My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vacation: Asticou Azalea Garden

Vacation Day #4 continued...

After our picnic on the grounds of the Jordan Pond House, we caught another Island Explorer bus and had the driver drop us off at the entrance to Asticou Azalea Garden, just outside of Acadia (here's your Mount Desert Island map!)

Asticou was the name of a Penobscot chief who was summering in the area that's now Northeast Harbor when the French explorer Champlain began reconnoitering the island around 1604. It's believed the name means "Boiling Kettle," according to the Asticou Inn's web site.

We missed the peak of Azalea and Rhododendron blooming season (in late May through June), but no worries - this place was amazing nevertheless! Other plants were in bloom, and even a few Azaleas and Rhododendrons had held onto their blossoms for us. :-)

The garden was designed and built in 1956 by Charles K. Savage (1903 - 1979), whose family owned and operated the Asticou Inn. (Savage also designed and built Thuya Garden two years later, which you'll visit in my next post). Asticou Azalea Garden is modeled on a Japanese stroll garden, and you'll easily recognize the Asian influences. But it was adapted to fit its natural setting and contains native coastal Maine plants too. The combination is really lovely and restful. Here's a blurb from the brochure we picked up...

A meandering circular path leads visitors through a succession of garden rooms that inspire serenity and reflection or bring to focus a particularly lovely vista. The garden's design creates an illusion of space, of lakes and mountains and distant horizons.

So, ready to meander in serene beauty and quiet reflection? Thought you might be. :-)

(click on any photo for a larger view)

Asticou Pond...

The Weeping Hemlock at the center of the photo above
is one of the garden's oldest transplants,
from Beatrix Farrand's estate garden in Bar Harbor.
(You'll see it again in this post in a starring role!)

Asticou Pond and the gentle little stream flowing into it are the centerpieces of Asticou Azalea Garden. Following the meandering path, you often find yourself overlooking the pond from different vantage points, each one providing a new and beautiful perspective.

The Lily Pond, located between Asticou Pond and...

the Sand Garden
Beside the stream, the Sand Garden uses rocks & raked sand
to suggest flowing water and islands.

The garden also contained various statuary in secret nooks.
This one was my favorite.

The azaleas were no longer blooming but this Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel) 
was still putting on a beautiful show, with buds as pretty as its flowers!

BW beside the Sargent's Weeping Hemlock
I want one! Under its branches is a wide shady area
that feels like a hidden retreat beneath a big umbrella.
(Bet the wee folk know about it!) :-)

I took this photo standing on the shoreline
of a small peninsula lined with Japanese Iris.
I was visited by a paddling duck who dove as I snapped this!

A view of the peninsula from the other side of Asticou Pond.
The Weeping Hemlock is the large lime green plant
located at about the one o'clock position,
and you can just barely see the irises lining the little shore.
The diving duck has vanished altogether!
Perhaps hiding under the Hemlock for a nap! :-)

The nearby Cranberry Lodge, part of the historic Asticou Inn
that I mentioned at the top of this post.
(I just thought it was a pretty B&B when I photographed it!)

Coming up next... Asticou Terraces and Thuya Garden. More serene beauty! More quiet reflection! (More climbing than meandering, however!). ;-)


  1. Absolutely gorgeous! I especially love the sand garden. It all looks so peaceful. <3

  2. What wonderful people, who leave legacies like these gardens for others to witness, enjoy, and become inspired from! Truly a beautiful human endeavor resulting in a beautiful garden...not forgetting nature's primary role of course...your photos capture the peace and beauty very well.

    I'd love to idle away hours under that weeping hemlock...will one grow in Wyoming?

    Thanks for sharing your's like taking a little virtual vacation.

  3. Molly - (I'm going to need an adjustment period to get used to your new blog name and avatar! Vegan Dog's Life had become ingrained!) :-)

    The Sand Garden was definitely one of our favorite features of this garden too! I've always loved those - never saw one that size in person before. (The only ones I've ever seen in person were the little desk top ones! lol) I never knew about the sand representing water and the rocks islands before, either.

