“Evolving beauty year round”
The beauty of the Azalea Garden changes and evolves throughout the year. A flowering cherry tree heralds the start of the season in mid-May, followed by azaleas and rhododendrons in many hues in late May through June. July blooms include Japanese iris, smoke bush, rosebay rhododendron, and the fragrant sweet azalea. August is quiet and serene, accented by blooming water lilies, and in September and October the garden glows with the colors of fall. Rhododendrons and azaleas are planted throughout the garden, and many are native to the mountainous regions of the world. The Pink Shell Azalea, Rhododendron vaseyi, is native to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and provides much of the garden’s structure. It grows alongside Rhododendron kiusianum from the mountains of Japan and Rhododendron canadense, Maine's own native azalea. Visitors interested in plants moved from Reef Point will want to notice one of the oldest specimens, the weeping hemlock just north of the Main Bridge. Charles K. Savage, a life-long resident of Northeast Harbor and owner of the Asticou Inn, designed and built the Asticou Azalea Garden in 1956. He was inspired by his love of native plants, his study of Japanese garden design, and his desire to preserve the plant collection of Beatrix Farrand. When Mrs. Farrand decided to dismantle her Reef Point estate in Bar Harbor, Mr. Savage garnered financial support from John D. Rockefeller Jr. to purchase the plants and build the Asticou Azalea Garden and the Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor. The Azalea Garden is styled after a Japanese stroll garden with many traditional Japanese design features adapted for the natural setting and vegetation of coastal Maine. A meandering circular path leads visitors through a succession of garden rooms that inspire serenity and reflection or bring to focus a particularly lovely vista. The garden's design creates an illusion of space, of lakes and mountains and distant horizons. A "sand garden" constructed along the eastern edge of the stream, uses rocks and raked sand to suggest islands and flowing water. The contrast of the sand garden next to the stream enhances the beauty and character of each. An important aspect of a Japanese Garden is its balance of natural and man-made beauty. Mr. Savage's sensitive use of natural vegetation, stones, and water in combination with azaleas, rhododendrons, and other specimen plants from Reef Point achieve this lovely balance, and the result is a wonderful blend of East and West.
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