Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

The Beautiful Thuya Gardens in Bloom

Sunday August 6, 2017                                                                                 Most Recent Posts:
Acadia National Park                                                             Another Plan Adjustment – Jordan Out, Gardens In
Mount Desert Island, Maine                                                         Nobody but the Birds on Northeast Creek




This post is directly conncted to the previous one about the Asticou Gardens in Northeast Harbor Maine. We visited both Thuya and Asticou on the same day but they were so different and both so beautiful that each deserved a separate post. So if you have not read about our morning at serene Asticou Azalea Gardens, the link is in blue above.


IMG_0756There are two ways to get to Thuya Gardens.  You can drive up to the parking lot at the gardens which is what most folks do or you can park in the very small lot at the foot of Asticou Terraces near the Terraces Dock and Landing Area for those who want to visit via their boats. What a picturesque way to arrive.

The dock is free and open to the public.  Not sure if the boats tied up here are permanent somehow or if they were actually visiting the garden.  Clearly this dock is limited to boats of a certain size.  Guess the big boys have to use a dinghy.


IMG_0086We park in the small lot, walk down to the dock where at the top of the ramp there is a sign warning that the ramp is limited to 3 people at a time.  We  see Northeast harbor is full of boats of all sizes and types.  That becomes even more apparent as we climb up the Asticou Terraces.

You can see the 3 person warning sign at the bottom of the ramp in this picture behind me and in the one above as David comes on down.


The Asticou Terraces were built by Boston landscape architect Joseph Henry Curtis for access from his home Thuya Lodge to the water and the town.  It is a beautifully designed ascent which includes 200 granite stone steps and a 200 foot rise in elevation.




There are view points along the way which become finer as you climb.  The stairs wind up the front of the granite cliffs for about 1/4 mile through a forested setting






Boats of all sizes including obviously these nose to nose yachts.




After seeing the plants here and that it’s from Nova Scotia , I surmise one has a previous, not a current life as a lobster boat.  Looks  like a fun way to travel.




There is a nice gradual climb at one point between the steeper steps.





The view from the hut is no longer as grand as it probably was when Mr. Curtis designed it during the building of his Thuya Lodge between 1912 and 1916 but it is a lovely structure.








Time for climbing UP. At Thuya Lodge we learn that Mr. Curtis made this trip up and down multiple times a day.  He was a long time summer resident of Northeast Harbor, from 1880 to 1928, and very involved in the town as part of the Northeast Harbor Village Improvement Society as well as planning landscaping for several Bar Harbor Residences..





We approach Thuya Lodge through the trees.  This really is the best way to come to the gardens if you are able to do the terraces.  They are beautiful and bring you right to the lodge which you may well miss if you park in the lot.



Both the garden and lodge are named for the northern white cedar, or Thuya occidentalis, fragrant trees that grow in abundance in Thuya Garden.

The lodge has been  left as it was when the entire estate was donated to the town of Northeast Harbor. Curtis had spent 50 summers here but only the last dozen or so in the house.








Leaving the lodge, we make our way through the beautiful mahogany and cedar entrance gates comprised of 48 carvings of natural history images and designed, as were the gardens, by Charles K. Savage. They are incredible and a perfect entrance to this wonderful garden.



The Thuya Gardens were established in 1958 in the orchard area of the 140 acre estate by landscape designer Charles K. Savage who became trustee of the Asticou Terraces Trust after the death of Mr. Curtis. Savage was a life long resident of Northeast Harbor, his family owned the Asticou Inn located at the foot of the Terraces. Savage was also friends with both Curtis and John D. Rockefeller and it was this that led to the gardens. When the famous landscape gardener and architect Beatrix Farrand was selling her Bar Harbor estate Reef Point Garden, Mr. Savage was able, with the help of Mr. Rockefeller, to acquire much of the plant material from Farrand.


We’ve come at the perfect time.
The gardens are a riot of color and beauty.  You can only imagine the number of pictures from which I culled these far too many.
Hope you have the time to sit back and enjoy them.




