Asticou Azalea and Thuya Gardens on Mt. Desert Island, Maine


Acadia Delphinium and MonardaThere is no more iconic Maine garden perennial than delphiniums in July.

My husband Michael and I recently spent four very full days on Mt. Desert Island, Maine, USA, visiting public and private gardens and Acadia National Park, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.  To see the beautiful photos in my Acadia post, Scenes from Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park, click here.  Today’s post highlights two of those gardens: Asticou Azalea Garden and the Thuya Garden, both in Northeast Harbor.

Nursery News:  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.


Ascitou Gardens 2016 7-20-2016 1-09-43 PMAsticou Pond in Asticou Azalea Garden, Northeast Harbor, Maine.

Asticou and Thuya were both designed and built in 1956 by Charles Savage, a lifelong resident of Northeast Harbor.  He was inspired by his desire to preserve the plants in the Bar Harbor garden of Beatrix Farrand, who was forced to sell her property for financial reasons.   Savage moved all her larger plants to the Thuya and Asticou sites with the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.


Ascitou Gardens 2016 7-20-2016 1-25-30 PMAsticou Azalea Garden

Beatrix Farrand is an absolutely fascinating person and figures prominently in the history of American landscape architecture.  She deserves a blog post of her own, but, briefly, she was born in 1872 and began studying landscape architecture in 1895.  She went on to design gardens at the White House, the National Cathedral, Dumbarton Oaks, Princeton, Yale, and dozens of other prominent locations.  An early advocate for the use of native plants, Farrand was the only female member of the eleven founders of the American Society of Landscape Architects.  To read more about her, click here.


Ascitou Gardens 2016 7-20-2016 1-16-33 PMSmokebush in bloom

Charles Savage studied Japanese gardening and was a lover of Maine native plants.  The garden he designed combines these two elements in a unique and interesting way.   The Asticou website explains Savage’s vision:

The Azalea Garden is styled after a Japanese stroll garden with many traditional Japanese design features adapted for the natural setting and vegetation of coastal Maine. A meandering circular path leads visitors through a succession of garden rooms that inspire serenity and reflection or bring to focus a particularly lovely vista. The garden’s design creates an illusion of space, of lakes and mountains and distant horizons.


Ascitou Gardens 2016 7-20-2016 1-05-58 PMAsticou’s gravel paths are edged with bamboo, and native moss and ferns (and low bush blueberries) provide groundcover.


Lilium canadense Ascitou GardensNative Canada lily in Asticou
Ascitou Gardens 2016 7-20-2016 1-17-41 PMAsticou Azalea Garden
Wooden gates open to reveal the Thuya Garden, Northeast Harbor, Maine.
Thuya Garden is part of a 140 acre preserve given in trust to the residents of Mt. Desert Island by Joseph Curtis, a prominent Boston landscape architect who died in 1928.  Charles Savage was appointed trustee, and in 1956 he transformed what was then an orchard into the garden that exists today using plants acquired from Beatrix Farrand.  Unlike his Japanese-inspired Asticou garden, Thuya was designed as a semi-formal English garden in the Gertrude Jeykll style as interpreted by Farrand after many visits to England to learn from both Jeykll and William Robinson.
Charles Savage and Augustus Phillips carved the gates at Thuya.
The English style perennial borders at Thuya are gorgeous.



Thuya also has beautiful rocky outcroppings surrounded by native plants.



A final view of the delphiniums.


There is more to come with a visit to the amazing Abby Alrich Rockefeller Garden plus photos from the Garden Club of Mt. Desert Open Garden Day.



Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name and phone number to  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.  Please indicate if you will be shopping at the nursery or are mail order only.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

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22 Responses to “Asticou Azalea and Thuya Gardens on Mt. Desert Island, Maine”

  1. We always loved going to Maine. Thanks for the wonderful photos.

  2. I went to the Camden House and Garden Tour this year based on your photos from last year. Many thanks!

    I believe the correct spelling is ASTICOU. I visited both gardens several years ago and fell in love with them.

  3. Sarah Hinckley Says:

    Carolyn, I’m glad you enjoyed the gardens on Mt. Desert. I grew up visiting those gardens, starting when I was really young, and it’s great to see pictures of them again!

  4. Thanks for sharing! Acadia National Park has always been on my list of places to visit and now Mt. Desert Island is too!

  5. Hi Carolyn,
    My husband and I visited Thuya and Asticou years ago and loved it. Your lovely photos brought back happy memories…..Thank you!

  6. What a beautiful place! My daughter has been spending the summer in Maine, and she loves it. Thuya seems like a warm and accessible property–impressive in a calming sort of way. I grew Delphiniums for years, but I think our summers are now to hot for them. They don’t seem to want to come back the next year.

  7. Hello Caroline… I love your photos and comments and would really appreciate your catalogue, availability dates for visitors/customers to see your garden and nursery and any other information you can include. Thanks so much for sharing with all of us. Gardening is very satisfying but it can be daunting too and I need all the help I can get as a fairly new but definitely determined shade gardener. Vicki

    On Aug 11, 2016 3:55 PM, “CAROLYNS SHADE GARDENS” wrote:

    > Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens posted: ” There is no more iconic Maine > garden perennial than delphiniums in July. My husband Michael and I > recently spent four very full days on Mt. Desert Island, Maine, USA, > visiting public and private gardens and Acadia National Park, which is > celebrating ” >

  8. I’ve always visited these gardens in June (when the azaleas and rhododendrons are blooming), so it is a treat to see them here in a different season.

  9. Very pretty gardens there. Everything looks so fresh and green too. Looks like you are having a nice summer.

  10. Sadly I don’t live near you but I devour your blog. You are a great source of inspiration and I want to thank you and tell you that you are greatly appreciated by this master gardener. I live in zone 5 Iowa and sometimes in South Carolina, although I have only a small garden there. I love reading about and seeing the photos from gardens you tour that I may not ever have the opportunity to see first hand. Thank you for what you do.

  11. Cathy Jewitt Says:

    The Thuya gates were carved by Augustus Phillips, my grandfather. He and Charles Savage worked closely together during the creation of Thuya.

    • Hi Cathy, Thanks for that clarification. I just rechecked the Thuya site and it does say that your grandfather and Charles Savage carved the gates. I did as much research as I could on the garden and must have left out your grandfather’s contribution based on another source that mentioned only Savage. I will change the information in the post. Carolyn

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