The program for the Camden Garden Club’s August meeting was a field trip to witness a garden transformation in Union,Maine. Sherry Cobb, a past president of the club, showed Before Pictures of the century-old cape and its total lack of landscaping (30 feet of gravel between the house and the road).
After seven years of creating soil (local sheep and horses figure in prominently here), multiplying plants (visiting lots of annual plant sales, dividing clumps, starting perennials and annuals from seed), and endless digging, now the place is wrapped in flower gardens.
A much-weathered line of compost bins showed where a vegetable garden must have been. After repeated tilling, removing tenacious perennial weeds, and more manure to break up the clay, now the garden produces lovely everything: corn, tomatoes, and all the usual peas, beans and squash, plus potatoes, pumpkins, asparagus, rhubarb, raspberries, high-bush blueberries, and strawberries. The sunflowers are to cut for in the house, and for the birds.
The house had to change, too. It looks at almost 180 degrees of sky, perched on a ridge with pastures and woods below, and on clear days, a view of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. But much of it had a rubble foundation that had not withstood the northwest winds, so all but the original cape had to come down. The Cobbs recruited Camden architect Chris Glass to design an updated extension that would replicate the old farmhouse as much as possible, while adding amenities like a porch and a deck and a lot more living space inside. The old barn was saved in the nick of time with new supports below and roofing boards above, and will probably see another hundred years.
Of course, people comment on how much work all that must have been. That’s one way of looking at it, Sherry says. Mostly, it’s been a joy.