There are more than 80 varieties of colorful and fragrant of annual and perennial plants, from Asters and Delphiniums to Lilies and Zinnias, in the borders that line both sides of the grass lawn.











































At one point we wandered into an area covered, and I do mean covered, with mostly monarch butterflies.  This is a large patch of milkweed in bloom.   What a WOW experience!  Everyone in the area was grinning from ear to ear.











These two almost identical shots below show how unique each butterfly is.  Look closely.  Nature is amazing!






In another area there is a woodland path leading to an enticing door.




We knew that Thuya Lodge and Gardens were nestled into the Western Slope of Eliot Mountain overlooking North East Harbor.  Asticou Terraces actually climb the bottom of the mountain. 



But we didn’t know that through this gate was the Eliot Mountain Trail.    How cool!  But no time to hike to the summit today.



It looks to me like a magic door into a secret fairyland.

On the way back to the heart of the gardens, we find a wishing well.  So many nooks and crannies here with wonderful surprises.




Back in the center of things, we head up to the other end to see what we can discover there.




Watch your head on this low limb a sign advises.



It’s the lone apple tree remaining from the early 20th century orchard planted by Joseph Curtis.  I love that it is still here.
































Look at the height of these flowers.  David is standing on the same level ground and they tower over him.






We make it to this cute little garden shed turned viewing spot where David takes a break.





Here’s David’s View.




Nearby there is another spot for sitting.  It’s a bit more secluded and I enjoy some time here.


Here’s my view.




Time to head back and of course going the other direction, even here, things never look the same.










Lots of folks interested in these purple allium.


Down the stairs, out the beautiful gates and back on the Asticou Terraces Path.  It’s hard to leave such a beautiful place.







Our last stop on the way down is at the monument to honor Joseph Henry Curtis put up by Charles Savage. 
Northeast Harbor and we owe a lot to both of these men for preserving and creating the beautiful Terrace and Gardens. 
Don’t miss them on a trip to Mount Desert Island.





The monument reads  
Joseph Henry Curtis Landscape Architect, Vigilant Protector of these Hills.
The Asticou Terraces are his gift for the quiet recreation of the people of this town and their summer guests.




  1. Looks like you were there at the perfect time to see everything in bloom. I especially like the butterfly pics!

  2. What a gorgeous place to spend a day or two!!

  3. Oh my, Mother Nature can sure make a raucous display of color and variety. Hats off to the gardeners who made this assemblage possible and continue to maintain it for future visitors. What an amazing show to capture the imagination for what is possible and wonder at how such beauty can survive in such a challenging, chaotic world and environment!

  4. Oh to be in such a place of absolute beauty. The colors and shapes of so many flowers and the butterflies. Thanks so much for sharing another wonderful adventure

  5. Thanks for another walk through this amazing garden. You photos are wonderful and your descriptions will help me remember things I forget from just photos;o)) We were there before The Lodge was opened, so I enjoyed seeing the interior!!! This would definitely be on my list of places to visit in early August:o))

  6. Wow, I bet you're glad you have a digital camera to get all those wonderful flower picture. If you had to use old fashioned film you would have gone broke! ;c)

  7. Wow, what a beautiful garden with so many familiar plants. Thanks for the tour.

  8. What a gorgeous garden -- and the Monarch butterflies are wonderful! Love seeing the inside of the lodge, too. I'll bet Mr. Curtis was healthy from climbing up and down those steps multiple times a day.

  9. A great garden, but pretty sure it would send my allergies into overload:)

  10. All the stone in the walls and walkways is beautiful, looking like part of the environment after all these years. I've yet to visit a garden at just the right time, and your post shows just how wonderful that is!! The lillies are glorious. What a treat to see the butterflies and bees enjoying the bounty. You and David chose lovely spots for quiet time - a nice variety of views. It has to be delightful to relive your time here while designing the post.

  11. Seems nobody has the money or desire to build like this any more. Absolutely gorgeous. You really did visit at the right time of year for color. Like a secret, I'm betting that door will call you back to the trail.

  12. What a joyous bounty of color!!! And butterflies!! I wonder if so much is in bloom there all year!? That picture of you by the door is superb...beautiful smile! The wonderland beyond is a reason to go back.


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