Saturday July 15, 2023

10am – 4pm Rain or Shine

The Bar Harbor Garden Club will present a tour of Gardens by the Sea on Saturday, July 15 from 10am to 4pm, rain or shine.

You’re invited to visit six inspirational gardens in Bar Harbor and enjoy stunning borders of colorful perennials and annuals stretching to the water’s edge. View gardens that take advantage of shade with ferns, mosses, and groundcover and others that creatively use paths, walls, and containers to shape outdoor space.

Tickets for $40 available June 1 at or $45 the day of the tour.

Free parking and shuttle service. Tour headquarters at La Rochelle, 127 West St., home of the Bar Harbor Historical Society.

Proceeds support non-profits on Mount Desert Island that protect natural resources, address food insecurity, and foster a dedication to horticulture among youth.



Why the name Devilstone?
Throughout history all over the world, people have often called a huge, immovable boulder in the middle of a field or alone in a forest a “devil’s stone.”
Mount Desert Island is sprinkled with such giant boulders made of non-native rock. Geologists call them “glacial erratics,” a name derived from the Latin errare meaning to wander. Thousands of years ago these huge stones were swept hundreds of miles by glaciers and deposited in unlikely locations all over MDI.

Built in 1885, Devilstone was one of the first homes built along the Shore Path. It was named for just such a large glacial erratic that sat in the middle of the surrounding grassy field. Sadly, that estate residence was long ago demolished.

Today the two-acre property includes a Shingle Style Main House built in 1926 with 100 feet of oceanfront and a more modern Guesthouse. In 1980, John Nelson, an artist and long-time seasonal resident of Bar Harbor, bought Devilstone. For 40 years, he shaped gardens from the giant lawn that swept down to Frenchman Bay, the grassy field (where sat the glacial erratic), and a forest bordering Hancock Street.

Having earned a degree in landscape architecture in California, Mr. Nelson had a lot to learn about New England flora and sought the help of expert local nurseries to create an old-fashioned English cottage garden with strong Asian influences.

Purchased in 2021 by new owners, the garden offers many places to linger – a firepit
overlooking Frenchman Bay, a bench surrounded by hydrangea and pines, and a horseshoe pit in the front garden. Among the outstanding trees and shrubs on the estate are varied species of American and Asian hydrangea, an expansive collection of rhododendrons, and elegant Japanese maples with delicate, weeping forms.

Paths covered in soft, fragrant pine needles are an unusual structural feature of the garden. The property’s pine tree needles are used on the paths to reduce yard waste.
(Look for the glacial erratic to the left of the driveway near the Main House.)


Designed by Fred Savage for John Jacob Astor’s grandson, Breakwater was built in 1904. A gate house stood at the entrance and the driveway wound through deep woods past a horse barn and a carriage house before arriving at the elaborate Tudor-style residence. The only plantings were adjacent to the home and the only flowers bloomed in window boxes. 

In 2000 when new owners purchased the property, their landscape architect bulldozed everything except the buildings to the ground, including most of the surrounding forest. On this blank canvas, a series of outdoor “rooms” were created: a croquet court, a putting green with sand traps, and an oceanside flower garden with a yew hedge for privacy along the Shore Path. 

The genius behind this design? The artful placement of each structure among trees and hedges, providing the house optimal privacy. Surrounded by flowers, shrubs, and trees, the home was screened from the carriage house and barn and the many passersby on the Shore Path. 

This garden structure still exists today. The only change to Breakwater’s buildings: A modern garage replaced the barn which burned down years ago. 

In 2020, the current owners, Jefferson Harkins and Joe Shepard, purchased Breakwater, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. They are refining its landscape with Whitney Williams Granholme of Sea Glass Gardens. 

Where the putting green once was, an herbaceous border of annual and perennials thrives, producing cut flowers for indoor arrangements.  The landscaping around the croquet court has been refreshed to add beauty and interest.  Near the main house, a newly added rose garden is divided into four parterres with roses arranged by color. 

Oceanside, the flower borders have added variety of form, foliage, texture, and fragrance.  Two specimen trees put on a colorful display in autumn – a Katsura and a Japanese maple. While the yew hedge remains critical to providing privacy from the Shore Path, its height is being lowered to keep it healthy and strong. 

It is a marvel that Breakwater’s four acres sit in the middle of bustling Bar Harbor yet offer a serene sanctuary with the peace of endless ocean views.

The Breezes

In 1866 the marriage of Anna Pingree to Joseph Peabody merged two of the most influential and wealthy families of Massachusetts. Although the couple separated after a decade, Anna forged ahead, becoming a renowned collector of American impressionist artists’ work. Perhaps to gain the wall space needed to showcase her favorite artists’ work, in 1896, she had this Colonial Revival cottage built on West Street overlooking Frenchman Bay and in 1906 she had a second summer home built in Ipswich, MA. 

