From the organic community garden at the north entrance to the school to the Beatrix Farrand Garden hailing from the gilded age of Mount Desert Island to the  Turrets Seaside Garden, a walk through campus is nearly a complete garden stroll. Below, we take you through our gardens, north to south.


Community GardenCommunity Garden

Since the very first summer that COA was in session, there has been an organic garden at the north end of campus. Originally used as a kitchen garden to supply the campus with fresh produce, the garden was soon opened up to the wider Mount Desert Island community.

Plots are available in the spring, on a first-come, first-served basis. To find out more, contact Suzanne Morse.

Newlin Gardens

Newlin GardenVisitors leaving the community garden 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

Farrand Garden steps in the fallThe 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 Seaside Garden

Turrets Seaside Garden“A large granite bench overlooks the Turrets Seaside 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 The Turrets. The campus extends uphill, but the garden, concealed behind The 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 once stood.

Sunken Garden

Sunken Garden

In COA’s Sunken Garden, brick pathways circle through what was once a walled Italian garden, lined with stone benches and balustrades. Built by John and Lela Emery, the original owners of COA’s iconic The Turrets, this lovely, old-fashioned garden was created adjacent to the foundation of a neighboring home the Emerys had purchased and then removed.

In 1980, COA student Claire Verdier restored the neglected Sunken Garden as her senior project. She planted most of the ornamental shrubs and flowers that are currently present. As the years passed, the western wall of the garden deteriorated until it had to be removed for visitors’ safety. In the spring of 2009, two seniors replaced the collapsed foundation wall with terraced retaining walls, removed invasive species, and replanted the overgrown flower beds with annuals and perennials.

In 2015, the COA Gardening Club started to maintain the Sunken Garden. For two years club members weeded the beds, cleaned the paths, and held educational workshops. COA student Yaniv Korman, the head of the Gardening Club, pursued the adaptive reuse of the garden into a space which would preserve the garden’s historic structure and its role as a safe and inviting space in which people can interact with each other and with nature. Under Korman’s direction, the Club created a sustainable, low-maintenance, edible garden which would educate the community while providing food for people, birds, and insects.

You are welcome to enjoy the bounty the garden offers while respecting the needs of wildlife and other members of the community. Learn more about the Sunken Garden here.