From an Overgrown Farm Field, an Enviable Garden Retreat
A Nobleboro couple’s labor of love
ABOVE Pam and Eric Allen have arranged their Nobleboro gardens around fanciful buildings, like this lacy one-room cottage.
TEXT BY LYNETTE L. WALTHER
PHOTOGRAPHED BY HEIDI KIRN
The field that Pam Allen’s grandfather farmed lay fallow for more than 30 years after his death, white pines creeping in where beans, beets, carrots, peas, and potatoes once grew. In 2003, Pam’s uncle gifted her that five acres on Nobleboro’s Oak Hill, but she and her husband, Eric, didn’t know what they’d do with it. The answer came a few weeks later when two of their four daughters became engaged: They’d build a timber-frame lodge for the weddings and other future gatherings of their growing family. It would be their place of joy.
“First, we had to clear the land,” Pam says. “Our daughters and their fiancés were tremendous helpers. Eric and the boys would concentrate on the build, while the girls and I cut trees and put in gardens. We did the whole thing ourselves.”
They hosted their daughters’ weddings at their new Oak Hill Lodge a year and a half after taking down their first tree. Baby showers, birthdays, Christmases, and Halloween parties followed, quickly making get-togethers at the lodge an Allen family tradition. Pam and Eric also rented the lodge to other families for their weddings and reunions.
ABOVE 1) Pam steps out of the greenhouse that Eric built with department-store glass shelving and discarded windows. 2) Watering cans in the greenhouse; 3) Eric holding architectural salvage turned garden ornament; 4) a perennial division for transplanting.
Meanwhile, the couple collaborated on designing an outdoor setting befitting such happy occasions. Their woodland village is composed of whimsical structures built by Eric and flowers, trees, and shrubs planted by Pam. A small greenhouse, for example, is made largely with architectural salvage — plate-glass shelving from a closed Brunswick department store and paned-glass windows discarded during a Bath City Hall renovation. In front, vegetables grow in white-painted raised beds accented with Gothic fence posts. Daffodils, red and yellow Dragon King daylilies, lungworts, and other flowering perennials bring spring-to-fall color to a hipped-roof screen house furnished with wicker chairs. Acorn, a tiny cottage with yellow bargeboard siding and lacy trim, inspired Pam to grow a yellow garden of black-eyed Susans and sunflowers. For their grandchildren, the Allens built Nutshell, a cheery orange playhouse stocked with Eric’s toy soldiers, Pam’s mother’s bunk beds, and their daughters’ favorite old toys. Elsewhere are ornamental trees (Japanese maples, magnolias), flowering shrubs (azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas), and bulbs by the hundreds (daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths). Last year, the Garden Club Federation of Maine recognized Pam’s green thumb with its Stella J. Dearborn Award for best all-around gardener.
ABOVE 1) Pam and Eric enjoy a glass of wine on a patio under the trees. 2) Garden statues near the playhouse; 3) a hosta bed.
Four years ago, the Allens sold their Bath printing business and home of 45 years and moved to Oak Hill Lodge, realizing a dream of rural living that goes back to the 1970s when they were newlyweds. Though the lodge has been renovated as a dwelling, it’s as much as ever a place for joyfully gathering the clan.