The second stop in Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days is Friday, June 24, at 1485 Atlantic Highway in Northport, a large and varied property on a rise with a postcard view of Little River in back and a peek of Penobscot Bay in front. Martha and Sid Block’s gardens and the first floor of their home—with an original section built in 1800—will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine.
Martha Block has put in her natural, informal and “always evolving” gardens over the past decade, with an eye toward using shrubbery for winter interest and spring blooms.
“There are certain things I like, and I plant them all over the yard,” she said. Lilacs, azaleas and rhododendrons of every type flourish on the property. Some are specimens she has dug up and brought with her over the course of two moves, including a huge Merley Cream rhododendron that stands among flowering crab apple trees on the front lawn. Block says she never walks through the yard without clippers in hand to snip errant branches. She propagates many of her shrubs by laying them on the ground, covering them with soil and letting them sprout up as new plants.
A bed along the driveway features red vein enkianthus, which she saw at Asticou Gardens in Bar Harbor and then tracked down at a local nursery. In curved beds at the front of the house, direct sun encourages tulips and narcissus in the spring, and hybrid and heirloom roses and peonies in the summer. Swiss chard and an Elliot blueberry bush are planted there because they love the light. A profusion of perennials includes foxgloves, veronica, Russian sage and poppies.
Block’s informal beds allow for volunteer lupines and Johnny jump-ups and she works around the property’s shifting flows. When a huge ash tree fell, it made a newly sunny area that has become home for her collection of irises, including favorites like “Irish Mist,” which she got from hybridizer and author Dr. O. Currier McEwen, a former dean of NYU School of Medicine, who later lived in Harpswell, Maine.
A field on one side of the driveway is thick with lupine in early summer. The original carriage house has been moved there and turned into an airy potting shed. Peach trees grow nearby and beds feature strawberries, raspberries and asparagus.
The view from the back porch and from inside the house stars the Little River where it widens and slows before plunging over a dam and streaming into the bay. An ancient tangle of blackberry bushes was pushed downhill to make way for a terraced garden flush with various species of peonies.
You’re welcome to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at outdoor tables with water views. Mountain laurels, peonies, old-fashioned roses and a Japanese lilac tree may be among the plants expected to be in bloom on tour day. Park along the road and walk up the driveway, past the weeping Siberian spruce. Two handicapped spaces will be available at the top of the driveway.
A $5 donation is requested at each location in the Open Garden Days series (you can buy a money-saving strip of eight for $30 at Left Bank Books in Belfast). Proceeds help the Club maintain 12 public gardens and give two annual scholarships to Waldo County youth studying “green” fields, among other Club endeavors.
Directions: Located on U.S. Rt.1 at the Belfast/Northport town line. Park along the road and walk in the driveway, please.
For more information, contact Martha Laitin at 323-2368.