In 2014, the current owners bought the home. A tribute to the elegance of a bygone era, The Breezes is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After a year of renovation, the family moved in. For the first two summers, neglected shrubs, trees, and flower gardens were painstakingly removed. Only saved were several old specimen peonies.

Passionate about flowers and color, but adamant that they’re not gardeners, the new owners partnered with Jodi Sargent of Eden Street Flowers in Hulls Cove to revive The Breezes’ gardens. 

Today the front gardens on West Street offer seasonal interest with window boxes adding pops of color. From the driveway, visitors walk to the right of the home on a bluestone path flanked with magenta New Guinea Impatiens and Salvia ‘Mystic Spires.’ The walkway leads through a shade garden with a tiny fountain to the back lawn and garden.

There, with the backdrop of Frenchman Bay, are the oceanside gardens. Cross the lawn to a center path flanked by hydrangea macrophylia, lavender, and annual petunia integrifolia. 

The flower borders provide a tricky challenge: The right side enjoys ample sun while the left side is often shaded. And although the view of the sea and Porcupine Islands is magnificent, the garden is steadily buffeted by wind. 

Brilliant color abounds.  Key is the mix of annuals (snapdragons, zinnias, and salvia) and perennials (dahlias, hydrangea, and peonies). While the color palette is always changing, there is always lots of blue, provided by Salvia ‘Mystic Spires’ and mostly the harder to find Pacific Giant Delphinium and the New Millennium Delphinium series, both ‘Cobalt Dreams.’ 

La Rochelle, Tour Headquarters

The Bar Harbor Historical Society at La Rochelle will discount museum general admission by $5 for visitors who present Bar Harbor Garden Club tour tickets.

La Rochelle is the home of the Bar Harbor Historical Society which is lovingly caring for the mansion’s gardens. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, La Rochelle has been home to only three families during its 120-year history.  

In 1903, this lavish chateau was built for George Bowdoin, a partner at JP Morgan. In 1794, his great-grandfather helped establish Bowdoin College which was named in his honor. The largest home on West Street, the 41-room La Rochelle is named for La Rochelle, France, the family’s ancestral hometown from which they fled in the 1600s to escape religious persecution.

After only a few years of ownership, the Cough family sold the mansion after the Fire of 1947 to Philadelphia entrepreneur Tristram Colket and his wife Ethel Dorrance, daughter of the founder of the Campbell Soup Company. In 1972, the Colkets donated the home to The Maine Seacoast Mission which in 2019 sold it to the Bar Harbor Historical Society.

Tended by devoted volunteers, La Rochelle’s two historic gardens in front of the house are: 

The Woodland Garden: Balancing texture and tone, this small, shaded garden is a haven for birds that feed on its variety of berries and drink from its bird bath. A crushed pink granite path bordered by large boulders welcomes the visitor to rest on a stone bench and walk among the trees whose blossoms and foliage form a colorful canopy. The varying height of the shrubs, evergreens, and groundcover offer visual interest and a sense of movement.  

The Sunken Garden: This rectangular garden is enclosed by an ivy-covered red brick wall and features a path of stone dust. In 2021, the garden was transformed, with a deep bow to the world-renowned landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand, who summered in Bar Harbor. Today the garden illustrates Farrand’s balance of symmetry and color in its plants and shrubs and follows her interpretation of a garden as a place of respite, with its stone bench offering peaceful rest. Farrand often used sundials as focal points; here an armillary sundial graces one side of the garden. 

On the waterfront, the Butterfly and Pollination Garden was created and is maintained by the Bar Harbor Garden Club. 

The Farm House

If gardening reflects a way of thinking, then the garden at The Farm House is a journal written in plantings and pathways. This four-acre horticultural essay in form, color, and texture was inspired by passion and still thrives after 100 years because of one gardener’s extraordinary act of courage. 

In the 1820s The Farm House was built by early settlers on MDI. In 1911 Robert Hall McCormick and his wife Sarah of Chicago purchased the property to add to their neighboring farm and stable.  McCormick was a descendant of the inventor of the McCormick Reaper, which revolutionized agriculture. In the 1920s the McCormicks’ youngest daughter Mildred inherited The Farm House. 

Mildred commissioned renowned landscape architect Beatrix Farrand to develop the garden and prominent local architect Arthur McFarland to expand the white-clapboard house.  

In 1923, Farrand created a series of magical environments enclosed by a stately arborvitae hedge – from a 100-foot expanse of perennial/annual borders to a serene English park and a hushed woodland walk.

Miraculously, the property escaped the Fire of 1947. Mildred’s devoted gardener Jock Riddell stood on the roof and hosed down the property, saving the house and its magnificent garden. The fire decimated all the neighborhood’s other properties. 

