Bees and Butterflies
A floral wave above the Saint Croix River supports nature’s tiny workers.
Photographs by Jason P. Smith
This hillside above the Saint Croix River moves. It sways with the wind in great nodding swaths of gold, burgundy, orange, and pink. It hums. The air is electric with the drone of bumblebees, honeybees, and hummingbirds. It nourishes. Everbearing strawberries sprawl among the flowers, like rubies scattered over the ground. Plump blackberries dangle on bushes fringing the woods.
“I see this garden as food for the body, the mind, and the pollinators,” says Andreas Haun, who designed the landscape for his friends, Sidney and Nancy, at their cottage in Robbinston (the couple asked that their surname be withheld). “It’s a garden of hope and promise, because we’re working in harmony with nature.”
By that, Haun means the blackberries that were here, growing naturally, before he started installing the garden four years ago, will stay, as will the rugosa roses that blanket the steep riverbank in thousands of pink blooms. The coneflowers are allowed “to do whatever they want,” so they’ve cross-pollinated and produced dozens of new cultivars that you’ll never find in a garden center, such as the beauty with intriguing buttery-white spoon-like petals. The poppy that sprouted among the hen and chicks won’t be evicted, nor will the native goldenrod that popped up uninvited on the edge of Sidney’s putting green at the top of the hill (Haun and his clients have some limits to the live-and-let-live approach: the goldenrod’s spiky yellow flowers will be cut before they go to seed). And no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are ever used: this garden is about sustaining bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators.
The project, a series of terraces cascading to a small amphitheater where Sidney and Nancy entertain guests, marries the couple’s aesthetic and environmental conscience with Haun’s expertise. This is Sidney’s family’s land. He grew up in neighboring Calais, and after a career in international real estate in California, he and Nancy returned and built their cottage here, high above glittering Lowe Cove, with a view of Little Dochet Island and, on the opposite shore, Bayside, New Brunswick. Nancy’s the art collector of the pair, and with Haun’s guidance, she’s populated the garden with sculptures by artists from San Francisco, Canada, and Japan.
As for Haun, he spent 19 years managing Kingsbrae Garden, a 27-acre botanical attraction with 50,000 perennials (and freely roaming peacocks!) in the New Brunswick resort town of Saint Andrews by-the-Sea, 4 miles downriver (30 miles by road). Not long after he left Kingsbrae to start his own landscaping business, Haun worked with Sidney and Nancy on a small project, and they bonded over their shared loves of gardens and art.
Now, they meet weekly to exchange ideas for the garden they continue to build. Their guiding philosophy, voiced by Sidney during their first conversation about the project: “This is an absolutely gorgeous spot on the Saint Croix River. Let’s not screw it up.”