They are absolute gems, part of the fabric and quality of life here. They are special places we enjoy and appreciate, and perhaps one of the reasons this is so is because these parks and public spaces were designed by acclaimed landscape designers and architects to enhance the natural beauty of the sites they occupy.

We know our favorites as Camden’s Harbor Park, Amphitheatre and Village Green. It is no coincidence they are among a network of public spaces, as well as some private estates, golf courses, rural cemeteries and designed neighborhoods in Maine that have earned them the distinction of being historic landscapes. These special places along with their origins are what make “Designing the Maine Landscape” by Theresa Mattor and Lucie Teegarden the groundbreaking work that it is.

Evolved from a 10-year survey by the Maine Olmsted Alliance for Parks and Landscapes and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, which established the impressive list of locales, “Designing the Maine Landscape” tells the rest of the stories of these distinguished historic spaces.

Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. and his sons, Beatrix Farrand, Fletcher Steele, Warren Manning and Jens Jensen among others, are some of the designers and architects who envisioned these spaces. Benefactors who brought the visionary designers to Maine included James Phinney Baxter, Mary Louise Curtis Bok and John D. Rockefeller Jr. In addition to Camden’s Harbor Park, Amphitheatre and Village Green, places featured in the handsome volume include Asticou Azalea Garden and Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor; Capital Park, the Blaine House and Blaine Memorial Park in Augusta; the Portland park system; Hamilton House in South Berwick; and the campuses of the University of Maine at Orono, Berwick Academy, and Colby, Bates and Bowdoin colleges as well as other sites.

Not only have these places been recognized as the treasures they are and preserved for our appreciation and enjoyment, now their stories are presented in “Designing the Maine Landscape” with all the color and richness they deserve. Visit your favorite spots, learn their history and discover others. “Designing the Maine Landscape” is from Down East Books and contains 216 pages with 240 color and black and white photos.


Gardens are good for you

We gardeners always knew it was true, but now fields, woods and gardens have been officially recognized as healing places. Recent research from the Netherlands, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, looked at the incidents of disease and medical conditions (aka morbidity) in relation to the green space in people’s living environments.

Here’s what they found:

• The annual prevalence rates of 15 of the 24 disease clusters were lower in living environments with more green space in a one-kilometer radius.

• The strongest relation was between green spaces and lower rates of anxiety disorder and depression.

• This relation was stronger for children and people with a lower socioeconomic status.

• The relation was strongest in slightly urban areas and was not apparent in very strongly urban areas.

The researchers concluded: “This study indicates that the previously established relation between green space and a number of self-reported general indicators of physical and mental health can also be found for clusters of specific physician-assessed morbidity. The study stresses the importance of green space close to home for children and lower socioeconomic groups.”

A walk in the woods, a stroll through the park, wherever you wander, make the trip a green one for good times and good health.

 

Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award and the Florida Magazine Association’s Silver Award of Writing Excellence. She is a member of the Garden Writers Association. She gardens in Camden.