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College of the Atlantic is blessed with a luxury of gardens. From the community organic garden at the north entrance to the school to the Beatrix Farrand Garden hailing from the gilded age of Mount Desert Island to the newly reconstructed Turrets Sea Side Garden, a walk through campus is nearly a complete garden stroll. Though not on campus, COA also has the organic Beech Hill Farm supplying the school's kitchen with vegetables and fruits throughout the year. Below, we take you through our gardens, north to south.
Community Organic Garden
Since the very first summer that COA was in session, there has been a organic garden at the north end of campus. Originally used as a kitchen garden to supply the campus with fresh produce, the organic garden was soon opened up to the wider Mount Desert Island community. Plots are available come spring, on a first-come, first-served basis. To find out more, contact Suzanne Morse at SRM@coa.edu.
Visitors leaving the community gardens walk up a path to a short set of stairs and into the Newlin Gardens, established in 1992 by longtime Mount Desert Island resident and COA supporter Elizabeth Battles Newlin to honor her husband, E. Mortimer Newlin. After Elizabeth Newlin's death in 1995, her children, William V.P. Newlin, a trustee of the college and Lucy Bell Newlin Sellers, who teaches drama at the college, honored their mother by establishing the college's first endowed chair, the Elizabeth Battles Newlin Chair in Botany. "Mother was always learning from landscapes. Wherever she lived, she was making or tending gardens. She was an environmentalist long before we had heard of the word," Lucy Bell Sellers said of her mother.
Beatrix Farrand Garden
The formal sequence of rock walled rooms behind Kaelber Hall was created by the celebrated garden designer, Beatrix Farrand in 1928. These rooms are a remnant of one of the historic estates that now comprise the campus, offering opportunities for quiet study and intimate conversation. The unique stone walls, staircases and hedges defining these spaces provide a sense of the designer's skill. Several of the original rose bushes survive and a perennial border gives a sampling of plants she typically used in her garden designs.
Turrets Sea Side Garden
"A large granite bench overlooks the Turrets Sea Side Garden at College of the Atlantic. In the distance a string of islands stretch across Frenchman Bay to Schoodic Peninsula. Above the garden stands the historic Turrets. The campus extends uphill, but the garden, concealed behind Turrets, has a sunken, secluded atmosphere." So writes Eamonn Hutton '05, who took on the restoration of the 4000-square-foot garden as his senior project. Hutton recreated the formal bedded out pattern of the garden but chose plant material that would require less maintenance and be unappealing to the deer that frequent the campus. Using the subtle, contemplative pinks, purples and blue-grey tones of lavender, astilbe, fairy roses, nepeta and Siberian iris, Hutton followed a color scheme typical of the blue-grey gardens described by noted garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.
In 2009 a central fountain, created by COA alumnus Dan Farrenkopf of Lunaform Pottery, was installed in the space where a long-lost fountain had once stood.
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Built by John and Lela Emory, the original owners of The Turrets, this is a lovely, old-fashioned garden created adjacent to the foundation of a neighboring home the Emorys had purchased and torn down. Brick pathways circle through what had once been a rose garden, passing benches and balustrades. As their final project in the spring of 2009, two seniors are replacing the collapsed foundation wall with terraced retaining walls, removing invasive species, and replanting the overgrown flower beds with annuals and perennials, continuing the efforts of Susan Choma, a summer visitor to Mount Desert Island who spent several summers cleaning up this lovely, romantic garden hidden within stone walls. "It has a spirit of its own," says Choma. "It's like being in a beautiful ruin, a perfect setting for a garden."