NORTHPORT, Maine — Set atop the hill skirting the idyllic Little River Reservoir sits the recently renovated 1800 Cape, and new gardens of Martha Block, who will welcome visitors to her newest landscape projects in their early stages. The garden will be open to the public 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday June 28, at 1485 Atlantic Highway (Route 1), in Northport as part of theBelfast Garden Club Open Garden Days series. Tickets may be purchased at the garden on the day of the tour for a donation of $4 for the day, or $15 for a five-garden pass. Proceeds will benefit the Belfast Garden Club’s civic beautification projects.
“The gardens are a work in process,” Block said, “as with all gardening, an experiment.” An adventure she seems very comfortable with, this is not the first garden she’s brought along from scratch. Many readers will recall the splendid and cozy year-round landscape of perennials, ornamental shrubs and vegetables surrounding her home in downtown Belfast from the 2011 Open Garden Tour. “We hadn’t really planned a move, I wasn’t looking to buy,” she recalled. “When this property went up for sale, I just wanted to come check out this old place which I had passed on Route One so many times. When I came up and saw the view I couldn’t resist,” she said, gesturing to the path of purple, pink and white lupine leading to a line of tall shading trees along the wide glimmering waterfront vista.
The extensive renovation of the property’s buildings was the first priority. When that work was completed and the construction debris were removed Martha was left with nearly a clean slate for her new garden space. Initially, she selectively chose her favorite and most portable plants and shrubs from the Church Street garden and brought them to holding beds at her new home. “I’m always thinking, ‘oh, this would be a good place for this tree or that plant.’” From those holding beds the mixture of young and old trees, shrubs, perennials, roses, herbs and berries are now finding their more permanent locations.
“I am focusing on the overall structure of garden spaces created to compliment the extraordinary beauty and peacefulness of the existing setting,” Martha explained of her process. In the front yard the driveway has been moved away from the home and space has been increased for trees such as dogwoods, crabapples and her favorite Dr. Merrill magnolia. Closer to the house rhododendrons, lilacs and azaleas have begun the formation of structural spaces. Waiting for space to open in other beds (after blooming this year), an impressive peony holding bed along a fence beyond the guest cottage will be a breathtaking show. A stone walkway just installed near the peonies winds through beds of gorgeous Chinese bachelor button, foxglove and iris. Several special roses in the garden include yellow Graham Thomas, pink climber New Dawn and an old fashioned thornless pink rose. On the water side of the house new beds are being prepared, azaleas and rhododendrons bloom, and the lawn glides gently down to the water’s edge where, if you look closely yellow flag iris pop among the wild cattails.
The field surrounding the carriage house has been mowed once at the start of the season and now is being left to grow naturally, displaying Maine wildflowers. Ferns, hawkweed, buttercup and lupine have filled in this space, and the smell is divine. The field closest to the driveway is planned to be the vegetable garden. A large patch of raspberries is growing well, rhubarb and asparagus have recently been planted, and will soon be followed by corn and other edibles.
Visitors to Block’s former garden will remember its little nooks and crannies, and it will be exciting to see where she takes this garden as it grows. Plants likely to be in bloom the day of the tour include peonies, climbing roses, foxglove, some rhododendrons and iris. Several late blooming lilacs should still be flowering as well. Martha hopes to offer some transplants for visitors to take home and welcomes all to bring a picnic and enjoy the view.
Directions to the Block Garden: From downtown Belfast, head south on Route 1, cross Little River bridge; the house is immediately on the right. Park along Route 1 or turn in at the lamppost (not at the mailbox).
The next Open Garden Day will be held Friday, July 5, at the Krueger Garden, 8 Durham St., Belfast. For information about Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days, call Diane Allmayer-Beck at 207-338-3105, email belfastgardenclub@gmail.