Gardeners, foodies, fiber artists, and outdoor enthusiasts alike are in for a treat when Searsport Shores Campground opens its grounds to the public Friday, June 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as part of Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days.

There are 40-plus gardens at Searsport Shores Campground; rows of raised beds for vegetables, swaths of ornamental shrubs and perennials, a waterfall garden, an orchard started from deer droppings, and individual campsite gardens which add privacy, color, and edibles to the camping experience.

Cilantro, mint, and cherry tomatoes can be found in beds close to the campsites, amongst perennial flowers and bulbs, decorative shrubs and trees. Many of the campsite gardens were planted by the guests themselves, a perk for a summer-long stay.

This unique campground encompasses 40 acres along the shores of Penobscot Bay in Searsport. Steven and Astrig Tanguay have been revitalizing and working with the land there for 18 years.

“Searsport Shores is an extension of what we enjoy most; gardening and fiber arts, a place we can give classes and meet people,” said Steven, with a smile.

Today they have built their dream into a successful agri-tourism business, drawing guests from Belfast to Japan and all around the world. Though the Tanguays now grow their own produce to eat year-round, much of the soil did not start out as optimal garden space.

At the center of the property Steven bends down, puts his hand in a puddle and comes up slimy with hard pack blue clay. “This whole area of the property is completely clay, the result of bad clear cutting,” he said. “These are my floating gardens.” Raised beds “float” on the mucky soil, separated by 10-12 layers of cardboard and woodchips.

The beds themselves are now growing strong, healthy plants in rich soil created with compost and mulch made on-site from seaweed, worm castings from food scraps as well as leaves, needles and tree debris (28-30 dumptruck loads a year are cleared from campsites which sit beneath impressive ancient oak and pine trees).

“No one thought he could reclaim that terrible soil. If anyone could though, it is Steven,” said Astrig. Those raised beds are flush with garlic, potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, beans, peas and brassicas. There is also a special lemon balm garden for teas and for the garden’s prized honeybees whose two hives can house 60,000 bees each.

Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes are robust, and a salad garden grows 25 varieties of herbs and lettuce. The campground also boasts 600 feet of shoreline walking on a boardwalk raised above the ocean water. Along the embankment salt-resistant, low water-use perennials such as iris, yarrow, lupine, Russian sage, creeping juniper, and soapwort do an excellent job holding up the retaining wall beneath stately 250-year-old oak trees.

In addition to a passion for growing food and native plants, this enthusiastic couple enjoy an artistic existence as well. Twig huts and climbing arbors, sand-cast giant mushrooms, and hand-painted signs enhance the garden ambiance.

New this year is a hops arbor Steven designed and built. Eventually the hops will grow up and over the frame creating a hops house. The hops will be harvested and used to brew beer, and also for dying wool as part of Searsport Shores’ focus on fiber arts.

A small herd of cashmere and angora goats provide fiber, which is processed here and dyed with plants from a special “dyer’s garden” including; black hollyhocks, coreopsis, indigo, amaranth, and white birch.

During the Open Garden Day a concurrent botanical-themed fiber show is planned featuring local and internationally known artists of the Midcoast. Twig sculptures by artist-in-residence Susan Perrine; garden quilts by Mary Ellen Krantz; traditional fair-isle knitting of Mary Jane Mucklestone; Nuno felting (with inclusions like puffs from milkweed pods) from Josette McWilliams; and knit sculptures and natural dyed yarns of Karen Jelenfy.

On Friday the couple will also be offering homemade French fries and muddles — an old-fashioned drink made with lemon balm, strawberries, ginger and soda water. “This way of life is a lot of hard and constant work,” said Astrig, with a grin, “but we’re doing things we love, and we get to do it together.”

Directions to the Tanguay garden at Searsport Shores Campground: From Belfast take Route 1 North, turn right at vintage billboard for Searsport Shores Campground, just a short way past Moose Point State Park.

Tickets can be purchased at each garden, on the day of the tour, for a donation of $4 for one garden, or $15 for a five-visit ticket.

Proceeds from the 2011 Garden Tour will benefit the Club’s civic beautification projects.

The sixth annual Belfast Garden Club Open Garden Days features 13 gardens in the Belfast area (Belfast, Belmont, Searsport, Searsmont, Bayside and Northport). One garden per week will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays, through Aug. 26.

The next tour in the series takes place Friday, July, 1 at the Woolsey Garden, 27 George St., Bayside. Natural privacy is created for a Bayside summer cottage by making trellises of twigs for Dutchman’s Pipe vines shielding the front porch and a vegetative barrier at the street containing rugosa roses, tall, bushy clumps of yellow heliopsis, hostas, day lilies and tall spires of orange ligularia. Also, black currant bushes for jam, a 20-foot high Katsura tree with reddish-purple leaves, several small raised vegetable beds with twig tepees for pole beans and a raspberry bed. Early spring mulching for weed-free summer. Handicap accessible.

For more information, call Martha Laitin at 948-2815, email, or visit