Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mount Desert Island, Maine

I am spending two weeks on Mount Desert Island, Maine which happens to be the place that I grew up and the place that I first started gardening. It is indisputably one of the most beautiful places in the world and every time I come home, particularly on this visit, I feel like I am seeing the plants and the scenery with new eyes. The landscape is so different from Vermont and this Island is unusual even for the coast of Maine. Built by glaciers, the island is a solid granite rock with bald top mountains rising from the sea and a deep fjord spliting the island in half. The forests are mostly coniferous, with shallow, acidic soil hosting a fascinating array of plants, many of which we covet and tirelessly try to grow in Vermont. Without anything to do with the hand of man, the landscape of MDI is an example of nature as the perfect gardener.

Much of the island is comprised of this striking pink granite. Here it is covered with various lichens- a whole other world of plant/fungus discovery that I can only imagine trying to crack!


Potentilla tridentata

I recently discovered this plant in Vermont and began using it as a ground cover (it has amazing fall color), but only when I was on top of the mountain did I realize that it was extremely common and that I had seen it a hundred times before!

This is a sea of Juniperus communis, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, and the aromatic Bayberry, Morella caroliniensis.

Here is a mountaintop stand of Pitch Pine, Pinus rigida (needles in fascicles of three). Often confused with the less common Jack Pine, Pinus banksiana (needles in fascicles of 2). These pine trees grow under harsh winter conditions and they become very compact, with bent and twisted trunks, giving them a wonderful bonsai look. Most of the ground cover seen here is the delicious and beautiful native Huckleberry, Gaylussacia baccata. In the Ericaceae family and closely related to blueberry, the huckleberry sports a beautiful deep black, perfectly round berry that is very sweet.

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