Paradise for wildlife, plants and nature lovers in Brooks garden

By Annadeene K. Fowler | Jun 24, 2012
Kivel Pond

Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days series travels next to the idyllic Kivel Garden, 44 McTaggert St., Brooks, Friday, June 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A vibrant perennial garden in the English border style sweeps a swale of color across a slope of ledge, reminiscent of Monet. Enjoy raised vegetable beds and dwarf fruit trees, a heavenly smelling rose garden, and walk the path around a pond ringed with native plantings.

The garden is established on the site of a former chicken farm at the home of Mary and Rich Kivel. When they moved to the property 10 summers ago, not one planting brightened the then-barren grounds. “The first thing we bought for the place was a tractor,” lifetime gardener and former perennial business owner Mary Kivel recalls. The Kivels started by establishing a framework of trees and shrubs to break up the bland landscape and cozying up the house by installing crab apples, evergreens and shrubs nearby. In subsequent years gardens sprang up all over the property. One of the more dramatic is a large planting of perennial flowers breaking up an expanse of ledge and sand on the hillside facing the house.

Today this part of the garden glistens with brilliant flowers, including magenta yarrow, purple catmint, Shasta daisy, Johnson Blue geranium, and astilbe planted in a mingling meadow style. Mary claims the organization of the hillside to be a little creative, spontaneous and not overly planned.

”I think of it as a blank canvas that I’ve splotched,” she laughs, “If something doesn’t work where I’ve put it in, I can always move it.”

Creeping thyme and succulents scrawl across exposed ledge steps in the center of the hillside garden and lead the visitors to the top of the hill where raised beds of vegetables, as well as apple, pear and cherry trees enjoy the view. On the day of the tour, visitors are encouraged to help Mary thin a bed of iris by taking some of the two-toned purple beauties home with them.

The most recent addition to the array is Mary’s long-desired rose garden, making great use of the footprint where a trailer-home once stood. She calls it a work in progress, though visitors will surely be treated to luscious scents and sensuous furls of 17 varieties of roses, many of which bloom all summer. Throughout the garden birdhouses peek from corners and posts, and their denizens are abundant. Nearby Marsh Stream and the Kivels' pond also attract for many animals, birds and amphibians. Turtles favor the compost pile as an egg-laying spot! The Kivels' have created a welcoming retreat for animal and human friends alike.

Directions to the Kivel garden, 44 McTaggert Street, Brooks:

Routes 7/137 (Waldo Ave. across from Camden National Bank, Belfast). Follow Rte. 7 (watch for right turn as it leaves Rte. 137). Note that Rte. 7 will soon make a sharp left turn. Drive approximately 11 miles to just before the railroad tracks (just before Brooks Center). Turn left onto Reynolds Road, then immediate right onto McTaggert Street. Last house on the right.

The next BGC Open Garden Day will be Friday, July 6 – Pickford Garden 132 Goosepecker Ridge Rd., Freedom. Old-fashioned perennial cut-flower gardens, container-garden, vegetable garden and lovely garden house.

For seven consecutive years, Belfast Garden Club has presented Open Garden Days, a garden tour series, this year will featuring 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, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., through Aug. 24, plus the first Fridays of September and October. 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 2012 Open Garden Days benefit the Club’s civic beautification projects.

For more information about Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days call Diane Allmayer-Beck at 338-3105, email, or visit

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