Shoals Marine Laboratory Offers Mom an Island Garden Adventure

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Celia Thaxter garden

Iconic view of bright orange poppies blooming in Celia Thaxter’s cottage island garden. Garden tours are offered by the Shoals Marine Laboratory from June to August. Photo credit: Robbin Ray/UNH

DURHAM, N.H.— This Mother’s Day skip the floral arrangement and give mom a flower experience that will last long after the blooms in a bouquet. Book tickets for this summer to the Isles of Shoals to enjoy the sights and sounds of the enchanting and colorful historic garden of beloved writer and poet Celia Thaxter, which she first planted over a century ago.

Boat reservations are now available for the 10-mile pilgrimage to Appledore Island to tour the restored garden maintained by the Shoals Marine Laboratory (SML), which is jointly run by the University of New Hampshire and Cornell University. Flower fans, literary lovers and anyone looking for a unique outdoor experience will enjoy seeing the iconic garden and walk in the footsteps of Thaxter.

“The vibrant colors and story of Celia’s garden attracts visitors from around the world and we love having them come out to the island to discover its beauty,” said Jennifer Seavey, SML’s executive director. “It is a joy to be able to preserve and share this historic site so all can see the garden that inspired a prolific artist colony, led by Celia.”

Each winter, SML’s master gardener Terry Cook works with Rolling Green Nursery in Greenland to cultivate a historically accurate blend of flowers from seed to recreate the garden on Appledore Island so it reflects the time period and Thaxter’s original designs outlined in her book “An Island Garden.” As the cottage garden grows throughout the summer it changes and emerges to encompass a wide variety of plants. Some of the highlights include many types of poppies (which were Thaxter’s favorite), hollyhocks, dahlias, sweet peas, foxgloves, nigella and many others.

Thaxter grew up in the Isles of Shoals and became a celebrated American author in the late 19th century. She lived much of her life on Appledore Island where her pocket garden served as a cutting garden for her family’s hotel. She welcomed a steady stream of well-known writers, musicians and painters to the island to enjoy vibrant conversations in lively salons in her parlor. Impressionist painter and dear friend Childe Hassam made her garden famous in his paintings and Thaxter published a book with collected prose and watercolor illustrations of her gardens.

Garden tours will run on Fridays and Sundays beginning June 23, 2023, until August 4, 2023. To register go to SML also runs several public programs later in the summer which allow for more exploration of Appledore Island through overnight trips focused on birding, island ecology and an artist’s retreat. For more information go to:

The University of New Hampshire inspires innovation and transforms lives in our state, nation, and world. More than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 71 countries engage with an award-winning faculty in top-ranked programs in business, engineering, law, health and human services, liberal arts and the sciences across more than 200 programs of study. As one of the nation’s highest-performing research universities, UNH partners with NASA, NOAA, NSF and NIH, and receives more than $110 million in competitive external funding every year to further explore and define the frontiers of land, sea and space.

Caption: Iconic view of bright orange poppies blooming in Celia Thaxter’s cottage island garden was captured in a famous painting by impressionist Childe Hassam, one of Thaxter’s dearest friends.
Photo credit: Robbin Ray/UNH
Caption: Foxgloves, in all their glory, are a centerpiece of Celia Thaxter’s island garden on Appledore Island. Garden tours are offered by the Shoals Marine Laboratory from June to August.
Photo credit: Robbin Ray/UNH
Caption: Brightly colored flowers sway in the ocean breeze in Celia Thaxter’s garden on Appledore Island. Looking out from the garden it is easy to see why she loved this spot.
Photo credit: Jennifer Seavey/SML