Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay will open its newest addition – the Bosarge Family Education Center, the greenest public building in Maine, on Friday, July 15 at 11 a.m.

Admission to the building is free on opening day. After opening ceremonies, everyone will be invited to plant seedlings in a sun-patterned “flower tower,” take tours of the building, and view a slide show of native plants using the building’s new technology. Refreshments, too, will follow a sun theme.

Tours for visitors and environment-related activities for children will go on all weekend. A concert by Divas World Productions on Saturday will fill the new building with music related to gardens. While all spaces for this opening-weekend concert are full, tickets are still available for another Divas production, “MARILYN! Babydoll Remembers” starring Marie Bosarge as Marilyn Monroe. This cabaret-style production will be in the new center on Saturday, July 23. Reservations for the concert are required. Call 207-633-4333 or visit MaineGardens.org.

“We’re asking everyone to wear green to the opening,” said Executive Director Maureen Heffernan, in a press release. “In its architectural style, the new Education Center complements our lovely Visitor Center; but even more, its state-of-the-art features and environmentally sustainable design and landscaping mesh with our mission to further education, research and horticulture.”

The Education Center is platinum-level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. It is targeting a net-zero-energy status, generating as much or more energy than it consumes. The gardens surrounding the Education Center will also be a model of sustainable design. Dozens of illustrated interpretive panels indoors and out, plus an electronic dashboard explaining the building and grounds and showing details of energy and water use in real time, will help visitors understand what makes this super-green project special, and will give them ideas they can use at home.

Since it opened to the public in June 2007, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ popularity has exceeded all predictions; but unfortunately, needs soon exceeded the building’s capacity. With nearly 90,000 visitors last year, up from 40,000 in 2007, the space needed for programs and special events, staff offices, meetings, and visitor amenities has long since outgrown the 9,500-square-foot Visitor Center. The Education Center will fill the bill for some time to come, thanks to its large and flexible areas for classes and presentations and a two-floor “west wing” for education and administrative offices.

The design for the 8,000-plus-square-foot Education Center is the product of collaboration between Scott Simons Architects of Portland and Maclay Architects of Waitsfield, Vt., with input from committees of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens board members and staff. Among the many other professionals involved in the building’s creation is Fore Solutions in Portland, green-building consultant and owner’s sustainability representative for the project.

While it represents the latest science, the Education Center’s design is based on a theory that at first seems whimsical: “If a plant designed a building.” Yet, the concept is immensely practical. After all, a building designed by a plant would function efficiently and generate more energy than it uses without a dependence on fossil fuels or toxic emissions. It would shape its structure to fit the character of the bioregion and maintain, or even add to, the value of its ecosystem. It would only produce waste that could be used by another system. It would conserve water by on-site capture and recycling. And it would adapt to changing environmental conditions, such as temperature and climate. The Bosarge Family Education Center does all this and, through tours and signage, will teach visitors how to follow its examples.

But how was the new center funded? The Bosarge Family Foundation, with a longstanding commitment to green design and a love for Maine, was so impressed by the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ plans for its new education building that it presented the organization with a $2 million gift. The donation included a challenge: raise $1.5 million, and it would match it. True to its history with challenges from foundations and individuals, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens not only met, but exceeded the amount needed to receive the Bosarge gift.

In the four years since its grand opening, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has become one of Maine’s top attractions and is often lauded as a world-class botanical garden. Its website, MaineGardens.org, offers more information, including a complete calendar of events and programs. Additional information is available by calling 633-4333 or stopping by the Visitor Center, off Barters Island Road, a little more than a mile from Boothbay center.

The Education Center is just a few yards from the Visitor Center in the bustling Central Gardens area of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

Visitors to the 250-acre shorefront property discover plantings, stonework, sculpture, and water features in a dozen ornamental gardens, as well as miles of waterfront and woodland trails. The Visitor Center offers exhibits of works by New England artists, as well as the Kitchen Garden Café and Gardens Gift Shop.