Martha Stewart’s Maine Gardening Tips

Martha Stewart shares her favorite resources for plants, seeds, and gardening advice.

Photographs by Stacy Cramp

This originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Down East.

Skylands, my home on Mount Desert Island, was designed to take advantage of the natural beauty of its surroundings. Appreciating the challenges of punishing winters and brief growing seasons, I decided long ago to respect local conditions and forgo much by way of formal landscaping. But the vast south-facing terrace needs something to break up the expanse, so I designate one weekend in late May as “planting weekend.” I enlist friends to help prepare the terrace, and I decorate the space with massive pots of plants that enhance — not compete with — the view of Seal Harbor.

In general, I select perennials for their interesting shapes and textures and for low maintenance. Agaves and succulents don’t need a lot of water. Plants such as ferns offer interest without flowers, which means no deadheading — and more time to savor Maine’s short, sweet summer.

Some of my plants have been propagated from cuttings nurtured in my greenhouse at Bedford, New York, an economical way to expand the collection year after year. I also rely on sources close to Skylands, including the Ellsworth Home Depot garden department, church plant sales, and the spectacular Surry Gardens.

As a devoted gardener and lifelong learner, I’ve found the best sources of information are my fellow gardeners. I rely on their hard-won experience and advice about which varieties will thrive and how early (or late) to plant. I also encourage gardeners — amateur or expert — to visit or consult Maine’s network of wonderful horticultural organizations.

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

294 Crosby Brook Rd., Unity. 207-568-4142.

MOFGA connects farmers and consumers interested in growing and using organic and local fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, seeds, and plants. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many producers at the Common Ground Country Fair, held each September.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

132 Botanical Gardens Dr., Boothbay. 207-633-8000.

Comprising 270 shoreland acres, northern New England’s largest botanical garden offers courses in native plant selection, landscape design, soil science, and other horticultural subjects. It’s also a beautiful place to visit.

Surry Gardens

1248 Surry Rd., Surry. 207-667-4493.

Surry Gardens grows and sells thousands of varieties of perennials, trees, and shrubs and has landscaping and garden design services. Its nursery and greenhouse catalogs are so thorough they can serve as horticultural references.

Pinetree Garden Seeds

616 Lewiston Rd., New Gloucester. 207-926-3400.

This mail-order company is known for good pricing on vegetable, herb, and flower seeds that germinate and perform well in New England.

Fedco Seeds

Clinton. 207-426-9900.

Primarily a mail-order business, Fedco specializes in cold-hardy seeds, potatoes, onions, trees, and bulbs. The May tree sale at the Bellsqueeze Road warehouse is always well attended. There’s no retail store, but the warehouses have shopping hours.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds

955 Benton Ave., Winslow. 877-564-6697.

More than 1.2 million seed catalogs, filled with images of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers, are mailed each year from The central Maine company started in Rob Johnston Jr.’s attic in 1973. Call for hours before visiting the retail store.

Eartheart Gardens

1709 Harpswell Neck Rd., Harpswell. 207-833-6905.

Eartheart carries on the legacy of O. Currier McEwen, world-renowned hybridizer of beardless irises (he developed more than 200 new plant cultivars!). Eartheart also offers Japanese irises developed by Mototeru Kamo and Toykazu Ichie.

Snug Harbor Farm

87 Western Ave., Kennebunk. 207-967-2414.

Landscape designer Tony Elliott has transformed a 19th-century farm into an enchanting destination nursery where peacocks, decorative pheasants, and miniature horses roam. Snug Harbor offers plants, landscape services, and workshops on subjects like creating a fairy garden and arranging flowers.

UMaine Cooperative Extension

Orono. 207-581-3188.
With 16 field offices statewide, the Extension supports Maine’s food-based and agricultural economy through policy, research, and education. It offers workshops and classes on topics like composting, beekeeping, cooking for a crowd, and growing vegetables and fruits.