Planting Day for Celia Thaxter's Garden

Photo Essay: A 'resurrection' with beginnings 130 years ago

Text and Photos by Jim Cerny

The 2007 planting of Celia Thaxter's Island Garden on Appledore Island, took place on June 12th under the direction of caretakers Pam and Mark Boutilier, with the rest of the planting team consisting of Priscilla Chellis (a public tour leader), Mary Smith (a public tour leader), Jo Hartford (a volunteer), and Keith Mills (a volunteer).  Chris Robarge raises the annuals at the greenhouses at the University of New Hampshire -- 57 flats this year!  Willy Bemis, Director of the Shoals Marine lab, provides overall support and encouragement.

Celia Thaxter's garden has a remarkable hold on the imagination of gardeners. This tiny rectangle of land, a mere 15 by 50 feet, is resurrected from what Celia Thaxter established over 130 years ago, in the hotel era at the Shoals, when her cottage with garden served as a salon for visiting artists.

Celia Thaxter's book, An Island Garden with illustrations by Childe Hassam, remains in print.  You can also find a copy online via Google books.
Guided tours of the garden
are offered through Shoals Marine Lab.

The garden gets resurrected every year, as well, on the day set aside for the planting of the annual flowers. The process is a reminder of the overhead of any island-based activity, requiring cooperation from nature plus the need for a boat, a captain, and many helping hands.  This year the planting was delayed for a week due to stormy weather.  The delayed planting day was excellent, mostly a high overcast, mixed with periods of sun and brief sprinkles.  The temperature was in the mid-60s with wind out of the NE at 10-20 mph.

Fig. 1. The Planting Team, from left to right: Mark Boutilier, Pam Boutilier, Priscilla Chellis, Jo Hartford, and Mary Smith.   Keith Mills was nearby.

Fig. 3. Flower flats in transit on the "Heiser," with mainland receding in the distance.

Fig. 2. Chris Robarge carrying a flat of plants at the UNH greenhouses.

Fig. 4. Offloading flower flats from the "Heiser," to then be trucked to the garden.

Fig. 5. The garden (marked) as seen from the highest part of Appledore where Kiggins dining hall is located.

Fig. 6. Offloading flower flats after trucking from the dock to the garden.  In the background the "John Kingsbury"is moored in Babbs Cove.

Fig. 8. Plant trays positioned for planting.

Fig. 7. The garden, before planting, looking west to the mainland.  Celia's cottage was to the right.

Fig. 10. Priscilla, Pam, Mark, and Mary (obscured), planting.

Fig. 9. Mary, Jo, and Pam, planting.

Fig. 11.  Seagulls were everywhere, in the middle of nesting season, ready to claim their share of the Island.

Fig. 12. Keith plants geraniums at Celia's gravestone in the nearby Laighton family cemetery.

Fig.13.  The garden planting completed, at the end of a long day, looking westward.

August, 2007