Ornamental garden in Orono open to the public

ORONO, Maine (WABI) – This is usually the time of year when people start to think about planting their gardens.

If you are looking for inspiration, there is a four acre garden in Orono which is free to visit and learn.

Joy Hollowell shows us this hidden gem.


“1965 was the first official planting date.”

Today, many of those early Lyle Littlefield plantings still bloom in the garden that bears his name. The former professor of horticulture at UMaine wanted a place for students and the community to cultivate their creativity.

“There’s a lot of teaching here,” says Brad Libby, who oversees the garden. He was also a horticultural student at UMaine, but after Littlefield retired from school. Libby considers it a privilege to continue Littlefield’s work.

“God blessed me with a great job, I can be here. And I don’t forget that, ”says Libby.

There are nearly 2,500 plantations here, with an emphasis on landscaping.

“We call this valley the crab apple,” said Libby, pointing to a row of crab apple trees. “There are over 80 crab apples in the collection.”

He emphasizes a particularly flourishing “It’s Charlotte”, he explains. “It’s the double bloom and the scent.” He stops to sniff the flower. “It smells like roses to me.”

There is a large section of lilac.

“He had a theme here,” says Libby. “He started with the white and light lilacs and then moves on to the darker varieties as you move around.

It shows brightly colored flowering shrubs.

“These are azaleas here.”

Libby encourages gardeners to think about the whole plant, not just the pretty parts.

“I’m really excited about the barking,” he said with a sheepish smile. “It sounds pretty funny, but tree bark has different colors and textures and that can change as the tree grows.”

The plant palette of Littlefield Garden is constantly evolving. That’s why one visit, according to Libby, is never enough.

“It’s like a good book that you read again and say- Oh, I’m so glad I did that,” Libby said with a smile.

Ashley Burnham is entering her fourth year of horticulture studies at the University of Maine.

“A lot of my classes end here. We look at the plants, identify them, ”she explains.

Burnham loves when first-time visitors share their experiences, whether it’s honing their horticultural knowledge or simply finding peace in the midst of the pandemic.

“Just being close to nature is so good,” she says. “Just beauty, take a deep breath and step back from the craziness of every life.”


The Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden and Research Center is located on the campus of the University of Maine at Orono.

It is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

In addition to the plants, you will find a frog pond and plenty of bird watching activities as they feast on the fruit trees.

According to the UMaine website, it was founded in the early 1960s by Lyle E. Littlefield, then professor of horticulture, to research, teach, and demonstrate a wide range of activities involving landscape ornamentals. . From 1989, a major overhaul and renovation of the garden was undertaken and much of the space was redesigned. Improvements to the native woody plant collection began in 2000 with the planting of 42 native plant species, donated by green industry companies across New England.

Copyright 2021 WABI. All rights reserved.

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