Monday, July 13, 2009

An Island Garden

If you’re reading this, you know that we visited Celia Thaxter’s garden last week, after wanting to do so for many years. In a nutshell, the garden is located on Appledore, an island about 6 miles off the coast of Maine/New Hampshire. It is on an island managed by Cornell and UNH, and is only open for tours eight days each year; we were finally able to make all of the components of our lives come together to visit the garden this year!

The short version of the story is that Celia’s father opened a grand Victorian resort hotel on the island in the mid 1800’s, and she developed this garden over the course of many years, primarily to furnish fresh cut flowers for the hotel. She wrote about it in her book, “An Island Garden,” which was published in 1894, a few months before she died. The garden was abandoned for many decades, and then restored about 25 years ago; it is now planted and maintained by a group of volunteers (and UNH), exactly as Celia had maintained it. There are many paintings of this garden by impressionist artist Childe Hassam in museums around the world, and the book itself is available for purchase (or you can read it online at

For anyone who is a passionate gardener, this is definitely a trip worth taking! Just to get an idea of Celia Thaxter’s passion, go to the online version (or the print version) and read her interpretation of the thunderstorm hitting her island and garden, on page 105. In other parts of the story, she relates going outside at 4 AM in her Victorian nightdress to squish slugs and encase them in salt! It’s really quite a fun read, and can be handled cover to cover in a few hours.
On a practical note, there were some extraordinary flowers in the small garden, and I’m sure my photos don’t do them justice, but here’s a few of the shots.


  1. I can't believe I've never read this book. I've heard about it for years. You are lucky to get a chance to see it in person. I'm glad it worked out for you.

  2. Sounds like a magical place--I've always wanted to go to NH (well, more than the very short stop at Hanover yonks back).