46 DESIGN NEW ENGLAND JULY/AUGUST 2017
How dedicated horticulturists rescued the plantings of a legendary landscape to create two public gardens
written by regina cole
There are landscape historians who will never get over how Beatrix Farrand dismantled her gardens at Reef Point. The doyenne of American landscape archi- tecture — and the only woman among the 11 found- ing members of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1899 — worked to develop a school of
horticulture and landscape design at her home in Bar Harbor, Maine.
After her husband died and the great Bar Harbor fire of 1947 destroyed
much of the local economy, she could no longer afford to maintain the
property. In 1955, at age 82, Farrand decided to bulldoze the house
and rip out the gardens.
Reef Point, and the vision it represented, is long gone, but its
plants live on. Charles Savage, a local businessman and amateur land-
scape designer, bought the plant collection from Farrand for $5,000
with help from his friend and seasonal neighbor John D. Rockefeller
Jr. Over the course of the following year, Savage moved yews, cedars,
spruce, hemlock, hundreds of flowering and native Maine shrubs
(including more than 250 azaleas and 175 rhododendrons), perennials,
ground covers, rare willows, and endless other plant material. With
them, he created two gardens in nearby Northeast Harbor.
Today, Thuya and the Asticou Azalea gardens showcase not only
Farrand’s plant collection but also the vision of Savage and his predecessor, Joseph Curtis.
the asticou azalea Garden occupies the site of a former alder swamp at the
head of Maine’s Northeast Harbor. Owned by the Savage family, the wetland
was dredged and contained to make a pond.