Celia Thaxter’s Appledore Island garden has been brought to land! A sampling of her garden has been installed in Portsmouth’s Prescott Park, where you can see it for free. Rolling Green Nursery was honored to grow some of these plants for the project, and to preserve a wonderful chapter of our local history. We’ve also put some of the plants out for sale in the nursery, so you can take them home to enjoy!
Why Are These Plants Special?
Like humans, plants change over time. Their genes evolve, and their outward appearance shifts. An apple from 400 years ago, will not be the same apple we buy at today’s grocery store, for example. It won’t look or taste the same. And 400 years from now, people may not even recognize our apples anymore.
So when Rolling Green Nursery was approached to grow plants for the historic Celia Thaxter’s Garden, we were thrilled to partner with them. The goal was to select seeds as closely related genetically to the original plants found in her garden some two hundred years ago. Our gardening team partnered with the Shoals Marine Laboratory’s team of master gardeners and heirloom seed experts to select the plants most closely related to what she described in her famous book, An Island Garden, in order to create a reconstructed garden.
Who Was Celia Thaxter?
Celia Laighton Thaxter (1835-1894) was a poet who grew up on the Isles of Shoals. Her father built a large hotel on Appledore Island (the largest of the Isles of Shoals) that became a gathering place for literary and artistic greats of New England during the late 19th century. Thaxter’s garden exists today much as it did more than a century ago, when writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Sarah Orne Jewett, and artists William Morris Hunt and Childe Hassam drew inspiration from their visits.
Her flowers served as a cutting garden for the family’s resort hotel and muse for her acclaimed book. Today the staff and students at the Shoals Marine Laboratory tend to the reconstructed garden, remaining true to the historical descriptions and methods detailed in Celia’s book. Visitors are invited to step inside the garden gate and experience the simple beauty that first graced these rock shores nearing two hundred years ago. The property has become a hotbed of various research efforts, because of this special opportunity to step back in time, and to observe the island’s unique history and ecology.
What was Grown for the Garden?
Thaxter’s garden boasts an impressive selection of plants, and our project provided nearly 50 varieties of plants to her reconstructed garden. Some of what was grown were New England favorites: Poppy, Foxglove, Dianthus, Phlox, Coreopsis, Columbine, Aster. The list also featured more vintage charmers like Love-in-a-Mist, Larkspur, Sweet Rocket, Sweet William, and Rose Campion.
Find A Sampling of Her Plants Here at Rolling Green Nursery
We’ve put a selection of the plants grown for the project out for sale, so you can see them up close and install some in your own garden.
We are honored to be part of this project, and hope you all enjoy it. We look forward to growing for the garden in future years, when people can visit the island safely once again.
Barbara Pamboukes/ 17 Jul 2020
rgnursery/ 21 Jul 2020
Sarah Oppenheimer/ 23 Jun 2021
Lovely idea. I will go look in Prescott Park. I have seen the garden on Appledore. In my mind I think Hollyhocks. Good work! Recently I found just the plant I needed at Rolling Green for a barn.garden. – a tall perennial sunflower. Thank you Rolling Green!
rgnursery/ 23 Jun 2021
Hi Sarah! Definitely take a look. She had such a romantic style. Lots of delicate blooms, and it’s neat to see what flowers would have been used in a garden back then. She was such an interesting lady, and to see the world of gardening through her eyes a little bit is fun. I am so glad you found a plant here you like! I love the tall sunflowers! I am thinking of putting one by my mailbox. They would be perfect next to a barn! Thank you for reading, and for your nice note. Happy gardening to you!