Several years ago, following a visit to the biennial flower garden show in Stonington, Reba uttered those fatal words, “If one of these houses on the water ever comes on the market, we should buy it. I’d like to have a seaside garden.” She’d hardly spoken when #24 Water Street came on the market, and we bought it.
Reba’s motivation goes back to her art history studies, when she became fascinated with Childe Hassam’s paintings of Celia Thaxter’s garden on tiny Appledore Island, one of the Isles of Shoals, some ten miles offshore from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Colorful flowers contrasted against a deep blue sea, an Impressionist’s dream!
We recently visited Thaxter’s garden, which dates to the early 20th century. It has been restored as close as possible to her original plan. Volunteers run several trips during the summer months to Appledore, to see the garden and soak up the history of Celia, Childe Hassam, and the visiting artists, writers and musicians Celia’s salon attracted. Thaxter, herself an artist and poet, used her small garden as a cutting garden. Flowers are featured in her poems, both in verse and as illustrations, and in her paintings and the pottery she decorated. Appledore is a shrine.
The University of New Hampshire’s Marine Research facility in nearby New Castle lends its research boat for the day-long jaunt. A 45-minute trip each way across the cold (even in mid-August) North Atlantic—no Gulfstream here—we even spotted a swimming seal.
We’ve lived in the northeast—separately at first—for some sixty years each. But there’s no end of discoveries as we venture north. Next summer: the coast of Maine.