The Maine Coast in Late Fall

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

The dramatic fall color of red maples has been replaced with the more subtle color of American beech.  All the photos in this post were taken in and around Cliff Island, Maine, US, located off the coast of Portland in Casco Bay.

I have gotten a lot of comments in person and on line about how much everyone has enjoyed my posts from Maine.  To read my post The Maine Coast and see photos in summer, click here.  I was there again at the end of October so I thought I would show you the coast at a very different time of year.

The bay is empty of boats.


The mooring buoys are stacked on the shore.


The summer cottages are closed.



This is the house where the movie The Whales of August with Betty Davis, Lillian Gish, and Vincent Price was filmed.


The ocean loses its benign summer look.


The cliffs for which Cliff Island was named.

The landscape of Cliff Island changes too.  Gone are the wildflowers blooming everywhere and even the colorful leaves on the deciduous trees.  The palette narrows to the blue sky, gray fog, green conifers, brown grasses, white bark, red berries.  Everything is more subtle yet every bit as beautiful.

Cattails and winterberry holly


winterberry holly



The paper birches glow against the clear blue sky.



In the fall, I am able to focus on the big picture.  And I have found that the larger landscape contains a design element that comes to the forefront in the stark vistas of fall.  No dotter of individual plants here and there, nature is the queen of massing.  She uses broad bands of color to achieve spectacular results.  I try to imitate this in my garden in Pennsylvania by planting in large swathes and allowing vigorous plants to self-sow.  Of course, the results aren’t as spectacular as this….








I am truly blessed to have access to this gorgeous native landscape.  I am glad I can share it with you on my blog.  This post was supposed to be up in time to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving so it will have to be belated.



Nursery Happenings:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is done for the fall.  Thanks for a great year.  See you in spring 2013.

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60 Responses to “The Maine Coast in Late Fall”

  1. Beautiful images Carolyn. It is every bit as beautiful as in Summer.

  2. Susan Breen Says:

    As a seasonal resident of Cliff Island who especially loves the autumn on the island, I so appreciated your lovely photos of this gorgeous time of year in this magical little place. Thank you – and see you in the summer.

  3. It’s very beautiful Carolyn… I miss our yearly trips there as it’s been several years since we’ve been east… Larry

  4. I sure wish i had some of that holly berry to decortate with..but hey Im leaving for up north in a few weeks…

  5. What a rare opportunity to see nature in its closing act. Never seen winterberry so impactful in the landscape. Love when you juxtapositioned with the cattails

  6. I agree with you about beech trees, they turn the most wonderful colour at this time of year, we have to enjoy them while we can, they will soon be blown away. Your photos of the Maine coast are wonderful, such beautiful scenery with nature at its best, thank you for sharing it with us.

  7. How wonderful the New England part of the US is. I love the colour fall brings. The reds and the yellows are so striking.

  8. Beautiful! In a rather stark way but , oh wow! that winterberry holly just zings it up, doesn’t it?

    • Sunita, Masses of winterberry really do the trick for late fall/early winter color. They are a hard sell at the nursery though because you have to buy a male and female plant. I wish more people would plant them because they are an excellent native with beautiful ornamental berries that the birds love. Carolyn

  9. Nature’s garden is the most perfect of all.

    Many thanks for capturing and sending us these beautiful vistas.

  10. Carolyn, Maine looks like my sort of place, probably because in picture, the scenes are very Scottish looking, oh and I like their shirts. The whales of August, cant recall it at the moment although it has to be from the era of my youth. I think you are indeed blessed and also, you live in Pennsylvania!! 65000

    • Alistair, I think Maine does look like Scotland which is why I want to visit your country some day. The Whales of August was filmed in 1987 and was probably the last film made by the stars. It was huge for Cliff Island because they rented all the houses and lots of people worked for the film makers and actors. We just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the filming with a weekend of events this summer. I don’t understand your reference to shirts or 65000. Carolyn

      • Carolyn, I was way out of my youth when the film in question was made. Why do I talk in riddles at times, as if anyone would know whats going on in my head. The shirts which Myra got me a few years ago and liked very much were called Maine from New England, turns out the designer is named Alex Maine and I think he also comes from the area. Glen Miller was a little before my time, however my mother was always listening to his music, hence (Pennsylvania 65000) one of his songs. Told you I was daft.

      • I am glad you cleared that up!

  11. Marlene Mullet Says:

    Love your Maine pics! Would like to visit there sometime.I really enjoy your blog!Keep up the good work.

