From the desk of the CEO: It takes a village.


Ensuring the smooth operations of day-to-day life at the Gardens definitely takes our entire village. From Horticulture to Facilities & Housekeeping, Marketing to IT, Guest Experience to Education, Culinary to Gardenshop, a small group of people (not to mention our vital volunteers) collectively make an enormous difference, and I am grateful to all of them for their dedication and hard work this season.

I must also mention you, our visitors—thank you for your enthusiasm, your delight in discovery, and your patience. Connecting people to nature is at the heart of everything we do, and we have been thrilled to welcome you all to the Gardens. Between Covid and record-breaking visitation (year-to-date, over 250,000 individuals have walked through our doors this season), we’ve had to pivot on many levels—and sometimes a number of times in one day! Thank you for your curiosity and for your efforts in keeping yourselves and our staff safe.

As you probably know, this season also included an exciting new exhibit—Thomas Dambo’s giant trolls, Guardians of the Seeds. This exhibit invited our guests deep into our Maine woods to discover the secrets of stewardship and remind us that we can make a sincere and lasting contribution to our environment. Speaking of lasting, if you didn’t get the chance to explore our trolls—or you want to visit again—never fear. They will be with us for many years to come.

Of course, no matter what, we strive to find new ways to inspire meaningful connections among people, plants, and nature through horticulture, education, and research. 

Highlights of the season include:

  • Adding classes to our adult and family education efforts, adapting many to an online format; we brought back our very successful Summer Camp Club as well as programming for schools and homeschooling families.
  • Our Horticulture team planted a total of 45,000 plants; propagated 3,500 from seed and division; installed new gardens at the foot of the stone steps, new beds around the Apiary and Native Bee hub, added new plants at the end of the Discovery Bridge, and installed a living willow wall on the front-facing border of our greenhouse.
  • Gardenshop reported record-breaking days all season long (upwards of 40,000 transactions and counting…). Our intrepid team navigated supply chain shortages and ensured we had beautiful, locally made products that delight the senses and embody our mission.
  • Our Culinary team kept the Market stocked with delicious, locally sourced or in-house made healthy snacks, meals, and treats despite a statewide staff shortage.
  • Membership climbed to over 8,500 households.
  • We officially created our new Plant Sciences and Collections department. This department encompasses botanical and horticultural research, plant conservation, citizen science, scientific publications, and collections management and mapping. Its goal is to identify and anticipate climate change impacts to plants, developing strategies to protect and promote them in wild and cultivated spaces, all while working closely with our Horticulture department.

Coming up next

While our regular season may have ended, we’re already gearing up for Gardens Aglow. Our driving tour of magical light is Thursdays through Sundays, November 20-January 1. We are thrilled to continue this holiday tradition in spite of the uncertainty around Covid and the Delta variants, and the driving experience allows us to keep everyone safe while still offering people the opportunity to see a fantastic light display with friends and loved ones. And for those of you who visited last year, this year’s experience will be a little longer and even more impressive and immersive. Just a reminder—advance tickets are required. You can find them at GardensAglow.org.

Thank you for a wonderful season, and we’ll see you next year!

—Gretchen Ostherr, President & CEO