Saturday, May 31, 2008


Ever hear of a new sensation that's old? I have, and I'll explain after a few.

Memorial Day weekend is the start of the growing season here in Maine. One of the things I like about this weekend is the lilac festival held every year at McLaughlin Gardens, it starts the Saturday before Memorial day and runs until Tuesday. I believe its the only lilac festival in the state of Maine.

Bernard McLaughlin was truly an amazing gentleman. His homestead [was] is in the heart of South Paris at one of the busiest intersections in town. It is a century old farmhouse complete with a red barn and has two acres of garden land. Behind the barn is one of Maine's premiere wildflower and fern gardens.

Bernard McLaughlin started his gardens in 1936 with no formal horticultural training and single handedly tended his beds of mature hostas, phlox, daylillies, astilbes, iris, sedum, cimicifuga, sempervirums and over 2oo varieties of lilacs beneath a canopy of deciduous and coniferous trees. At one point, the farm, with its splendid garden, was opened to the public. Bernard did this at a cost of no fee, just a small donation box nailed to a post at the opening pathway.

A 20 year writer for DownEast magazine, Jane Lamb, recently published a book titled Master Gardeners of Maine. She dedicates it to many gardeners, Bernard McLaughlin being one. She writes: "Bernard McLaughlin who died in 1995 at the age of 98" thought "the secret of a long healthy life.......[was] is found in the garden." Interestingly she also dedicates her book to Currier McEwen who started gardening almost by accident in 1956 and spent the next 45 years developing spectacular iris hybrids. My mom has spoke of him as he was a long time resident of her area. Curiously enough, Mr. McEwen died at the age of 102.

The McLaughin Foundation has assumed the functions of Bernard's estate since 1996, its main mission is to keep the 20th century garden with all of its integrity, preserve the 19th century home and barn, and to create an educational center where horticulturists, hobbyists, and enthusiastic gardeners can experience all of the senses of life. The foundation, a nonprofit organization, has established a tea room where coffee and pastries are served. A gift shop that retails books, cards, prints and clothing. They have onsite volunteers that manage and run plant sales, rental of the facility for wedding and birthdays, and conduct many instruction workshops during the summer months. The educational center is a library that contains over 1000 books relating to gardening and botany, many of them being from Mr. McLaughlin's collection and many of them being donated. The Stephen and Tabitha King foundation has pledged funds to the library. The foundations infrastructure is a board of directors and a volunteer advisory committee who have worked very hard to open the garden gates to the public, and still .....admission is free.

All the pictures of the lilacs are photos I took on a trip to town on Memorial day. The garden was full and had no parking most of the pictures are in the back of the garden. I was very surprised to see the two people sitting so close to the lilacs and wondered if they were volunteers weeding the area. One of the nice ladies asked if I wanted her to move and that's when I saw they were having a picnic!! Apparently they had the same idea as us. The two pictures before the last one (the one with the lady) are photos from the intersection/parking area and it is the front of the garden. You can just see the farmhouse off to the left. The last picture is of a rose lilac....interesting.

Oh yes, a new sensation that's old? It was developed and sold as a new variety about 15 years ago, named Sensation. It gets to be about six feet tall, and looks ordinary until it opens its flower.......

It's planted in my yard, started about 12 years ago.......and is blooming for the first time.

New.....but old to me.......

Purple AND white rimmed, happily sending suckers this year.

I think this is the prettiest picture of all. Can't you smell the heavenly scent?

Having a long, healthy and sensational the garden.....


  1. Dawn, You will HAVE to dig me a sucker or two. It is beautiful. Smell good? Love the different. Very interesting about this gardener. I think gardening keeps people going well into late life. I am trying to grow cimcifuga like Dr. McLaughlin, and do you know any tricks? Mine has never bloomed.

  2. I don't, I know it is a woody plant and your home is shaded. Our air is dense it is so wooded, we already have mushroom and haven't had much rain! i was so surprised to see that. Maybe it likes dense air. I think your will bloom, might take longer. Big plant, do you have it as a backdrop?
    Mr McLaughlin was also known to grow sempervirums on rock. Thats the look we want, my hens and chick seem to always stay in the cracks and occasionly send alittle one on a trailer, stays little thou.
    I'll be happy to get you a sucker, they do smell good and with it being low growing, the lilacs are right there. Can't reach my whites one, although I can smell them. My purple...well, cut down, sad looking thing this year.