    • Marlene, It might seem silly, but I really appreciate it when readers take the time to comment that they are enjoying my blog. It is so much work and it requires a lot of energy to overcome the inertia. When you say you enjoy, I want to keep going. Carolyn

  12. Lisa Ledwith Says:

    Spectacular pictures! Thanks

  13. Maine is a beautiful state and your photos prove it. What a beautiful world we live in.

    • Patty, Unfortunately there are fewer and fewer undeveloped areas left in the US. The current governor of Maine does not view land preservation as a priority and has gutted the agencies that focus on this. Cliff Island is mostly privately owned but I am hoping it will go on as it has. Carolyn

  14. Oh, how gorgeous! The pictures of the water look almost dangerous to me. I have never seen The Whales of August, but I would expect a thriller from those scenes. Love the cat tails with the holly berries. Mother Nature is indeed a splendid artist.

  15. Hello Carolyn,
    A lovely photographic record again of a beautiful place. Thank you indeed for sharing it, BW, Julian

  16. Beautiful images of a beautiful place. I agree about planting in drifts and not resenting a plant that is so happy it takes over, as long as it gives lots of interest through the seasons. Christina

  17. nwphillygardner Says:

    I love that “empty of boats” photo, where it feels like the soft blue sky and golden sun are trying so hard not to merge into that muted pale green color……..

    • Eric, Thanks. The photo is of the calm that preceded the storm because Sandy was on its way. My neighbor’s little dinghy was left on the mooring and survived the storm. Sandy was more like a typical nor’easter in Maine. We were on the island for it, but luckily for us the storm hit the other side of the island. Carolyn

  18. Even more reasons to visit Maine…just stunning Carolyn!

  19. Ellen Swirsky Says:

    beautiful pictures of Cliff – hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. All the kids came to Louisiana so it has been very nice to be together. xo el

  20. I am not sure what to say, but stunning comes to mind. I think it is easier to appreciate more of nature when the green blanket of summer has been shed, and the distracting color of fall is gone. Unfortunately that usually means cold weather, not my favorite time to be outside, but I go anyway. The deeper I get into gardening professionally, the more I appreciate the natural landscape even with a few farmer’s fields thrown in or the occasional cabin.

    • Les, As you can imagine, the photographs don’t do it justice, but I am highly complimented that you of all people found it stunning. I agree with what you say as a fellow professional gardener. I think it is because we often find ourselves wanting to create a “simple look” from nature and realizing there is nothing simple about it. Carolyn

  21. It does seem like a very peaceful place, Carolyn. A simpler, graceful place. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    • PP, Cliff Island is very much simplified by a total lack of shopping and indoor entertainment—no stores whatsoever besides a seasonal grocery/sandwich shop. There is a post office, which we just won the right to keep, a one-room school house, and a 7th Day Adventist Church. Carolyn

  22. Thank you for sharing this beautiful landscape with us. I find that this time of year, we can see the structure of the garden. Mother Nature truly is a wonderful teacher and source of inspiration.

  23. Carolyn, I am so happy I have discovered your Blog! Living on the tip of the Great lakes Superior and water is part of my life here in Wi. Its interesting to see how nature changes during the seasons. Thanks for sharing your amazing photos with us.

  24. Hi Carolyn, I hope that you had a nice Thanksgiving. Your photographs of Maine in the fall are lovely. I always think that the nature and the local residents must breath a sigh of relief at this time of year when summer visitors have departed and all is calm and quiet.

    • Jennifer, The year round residents of Cliff Island do breath a big sigh of relief when the hectic summer is over. They used to be able to do that after Labor Day but now visitors stay into the fall. Cliff has a year round population of 60 to 70 and is accessible only by ferry from Portland–three hours round trip. I think by Memorial Day they are ready for us to come back. Carolyn

  25. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Carolyn! Thanks for sharing these photos. The colors may be more subdued, but the effect is just as stunning as that achieved by summer.

  26. Happy Thanksgiving to you too! I’ve never been to Maine but would love to visit one of these days. We have lived on the Canadian east coast for 3 years now but I still haven’t managed to venture south into the eastern States. So much to see there, I really need to plan a trip.

  27. Plants are really such wild little things. Nice to see them running loose. Beautiful winter images Carolyn!

  28. Lovely photos. The land- and seascape reminds me so much of the west of Ireland where I live.

  29. ‘Josef Lemper’ and ‘Jacob’ Christmas roses are also stars in my November garden, producing pure white 3 to 4″ wide flowers set off by smooth evergreen leaves. Fall is their season, and they produce copious amounts of flowers to cheer up dreary November days. For more information on fall-blooming hellebores, click here .

  30. What a beautiful landscape you portrayed! I love the sense of late fall and into winter, the colors, the houses, the trees. Thanks for sharing!

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