Hiking, paddling and biking are great ways to get outside and enjoy Maine, but sometimes I just want to slow down and be at one with leaves, flowers and earth. One of the best places to do that is at Asticou Azalea Garden in Northeast Harbor.
Asticou Garden can be enjoyed from spring through fall, but the prime time to go is when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom in June — unless you prefer the cherry blossoms in May, the pond lily blooms in August or fall foliage in September and October.
The garden, an oasis of calm and infinite beauty threaded with a circular walking path and studded with benches in shady nooks perfect for contemplation, was designed and built in 1956 by Charles K. Savage of Northeast Harbor. He was motivated, according to a brochure, “by his love of native Maine plants, his study of Japanese gardens and his desire to preserve the plant collection of Beatrix Farrand.” Farrand was owner of the estate Reef Point in Bar Harbor.
On June 8 when I visited the garden, the azaleas were in glorious bloom, other flowering shrubs were just going by and some of the rhododendrons were just opening their petals. One of my favorite spots was a little “bridge” composed of individual stepping stones across a narrow stream.
A highlight at Asticou is a sand garden raked to suggest water flowing around rocks symbolizing landmasses.
The garden is open May 1-Oct. 31. For information, visit gardenpreserve.org.
Getting There: The garden is located at the intersection of Route 198 and Route 3 in Northeast Harbor. A suggested donation of $5 per person may be deposited in the receptacle placed at the garden entrance.