Plentiful Cobbey Garden Bursts with Vegetables, Flowers and Fruits

By Annadeene K. Fowler | Aug 11, 2012
Cobbey's gothic-style chicken coop with swayback roof.

Belfast — Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days will visit the expansive Cobbey Garden at 15 West Waldo Road, Belfast on Friday, Aug. 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the garden for $4. Proceeds benefit Belfast Garden Club’s civic beautification projects.

The keen eye and exuberance for life of writer, cook, traveler, art collector and now-gardener, Nan Cobbey, is felt throughout her abundant garden. The concept for the visually stimulating and edible landscape started as only an inkling, after a trip to the Common Ground Country Fair in 2000 inspired a move to Maine.

“[At the fair] I found people were sharing knowledge and helping eachother,“ she said, “I knew I had to move here.”

She sold her home and small, hardly-gardenable lot in Gloucester, Mass. and bought the nearly 2-acre parcel and historic cape (circa 1805), where her gardens now abound, in the outskirts of Belfast.

One of the first steps was to take a course at Merryspring Gardens on garden design. At the time the backyard of the home was quite overgrown with weeds and scrub brush on a steep uninviting slope. Her chosen project was simply to create a backdoor patio garden, which would include an outdoor soapstone sink, but it turned into so much more. With the help of area friends and contractors, the incline was transformed into a gentle recess on which the newly designed stone patio was properly drained and bordered with curving stonewalls built from rocks found on the property. The soapstone sink found a home, conveniently just outside the kitchen door. Swales of colorful coneflower, lilies, and zinnias, are inter-planted with herbs for cooking and for teas including; chives, angelica, lovage, sweet ciciely, basil, and anise hyssop. The scent as one walks the paths is devine.

The quest for information and gardening knowledge, lead Cobbey to classes with Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, to books, the advice of experts, and to complete the Master Gardener program with University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension. Only a few years after the initial gardens were begun, the entire property is a pie-baker and canner’s dream, brimming with fruit trees; apple, crabapple, apricot, peach, plum, pear; tended wild blackberries, grapes, elderberries, and high bush blueberries. Cobbey prepared the land beyond the patio for gardening by removing debris such as roofing shingles and glass bottles as well as overgrown underbrush and scrub trees, turning the soil and adding copious amounts of Kinney compost. 325 feet of cedar deer fencing surround a large vegetable garden where artistic pie-slice shaped beds radiate from a central bed of perennial edibles; rhubarb, sorrel, horseradish, and currents. Annual vegetables and flowers cascade from the surrounding beds, the crops rotating each year across the clock-like circle. Bright, cheerful nasturtiums ring the vegetable oasis at the end of rows of tuscan kale, brussel sprouts, cantalope, squash, beets, carrots, tomatoes and more.

Nan enthusiastically invites the public to bring a picnic and to enjoy her special garden, to walk the mowed paths including that of the “North 40” where even more fruits, shade loving plants, and trees can be explored. Take time to see the metal roofed chicken tractor and elegant gothic chicken coop built by students at Waldo County Technical Center. 10 hens of many varieties, plumage, and colors enjoy the comfort and elegance of a swayback cedar shingled roof, insulation, and interior wainscoting. The Cobbey garden is a display of impressive proportion in a deceivingly small space; a delightful balance of relaxation and creativity, plentitude and refinement.

Directions: From Downtown Belfast, take Main St./Rte 3 up the hill; turn right on Rtes. 7/137, Waldo Avenue (across from Camden National Bank). Drive 1.5 miles, turn right with Route 7 on Head of Tide Road. Continue with Route 7 around the sharp corner (now West Waldo Road). The Cobbey Garden is #15 on the right, a light blue house near the road. Look for yellow garden tour arrows as you get close.

Next Week: Friday, August 24 the neighbor gardens of Ireland, Meisenhemer, and Mallamo. In-Town Permaculture Gardens at 123 Cedar Street and 10 Bradbury Street.

For 7 consecutive years, Belfast Garden Club has presented Open Garden

Days, a garden tour series; this year will feature 13 gardens in the Belfast area. From backyard experimental plantings and ornate Master Gardens, to plant nurseries and vegetable plots visitors can expect to see brilliant blooms, unique and rare plants, sculpture, exquisite views and even an outdoor pizza oven. One garden will be open to the public each Friday, 10am-4pm, through August 24th plus the first Fridays of September and October.

For more information about Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days call Diane Allmayer-Beck at 338-3105, email belfastgardenclub@gmail.com, or visit www.belfastgardenclub.org.

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