Upon her death in the 1980s Mildred gave the house to her great nephew Sargent Collier and his wife Elizabeth.  Today Elizabeth lovingly stewards the garden with her husband Quinn Mills, led by the principles and spirit of the garden’s original creators, Mildred McCormick and Farrand. In 2007 the estate was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Mills family found Farrand’s original design for the garden in the Farrand Collection at the University of California at Berkley. The plan names the original plantings, including now-restored varieties of peonies and phlox, like Miss Lingard. Guided by this plan, Elizabeth has preserved and renovated the garden. 

The garden’s Old World colors are reflected in wide drifts of campanula, dahlia, nepeta, phlox, and snapdragons against a backdrop of artemisia lactiflora and eupatorium. Punches of hot color come from aconitum, delphiniums, heliotrope, and salvia.  A terrace bed is laid out in four squares, each with a pink dogwood surrounded by native Sweet Fern. Farrand’s charming garden embellishments still grace the garden in their original positions, including the white wooden gate topped by the silhouette of a squirrel nibbling an acorn that welcomes visitors to this garden paradise.

College of the Atlantic Community Garden

In 1971 College of the Atlantic co-founder Mel Coté and then-Vice President Sam Eliot chose a sunny location on the northern side of campus near Route 3 and planted a garden to help feed their families. Hauling water in buckets from a nearby faucet, they planted chard, spinach, peas, lettuce, beans, tomatoes, cucumber, and corn. Some crops did better than others, Eliot remembers, and the “dandelions and slugs were doing best of all.”

By 1974, other faculty had started planting and the garden was opened to students. On a very hot day, gardening male and female students took off their shirts. Dozens of drivers on Route 3 stopped for a look, causing a major traffic jam. To break up the snarl, the police chief called the college and asked if the female students would please put their shirts on. 

Since then, COA’s Community Garden has flourished. A small orchard was created with peach, pear, and apple trees, many planted by Jackson Gillman (’78). A vineyard complete with trellis was planted by a displaced British farmer. A charming entry gate was built by students and art and design faculty member Dru Colbert. Last year the Community Garden celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Today the garden is a large expanse of beds and pathways where students, staff, faculty, and about 20 community members tend organic garden plots. Gardeners share responsibility for tools, a compost system, and common areas. For the last 25 years Suzanne Morse, the college’s Rachel Carson Chair in Human Ecology, has managed the garden.  

The COA Community Garden has become an outdoor lab. Gardening and agriculture classes practice techniques, conduct experiments, and develop garden designs. For example, Morse’s classes tested seeds and identified which varieties of sweet corn and carrots would thrive best here.

The Community Garden also supplies fresh flowers for campus events and organic produce to the Bar Harbor Food Pantry. Each year participants in the college’s Summer Field Studies for Children care for and harvest produce from a Community Garden plot.


When is the 2023 Bar Harbor Garden Club tour?
The Bar Harbor Garden Club will present a tour of Gardens by the Sea on Saturday, July 15 from 10am to 4pm, rain or shine.

Who is the Bar Harbor Garden Club?

The Bar Harbor Garden Club includes more than 100 members on Mount Desert Island (MDI). Our mission is to promote the love of horticulture, to protect and preserve our natural resources, to provide educational opportunities, to contribute responsibly to civic and environmental needs, and to enjoy the fellowship of our members. Every two years, we present a summer garden tour to raise funds to support our work of with key non-profits on MDI.

How does the garden club use the funds raised by the tour? 

Proceeds from the tour support the critical work of non-profits on MDI that protect natural resources, address food insecurity, and foster a love of horticulture among youth. These efforts will be listed in the tour brochure.

What gardens are included on the tour?

You are invited to tour six inspirational gardens in Bar Harbor and enjoy stunning borders of colorful perennials and annuals stretching to the water’s edge. View gardens that take advantage of shade with ferns, mosses, and groundcover, and others that creatively use paths, walls, and containers to shape outdoor space. 

Brochures with a map of the gardens’ locations and a description of each garden will be given to ticket holders when they begin the tour. Here’s a preview of the gardens

How do I buy a ticket?

Starting June 1, you may buy a ticket for $40 online. Buy tickets here.  Sales will end at 10 pm on Friday, July 14. 

Tickets will also be sold for $45 on the day of the tour at each of the six gardens. Please plan to pay by cash or check.

Free parking and shuttle service from parking and among the gardens are included in the ticket price. 

A ticket entitles you to tour six gardens: five private gardens and a sustainable community garden. When you purchase your ticket online, you will be emailed your e-Tickets and a tour map within an hour.

Are tickets required for children?

Tickets are not required for children under the age of 12, but any child under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Is there a tour headquarters?

Yes, the headquarters for the tour will be at one of the six gardens on the tour: La Rochelle, the home of the Bar Harbor Historical Society at 127 West St, Bar Harbor. 