  3. Forgot to check the box to have email comments.

  4. A most gracious post. I would love to see this magnificent farm. It must take a whole day to really enjoy all it's beauty.
    Thank you Dawn for sharing this lovely experience.

  5. What a place to have a wedding!!
    Around Memorial day would be as good as it gets.

    He sounds like he was another great man, just like Dr. Currier McEwen. Currier sure was a sweetie and always had his gardens opened to anyone and never charged a penny.

    Dawn if you are interested you can go to
    and see a pic of Currier and Elizabeth (his wife, who was also a real sweetie) with a couple of friends at McLaughlin's garden.

    Also, do you or Tina remember Sharon Whitney that lived in the house on Basin Point, right on the road almost, a ways the other side of the pond and on the other side of the road, with the great garden? Well she worked for and helped Currier for 20 years or so and now lives on the H Neck Road, just before Stovers Point Road and has carried on Currier's work. Her web site is or You can buy plants there. Her daughter went to school here and then to Mt. Ararat but I think she was a little younger than you girls. Her husband is Cliff that I was on ambulance with.

    Tina if you go to you will find info that might help. Also Also you could just type in cimcifuga into google.

    Great post and very cute start and finish. By golly I hope one of those suckers comes my way!!!
    It is a very majestic looking flower!!!! Over 200 types of lilacs, WOW!!! Well I have a vase full of the common lilac sitting on my coumptuer desk right now and will probably get 2 more before they go by and by then the French Lilacs will be out so that will extend the season for me. But I don't think the french ones have a strong smell like the common.

  6. Forgot to say hi to Lola and that I hope you are feeling better and hope we don't see you on the MIA list again!!!

  7. Hi Lola! Glad to have you back! Yes, it does take a whole day to see these gardens, I hope to get a private showing whenever they get their grant for a new heating system!
    Mom, I went to www.McLaughins gardens and must of seen the picture. Isn't that nice what Jane Lamb wrote about the two of them? And yes, you can have a sucker, I'll bring one down the next time I come so be ready with the spot you want. Very stunning lilac.
    Do you get the Sun? Zackary was the only ball player to be mentioned on Thurs. It was his first real game, I don't know how he does it.

  8. Dawn and Mom, I will look up the website-but guess what?? I think it is going to bloom this year-the first time in five years!! It sure takes a long time for flowers to come into their own.

    Hi Lola! It is a slow day today. Wonder why? Seems slow all around. Everyone busy with the summer, guests and whatever. I like sitting on the computer because it gives my tired feet a rest! Anyone else tired too?

  9. I am as they say "dog tired". This heat really pulls it out of you. I did manage to get a few things tidied up. All has to be finished & things put up before I leave. Nothing in Young'uns way if he decides to mow while I'm gone. 1 more week. Got slowed down due to illness--that was a rough one. Still not up to par.

    Have a good night all.

  10. Hi Dawn,

    Very cool stories about those great gardeners who had very long lives. Maybe being a gardener keeps you healthier for longer. :-)

    That purple flower is a beaut! I can so smell it from here... at my computer... just looking at the picture!

    Square Foot Gardening in Nashville

  11. Dawn, we get the Portland paper and the Brunswick, so no Sun but I will try to go read it on line.

    Tina, glad the cimcifuga may bloon this year.

  12. Hi guys,
    Lola, i guess I didn't know you were sick. That's the pits. Take it easy esp in this heat, its getting hot up here so I know its boiling down there.
    Hi dp nguyen, I knew someone who LOVED to square foot. It was so tidy and neat looking. She used string to measure of her feet and it managed to stay all season!
    Mom, I didn't realize it is online, I'll get the clipping today, Zack doesn't know yet.
    Tina, I like sitting at the 'puter when I'm tired too. Not so much work yesterday, Jack of all trades had several calls. It rained for the first time in a while and was cold. We so need a soaking of the ground, we are behind in total rainfall and the fire danger has been high all week. Rain brought the skeetos.

  13. Great for the rain Dawn! We got some too. Lola, Hope you are feeling better before your visit with your sister. Mom, it is looking good for that bugbane.All the plants I bought up there last year are going like gangbusters.

  14. Dawn, thanks for bringing Maine lilac season to me. I miss walking around my neighborhood in Brunswick with all the lilacs blooming. There are lilacs here in England too but there is something about the late Maine spring that makes it more exciting.

  15. Sarah, you welcome, it was my pleasure.