Celia Thaxter’s Island Garden welcomes visitors back to the Isle of Shoals


DURHAM – Beloved writer Celia Thaxter’s enchanting and colorful garden will bloom in its original grounds on Appledore Island after a two-year hiatus. Flower lovers and fans of the popular poet can once again experience the sights and sounds of this cherished historic garden that Thaxter started over a century ago.

Boat reservations can now be made for the 10-mile pilgrimage to the Isle of Shoals to visit the restored garden maintained by the Shoals Marine Laboratory, which is jointly operated by the University of New Hampshire and Cornell University. During the summers of 2020 and 2021, due to COVID-19 precautions, SML made the difficult decision to cancel day trips to the island.

“Visitors from around the world are passionate about Celia’s Garden and we love bringing them to experience its beauty,” said Jennifer Seavey, Executive Director of SML. “We are thrilled to welcome them back to the island to see the vibrant garden inspired and loved by Thaxter herself.”

Foxgloves, in all their glory, are a centerpiece of Celia Thaxter's Island Garden on Appledore Island.  Garden tours are offered by the Shoals Marine Laboratory from June to August.

Each winter, Shoals Marine Lab works with Rolling Green Nursery in Greenland to grow a specific mix of flowers from seed to recreate the garden on Appledore Island to accurately reflect the period and original Thaxter designs. described in his book “An Island Garden”. “As the home garden develops throughout the season, it changes and emerges to encompass a wide variety of plants. Some of the highlights include many types of poppies (which were Thaxter’s favourites), hollyhocks, dahlias, sweet peas, foxgloves, nigella, scabiosa and many more. During the pandemic, the lab worked with the City of Portsmouth, which provided a temporary site in Prescott Park, to reinvent the garden on the mainland for horticultural and literary enthusiasts to enjoy.

Brightly colored flowers sway in the ocean breeze in Celia Thaxter's garden on Appledore Island.  Looking out from the garden, it's easy to see why she loved this place.

Thaxter grew up in the Isles of Shoals and became a favorite American author in the late 19th century. She lived much of her life on Appledore Island where her pocket garden served as a cutting garden for her family’s hotel. She welcomed a steady stream of well-known writers, musicians and painters to the island to enjoy lively conversations in the bustling salons of her living room. The impressionist painter and dear friend Childe Hassam made his garden famous in his paintings and Thaxter published a book with prose and watercolor illustrations of his gardens.

Garden tours will take place on Fridays from June 24 to August 26. To register, go to www.shoalsmarinelaboratory.org/event/celia-thaxters-garden-tours. SML also runs several public overnight programs on Appledore Island later in the summer. For more information, visit: www.shoalsmarinelaboratory.org/public-education.


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