Not Your Garden-Variety Calendar

A Maine Group's Revealing Display of Botanical Preservation

Garden director Lee Dassler, November

Lee Dassler, director of the McLaughlin Foundation, is the calendar's November feature. The McLaughlin Foundation hide caption

itoggle caption The McLaughlin Foundation
Bernard McLaughlin

Bernard McLaughlin (1898-1995), known as the "Dean of Maine Gardeners," began planting his famous perennial garden in 1936. The McLaughlin Foundation hide caption

itoggle caption The McLaughlin Foundation

A group of gardeners have bared all — well, nearly all — to preserve an historic public garden in the small town of South Paris, Maine. Their tool? A calendar that features the gardeners themelves, in diverse shapes and sizes, clad in not much more than nature provided them.

The front cover includes a group shot and a lovely quote from the esteemed garden writer Henry Mitchell: "Your garden will reveal yourself." Inside are individual shots of gardeners in action, featuring discreetly placed props — a ladder here, a wheelbarrow there.

There's a story behind the effort, of course, and NPR's Scott Simon gets to the bottom of it with Lee Dassler, director of the garden.

After the death in 1995 of owner and caretaker Bernard McLaughlin, known as the "Dean of Maine Gardeners," mounting debt placed the garden's future in doubt.

Faced with a mortgage of $150,000, members of the McLaughlin Foundation came up with the calendar idea, and it has been well received, earning close to $100,000 to date.

Dassler says an important by-product is "outreach," noting: "We now have people from all over... who have purchased calendars that know about the McLaughlin Garden."

On its own merits, the McLaughlin Garden has drawn plant enthusiasts to its collection of perennials, wildflowers, ferns and other plants for more than 60 years. McLaughlin began planting his two-acre plot in 1936. Following his death, the foundation was formed to maintain the garden and create an educational center at the site.

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