Acadia’s Asticou Gardens
An unsung gem of Acadia is Northeast Harbor’s Asticou Azalea Garden. I’ve been to Japanese gardens in San Francisco and Portland, OR and they are beautiful. I never thought a cold weather Maine version was possible. Thanks to Charles Savage and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. this secret garden was planted in 1956 to preserve the rare plants of other island gardens as they were being dismantled. Charles Savage, then owner of Asticou Inn graciously opened the gardens for all to enjoy for free. Today the garden is owned and operated by the non-profit Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve. This is an excellent place to unwind, relax, contemplate and inhale.
The main theme is azaleas, or more broadly, rhododendrons, from cooler regions of the world. Winding paths of raked gravel take the walker over a meandering stream to the shore of Asticou Pond. Exquisitely cared for and labeled specimens transport one into a bonsai wonderland. Seasonally, the beauty is timeless with a careful balance of evergreen foliage and flowerings. I can’t wait for the cherry blossoms in mid May.
The Asticou Azalea Gardens can be found at the intersection of Route 198 and Route 3 in Northeast Harbor, with the parking entrance just off Route 198. It is on the Island Explorer bus route. The garden may be visited during daylight hours from May 1 to October 31. Nearby also find the Thuya Garden, also owned and managed by Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve.