History of McLaughlin Garden and Homestead
Just off the busy, rumbling traffic noise of Route 26, there lies, in contrast, a tranquil green oasis where the air is filled with the scent of flowers, the birds are singing, and the bountiful blooms offer a painter’s palette of color and texture at every turn.
The property that now boasts the McLaughlin Garden and Homestead was a barren pasture until Bernard McLaughlin’s thoughtful care and vision created a two-acre garden that is still enjoyed by the public today.
Inspired by visits to ornamental gardens in his young adulthood, Bernard broke ground at his family homestead in 1936 only to discover sandy, compacted, and infertile soil. Without formal horticultural training or much experience with ornamental flowers, Bernard turned to books, friends, and gardening mentors from the South Paris community and beyond for knowledge and ideas.
After enriching the soil, Bernard began to plant his garden, carefully choosing unique plants and designing a garden that later earned him statewide recognition as “The Dean of Maine Gardeners.” In appreciation for the community support and interest he received, Bernard invited the public to visit his garden anytime the “garden gate was open”. Guests were welcomed to walk along the garden paths, quietly taking in the natural beauty of his plantings or talking with Bernard about garden design and his impressive horticultural collection.
Today, the McLaughlin Garden and Homestead has become a beloved Maine treasure. Each year thousands of visitors to the Garden come to learn new things, appreciate the beauty of nature, and connect with friends and families.
The transitional Greek Revival, Italianate-style house is believed to have been built by John Holmes.
The homestead and property is acquired by Frederick Tribou.
Tribou’s daughter Rena marries Bernard McLaughlin. Bernard breaks ground on the gardens, inspired by visits to ornamental gardens.
Still residing at 97 Main Street, Rena McLaughlin passes away.
A survey of the property identifies more than 500 different species of plants, predominantly irises and lilacs. However, other annual and perennial flowers and woodland plants are in the collection.
Bernard McLaughlin passes away at the age of 98.
The McLaughlin Foundation assumes stewardship of the historic 2-acre garden, public green space, and farmstead.
McLaughlin Garden and Homestead is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Nearly 10,000 visitors enjoy the garden and grounds every year, from May through October.