permalink
    June 26, 2011 12:13 pm

    What a lovely looking garden and so well maintained. I wish there was somewhere like that on my regular routes. The nearest place actually means a good three quarters of an hour drive out of my way.
    You are very lucky and how nice they redeveloped the site in such a pleasant way

  11. June 26, 2011 12:19 pm

    What a beautiful place. It must have been a great place for the developmentally disabled. Such a pity they don’t have it a a resource now. It is nice though that it can be enjoyed by everyone.

  12. June 26, 2011 2:11 pm

    Look how incredibly shapely and mannerly all those plants are. Its amazing, how the heck do they get them to grow like that??????

  13. allanbecker-gardenguru permalink
    June 26, 2011 7:39 pm

    Beautifully photographed flower gardens are my weakness and this post has fed my “habit”. Thank you.

  14. June 26, 2011 7:46 pm

    There’s nothing like visiting someone else’s garden for inspiration. I too would never have used pink and purple with a peach colour but it looks lovely.

  15. June 27, 2011 2:50 am

    It’s a beautiful well-maintained garden, thanks for sharing as we dont have much gardens here. I most specitically love the circuitous road in gardens as you show in the 2nd photo. Thanks also for picking my post.

  16. gardeningasylum permalink
    June 27, 2011 7:33 am

    What a lovely place and a great re-purposing of the property. A nearby place for strolling and finding ideas you can use right away – perfect!

    • June 28, 2011 7:30 pm

      Helen and Andrea, I don’t think I had truly appreciated how well maintained this garden is until I started looking at it through others’ eyes. It is a sign of just how lucky I am that I had come to take both the amenities and the condition of this garden for granted.

      Jess, I suspect all that careful maintenance is part of the answer about the mannerly plants. I imagine that very careful pruning goes into those trees and shrubs. I’m less sure about the perennials; Geranium sanguineum is supposed to be a mounding plant, but mine never seem to look like that.

      Byddi, By the time Pineland Center closed as a residential institution it had become a very controversial place. Opinions varied from those expressed by some family members of residents who focused on what a wonderful residence it was to others who focused on it as an institution much more akin to a prison than to a home. Beginning in the 1970s, the emphasis in care for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled in the United States shifted from institutional care to community care, and the closing of Pineland Center was part of a more general process of deinstitutionalization.

      Allan, I’m happy to provide you with a garden photograph fix. I was very lucky in that conditions were almost perfect for taking photographs when I was there last week — bright but overcast, with no exposure problems created by pesky contrasts of sunshine and shadows.

      Marguerite and Cyndy, I do find this garden great for inspiration. Ever since I fell in love with that pink/blue/peach combination, I’ve been mentally tweaking various parts of my garden to take advantage of this inspiration.

  17. June 27, 2011 7:57 pm

    A very beautiful garden! It is so nice that is nearby. I bet you have discovered lots of ideas.

  18. June 27, 2011 9:36 pm

    Jean, I have read about Pineland Farms and its gardens many times, but your post and its photographs really makes me want to visit. Carolyn

  19. June 27, 2011 9:59 pm

    How wonderful to have such an inspirational garden so close … and what a great way to repurpose the property from its original use. I’m with you in that I love to stroll through gardens other than my own. Garden designs are as diverse as the gardeners who create them and there is always something new to learn and appreciate.

    • June 28, 2011 7:36 pm

      Michelle, No matter how often I visit this garden (and I do so quite often), I always come away with some new ideas for my own garden.

      Carolyn, This suggests an outing while you are in Maine; we could meet at Pineland for lunch and a garden visit.

      Joene, I never get tired of visiting gardens — whether display gardens at nurseries, public gardens large and small, private gardens of friends or of strangers open on garden tours — and I almost always come away from those visits with new ideas, understanding, or inspiration. I am very, very impressed with the vision that the Libra Foundation brought to the redevelopment of all parts of Pineland.

  20. June 29, 2011 3:38 am

    Hi Jean – I felt the need for a change to my blog design, so I played around with it. Would you please give me an honest opinion as to what you think….especially with the font and colours, for the purpose of reading. I really value your opinion.

  21. June 29, 2011 11:39 am

    Jean, your photos are stunning and I so appreciated taking this walking tour with you! I especially appreciate the historical perspective and all of your explanations. I just looked it up and it’s barely an hour and a half from where we live. This is definitely on our destination list for later in the summer – thanks for introducing us to it!

  22. June 29, 2011 4:57 pm

    So pretty!

  23. Lula ( permalink
    July 8, 2011 1:53 pm

    Jean, I would love to visit gardens with you, so I could invite you to write the text, you make the visit very vivid. Thanks for posting.

  24. December 19, 2013 3:58 am

    Woooow Another Greaat POst from Jean…thanks a lot for sharing a information of pineland farm.


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