    It was extremely peaceful there. There were only a few other people in the garden (besides a couple of workers - can you imagine going to work at a place like that?) and we were all speaking in hushed tones, as if we were in a museum or an art gallery. Which we kind of were - only better!

    Rose - You're so right (and you stated it so beautifully!) These gardens are such wonderful legacies from gifted, generous, forward-thinking people. They sure knew how to collaborate and co-create with Mother Nature! And we sure are grateful to such people and really enjoy our visits to such places!

    A day spent idling under a Weeping Hemlock would be a day well spent! :-) They should grow in Wyoming, but probably not at our house. Too windy, too dry, and our soil is probably too alkaline. But mostly the problem would be the wind. Also, except for a few spots right up along the south and east sides of our house which can get away with some Zone 4 plants, we're really Zone 3 up here. Your question prompted me to add one of the better links I'd found for this particular tree, but another site I'd found about it listed as one of its potential problems, "Butt Rot." Oh dear, that DOES sound like a problem! LOL! (I couldn't help it, the name "butt rot" just made me laugh!) :-)

    As always, you're very welcome for the sharing of my pics. You've all been very generous to sit through all these vacation posts with such interest and encouragement! :-) I'm glad it's serving as a little virtual vacation for you! (A vacation that ain't nearly over yet, either!) ;-)

  4. I agree...butt rot does not sound like a good thing.

  5. Lovely pics, my dear...absolutely lovely. That iris looked like a Siberian one which we used to have at the old house..loved them. I'm so glad you two enjoyed yourselves and saw so many great sights AND are sharing them with all of us ;-). Tell "Bubbles" I said howdy ;-)~.

  6. Rose - Truly, who could argue with that? It was probably the least controversial thing I'll ever write on my blog! LOL

    Spudly - Thank you so much! I'd reckoned that iris by Acadia's Bubble Pond was probably of the Siberian variety... nice to have my reckoning confirmed! They are so, so pretty - I actually prefer them over the large bearded ones we have by our driveway.

    Thanks for stopping by! "Bubbles" returns your howdy! ;-)

  7. I spent my entire birthday lunch on vacation with you - LOVED it. The garden was so pretty and I'm sure you love your new camera because the photos are amazing.
    I was inspired by Cranberry Lodge to name our new place after it(after we build it). How big do you suppose you have to be to be named Cranberry Lodge?? I love that name but our place will only have two lodgers!

    Thanks for adding the map again. This time I clicked on it - it's a huge island. Thanks for the great post.

  8. What a beautiful spot! Asticou might be a good name for a future pet!....and some of them can make one feel like a boiling kettle.
    I love the sand garden, but the bad girl in me would be so tempted to put a foot print or two in there. I have a little devilish nature.
    I guess that little duck is camera shy. Great photos....again.

  9. AdventureJo - I'm delighted you spent your entire birthday lunch on vacation with me, and can think of very few prettier places to spend it than Acadia and Asticou Azalea Garden! :-)

    I think Cranberry Lodge would be a lovely name for your new home on the banks of Cranberry Pond! If you think that's too grandiose sounding, though, you could just name it Cranberry Cabin, Cranberry Cottage, or even Cranberry Croft (a croft being a a small farm, or an enclosed field near a house. It's an old British term, and we saw a few places with "Croft" in their name in Scotland). But for sure the word Cranberry needs to be in the name somewhere! :-)

  10. Sue - "Asticou" is a fun name to say, and would be a cute name for a critter companion! If you had two critters needing names, the other could be "Thuya." (We met a couple with a dog named Camden at the lookout tower in Camden Hills State Park, so I guess Maine yields lots of good companion animal names!) :-)

    If you surrendered to your bad girl impulse and put footprints in the Sand Garden, you'd merely be demonstrating the impermanence and changing nature of all things, a very Zen and Buddhist theme quite befitting a sand garden. (And I'm sure the garden employee who caught you and would have to re-rake the sand would be completely inspired by that explanation. LOL)

    I'm really happy you found this place as beautiful as we did - nothing compares to being there, but I am terribly pleased with my camera's ability to capture its beauty so well!


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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