Ornamental Garden in Orono open to public

Littlefield Garden displays nearly 2,500 plantings on four acres of campus
Nearly 2,500 plantings can be found at the Littlefield Garden on the University of Maine campus...
Nearly 2,500 plantings can be found at the Littlefield Garden on the University of Maine campus in Orono(WABI TV)
Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 4:17 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - This is typically the time of year when folks start thinking about planting their gardens.

If you’re looking for inspiration, there’s a four-acre garden in Orono that’s free to visit and learn from.

Joy Hollowell shows us this hidden gem.

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“1965 was the first formal planting date.”

Today, many of those first plantings by Lyle Littlefield are still blooming in the garden named after him. The former professor of horticulture at UMaine wanted a place for students and the community to cultivate their creativity.

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

“God’s blessed me with a great job, I get to be here. And I don’t forget it,” says Libby.

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

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

He points out a particularly flowering one “This is Charlotte,” he explains. “It’s double flowering and the fragrance.” He stops to sniff the flower. “It smells like a rose to me.”

There’s a large section of lilacs.

“He had a theme going here,” explains Libby. “He started with the white and light lilacs and then it goes to the darker varieties as you move along.”

He points to brightly colored blooming shrubs.

“These are azaleas right here.”

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

“I really get excited about bark,” he says with a sheepish grin. “That sounds kind of funny but bark on trees has different color, textures and that can change as the tree grows.”

The Littlefield Garden’s plant palette is constantly changing. Which is why one visit, according to Libby, is never enough.

“It’s like a good book that you read again and say- Oh, I’m really glad I did that,” says Libby, smiling.

Ashley Burnham is going into her fourth year of studying horticulture at the University of Maine.

“A lot of my classes end up here. We’re looking at plants, identifying them,” she explains.

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

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

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

It is open every day from sunrise to sunset.

In addition to plants, you’ll find a frog pond and plenty of bird watching 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, for the research, teaching, and demonstration of a wide range of activities involving landscape ornamental plants. Starting in 1989, a major redesign and renovation of the Garden was begun and much of the space has been redesigned. Enhancement of the native woody plant collection began in 2000 with the planting of 42 native plant species, donated by green industry businesses across New England.

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