Food, beauty and peace in Belmont garden

Posted Aug. 08, 2011, at 4:33 p.m.
It’s a garden oasis at the Trotochaud-McDowell Garden in Belmont.
Photo courtesy of Annadeene Fowler
It’s a garden oasis at the Trotochaud-McDowell Garden in Belmont.

BELMONT, Maine — The bountiful Trotochaud-McDowell Garden and Everyday Pottery Studio will open to the public as part of Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, at 103 Northport Road.

“If people want to see what it is to garden, that it is not all glamour and successes [they should come to our garden],” said Mary Trotochaud, half of this husband-and-wife gardening duo. She and partner Rick McDowell demonstrate that an abundance of beauty and sustenance can be grown in less than ideal conditions with hard work, conviction and a willingness to experiment.

After successfully growing an herb and salad garden while living in Baghdad, the creative gardening couple bought a home and a few acres in Belmont and began their most recent garden project.

“There was no good topsoil to start,” Trotochaud sad, pointing to roots sticking out at the edge of the garden area. The property was filled with dense overgrown brush, and not much lawn or garden space existed. Each year she and McDowell have pushed back the scrub brush, extracted roots, rototilled a row or two more and experimented with additions to enrich the soil such as seaweed, manure and straw.

Five years later they have opened up a substantial yard with a mosaic of flower beds, and rows of vegetable and herbs radiating around a lush grape arbor that boasts five varieties of grapes.

As visitors delve into this relaxed but tidy garden, they will notice the attention to detail and design by the couple, a potter and carpenter by trade. The approach features a circular dahlia bed with a sculptural birch and stoneware birdbath, made by Trotochaud at the entrance to her studio, and a Zen-inspired stepped stone walkway up to the house designed and built by McDowell from a photograph of an entranceway she admired.

The steps are complemented by graduated beds of ornamental grasses and succulents. In the backyard, the view opens wide with bursts of yellow, purple and red of annuals and perennials such as calendula, rudbeckia, sunflowers, zinnias and Jerusalem artichokes. A curvaceous rock wall has grown up from all the rocks removed from the garden over the years, and adds definition to the garden as well.

Tickets for Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days can be purchased at each garden the day of the tour for a donation of $4. Proceeds will benefit the club’s civic beautification projects.

The series features 13 gardens in the Belfast area, one garden a week on Fridays, rain or shine. The Aug. 19 event will feature the Anderson Garden at 93 Kaler Road, Belfast. Originally a hayfield for a dairy farm, the garden serves about 10 families who can come and harvest their own vegetables.

For more information about Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days, call Diane Allmayer-Beck at 338-3105 or Martha Laitin at 948-2915, or visit http:// www.belfastgardenclub.org.

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