On display that day at La Rochelle will be a beautiful handmade, garden-themed quilt that will be raffled that day. Raffle tickets may be purchased at La Rochelle. Learn more

Is parking provided?

Yes. The garden tour includes FREE parking at the Bar Harbor Ferry Terminal at 121 Eden St. 

FREE shuttle service will also be provided from the Ferry Terminal to the tour headquarters at La Rochelle, home of the Bar Harbor Historical Society, and to the other five gardens on the tour. The shuttle stops are shown on the tour map in the tour brochure that will be given out at each garden. Along the tour route, shuttle stops will be marked with signage. 

Masking is optional on the shuttles.

The Bar Harbor Ferry Terminal is 1.1 miles from the tour headquarters at the Bar Harbor Historical Society at La Rochelle.  Visitors may walk from the parking area approximately 20 minutes on a flat sidewalk to the tour headquarters at La Rochelle. Or visitors may use the free shuttle service from the Ferry terminal parking lot to La Rochelle and to the five other gardens on the tour.

If you prefer to find your own parking, the town of Bar Harbor provides a parking map on its website The map identifies where there are parking kiosks, meters, and signed permit parking. 

  • Town parking rates range from $1.50 per hour to $2.00 per hour with certain high demand areas having four-hour limits and other areas with no limits. 
  • All major credit/debit cards are accepted as well as US quarters, but no paper money.
  • Paid parking will be enforced by the town between 9am to 8pm on the day of the tour.

Where can I pick up a brochure with a tour map?

An online ticket holder will receive a tour map via email. Printed brochures including a map will be available at each of the six gardens on the tour.

Where does the tour begin?

You may start your tour at any of the six gardens on the tour or from the tour headquarters at La Rochelle, the home of the Bar Harbor Historical Society.

Are restrooms available on the tour?

There are no public restrooms at the properties on the garden tour. 

Public restrooms in Bar Harbor may be found at the following locations:

  • Bar Harbor Ferry Terminal, 121 Eden St, Bar Harbor, ME 
  • Across from the Village Green, along Firefly Lane and adjacent to the fire and police stations. 37 Firefly Ln, Bar Harbor, ME 
  • Agamont Park, along Main Street between Newport Drive and Cottage Way.  It’s about 250 feet from one of the stops of the tour shuttle.
  • The intersection of Park Street and School Street, across from the YMCA and adjacent to the parking lot for the Y’s ball field.
  • Thomas Gates Community Center, 105 Eden St, Bar Harbor, ME 04609. It’s located across from the COA Community Garden (Garden #6). 

How can I make sure I have time to visit all the gardens on the tour?

If you can walk comfortably and follow the tour directions in our brochure, there is enough time between 10 am and 4 pm to see all the gardens.

Is photography allowed?

Photography is allowed for personal use only.

Any other tips?

For your comfort and safety, please wear good walking shoes and do not smoke. We request that dogs and strollers be left at home. The gardens are not wheelchair accessible. The Bar Harbor Garden Club and owners of the garden properties are not responsible for accidents that occur on the tour.



Bar Harbor Bank & Trust

Gold/Rosa Rugosa:

Arra Homescaping
Atlantic Landscape Construction
Bangor Savings Bank
Betsey Holtzmann
Coastal Irrigation and Lighting
Choco-Latte Café  
Darling’s Auto Mall – Your Local Maine Buick GMC Dealer
Fiore Artisan Oils and Vinegars
Havana Restaurant 
Nate Holyoke Builders
Williams Irrigation Systems
Witham Family Hotels Charitable Fund

Silver/Lady Slipper:

Frost Farms
Gordon Robb Landscaping
Machias Bank


First National Bank
G.F. Johnston & Associates
Salsbury’s Hardware and Organic Garden Center
Udder Heaven Ice Cream Retreat
Window Panes


Acadia Gem
Darling’s Auto Group
Stanley Subaru



Addressing food insecurity 

  • Open Table MDI’s organic garden in Tremont
  • Our garden at the Kelley Farm Preserve in Bernard 

Promoting a love of horticulture among youth 

  • College scholarships for studying horticulture 
  • Greenhouses at elementary schools
  • Kids Can Grow, children’s summer gardening program 

Protecting natural resources

  • Reestablishing Maines’s native lupine through the Sundial Lupine Project
  • Tending gardens/containers at:
    • Bar Harbor Historical Society
    • Jesup Memorial Library
    • Mount Desert Island Historical Society
    • Pemetic Elementary School
    • Ridge Apartments, MDI Housing Authority
  • Supporting through donations and volunteers:
      • Beatrix Farrand Society
      • Charlotte Rhoades Park
      • Friends of Acadia
      • Kids’ Corner 
      • Land and Garden Preserve
      • Maine Coast Heritage Trust
      • Wild Gardens of Acadia