McLaughlin Garden drowns out traffic with peace and quiet

PARIS – The sounds of a busy Main Street fade as visitors enter the McLaughlin Foundation’s gardens.

Ferns, trees and grass carpet the grounds. Hundreds of flowers paint the dense greenery in unique shades of color. The white farmhouse and deep red barn loom over the grounds. A delicious aroma floats from the caf and people mill about the garden. Among them is Michael Desplaines, the foundation director.

Desplaines’ days at the garden are nonstop.

“Even though the garden of sixty-five years is historical and will never change, the foundation is always taking on new projects and expanding its reach,” he said.

New at the foundation this summer is the First Friday Gallery Nights, which began June 2.

On the first Friday of every month, Desplaines and his staff will transform the restored barn into an art gallery. The First Friday Gallery Nights, which features local artists, will coincide with exhibits at three other local galleries: Painted Mermaid Gallery, Commons Art Collective and the Norway Library. Desplaines said he hopes that this will create a network in which art buffs can drift from one gallery to another, spreading the word on the art in the barn.

The next art night will be July 7. The weekly event is free and open to the public.

Also new to the foundation is the revamped Backyard Explorers children’s program.

The popular line-up of activities runs from June 26 to Aug. 11, three days a week, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. In past years, the time frame has proven to be an obstacle for working parents. To accommodate their schedules, the foundation has teamed up with the local Montessori School. With the Extended Backyard Explorers program, parents now have the option to send their child straight from the garden to the Montessori School from noon to 4 p.m. Activities at both locations include garden discovery, building from nature, the study of animals in the garden, nature trail work and a special gallery opening featuring the work of these young artists.

For more information on this program, contact the Montessori School at 743-0100 or e-mail [email protected]

There are also plenty of activities for adults at the McLaughlin garden. Gardening workshops teaching everything from weeding to Bonsai to trellis construction crowd the calendar. “Painting a Maine Garden” is a popular upcoming event in which the grounds are open to artists who wish to capture its beauty.

Perhaps the most popular McLaughlin event is the Paradise Found Benefit Auction, the social event of the foundation’s season. The event features gift certificates, vacations and fine art on the auction block. The Aug. 19 gala is both a celebration of and farewell to summer.

Looking forward to the summer, Desplaines said, “What I saw at this past May’s Lilac Festival was fantastic.”

Pleasing him most were the hundreds of new faces marveling over the garden. For more information on the garden, including a complete schedule of events, go to

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