ith the first glimpse of the swaths of blueberry shrubs and native ferns that welcome them as they turn in the drive of a
rugged promontory along Penobscot Bay,
800 miles north of their home in Virginia,
Kenny and Lynn Brown know they’ve
arrived at their “Blue Ridge” summer
cottage. The couple park and will momentarily ignore unpacking to
savor the breathtaking ocean view that first attracted them to this
5-acre property in Castine, Maine, 16 years ago. They descend the
massive granite steps that wrap around the side of the house. And
as they land on the nautilus-shaped patio, they pause to take in the
cool breeze, salty air, naturalized plantings, and stunning vista of the
“The first thing we do is not walk in the house but wander around
outdoors and head to the back for the view and the sunset,” says Lynn.
“We’re incredibly lucky to be here in eastern Maine and enjoy west-
erly sunset views.”
For more than a century, East Coast urbanites have been lured to
the bouldered shores, fern-filled spruce lands, and blueberry barrens
along Maine’s shores. It’s these spectacular landscapes that inspired
the Browns’ Shingle Style cottage and its naturalistic gardens created
by Maine’s masterful landscape architect Bruce John Riddell.
“Maine has an amazing history of gardening on the coast,” says
Riddell, whose firm, Bruce John Riddell Landscape Architect, is in
Boothbay, Maine. “It’s not just the grand-cottage era that started it
all. It’s the beauty in the ferns and rocks that give us the bones to work
around and the beauty of the ocean and topography to build wonder-The Browns started their home-and-garden project in 2003, but
while the site offered stunning views, its steep terrain presented many
challenges. Thankfully, Riddell, one of the key designers of acclaimed
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, is a stone master and
intimately familiar with the unique terrain of the state’s landscape.
“We wanted a combination of a few of our favorite plants from Vir-
ginia and plenty of Maine natives,” says Lynn. “Beyond that, we gave
Bruce creative license.”
Creative license, indeed.
Riddell tackled the first challenge — siting the home along the
rocky ledge — with an inventive solution. Working with architect Tim
Mohr and designer Sherman Todd of Todd Mohr Design in Charlottesville, Virginia, Riddell directed some artful backhoeing and dis-
landscape designer bruce Riddell
used a ha-ha English landscaping
technique with a row of hidden
boulders to create a negative-edge
lawn and an unobstructed ocean view.