The Garden Club of Mount Desert was founded in the summer of 1923. It was the inspiration of Beatrix Farrand, one of eleven original members of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Mrs. Farrand called a meeting of a small group of Bar Harbor residents to talk about gardens and the result was the formation of a garden club. At first, the club was organized as a dicot (a plant having two seed leaves) with one leaflet on the east side of the island and one on the west, but it was soon decided that this model was impractical. The club became a member of the Garden Club of America in 1926.
The format of early meetings consisted of a flower show, “original papers,” and projects. One project was the establishment of a garden bookshelf in the public library. According to club records, Mrs. Farrand was particularly interested in landscaping gasoline stations. Gracious teas followed meetings. During the Depression, vegetable plots were established by members and unemployed island men tended the gardens to supplement their incomes.
It was during the 1930s that the club’s Open Garden Day was started so that local residents could see members’ summer gardens. With World War II, regular meetings stopped and members joined island residents in running a community canning center, preserving vegetables and fruits from victory gardens. Also undertaken were money-raising projects for the British war relief effort.
In 1947, the great Bar Harbor fire wiped out large tracts of land, destroyed landmark buildings and private homes, and shattered the return to normalcy after the war. The idea to direct revenues from Open Garden Day toward civic projects on the island, and toward other mostly Maine horticultural and conservation efforts took root at this difficult time. Today, Open Garden Day is held at the end of July in even-numbered years. After expenses are met, 100% of the proceeds are donated to horticultural and conservation organizations listed in the Open Garden Day section of this web site.
A summer club with over 70 members, The Garden Club of Mount Desert has four regular meetings per season, plus either Open Garden Day in even years or other special events including lectures and flower shows that are open to the public on the odd years. At each meeting, there is a judged exhibition of horticultural specimens, flower arrangements and/or photography.
The Wild Gardens of Acadia was a joint undertaking of both the Bar Harbor Garden Club and The Garden Club of Mount Desert. It is a 1/4-acre lot divided into 12 sections, each reflecting a typical habitat found on Mount Desert Island, and it now includes more than 400 indigenous plant species. The Wild Gardens was a GCA Founders Fund finalist in 2000, and it welcomes over 85,000 visitors each year. Additionally, through the work of club members, photographs of many of the island’s gardens are preserved in the archives of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. We hope you will explore our web site to learn more about The Garden Club of Mount Desert, and our projects on the island.