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The Boothbay Political Gardens

Rugosa Rose iconic flower of simple beauty was proclaimed an invasive species by the government of Maine' in 2019
photography (c) Susan Mackenzie Andersen 2019

One would think that a photography page dedicated to images of Maine flowers would be non-political but one would think wrong. Gardens have become politically symbolic in  Boothby, used as the means to transform the Boothbay Peninsula's image, no longer that of a natural habitat and an unpretentious community, but instead the image of man's control over the world which only money can buy. The Boothbay Peninsula still has the magnificence of the relatively undisturbed nature in places like Ocean Point and Hendricks Head, but the entryway to our community and thus the first impression. is now designed to co-ordinate with the regimented landscaping of Paul Coulombe's country club. This is no coincidence because according to the Maine Department of Transportation public-private funding agreement, the private developer, in Boothbay's case, Mr Coulombe, gets to be in charge of the design of the public roadway. Thus a roundabout came to be situated in a formerly straight road in which the only pre-existing intersection was the entrance to Mr Coulombe's country club, an entry way which is depicted as having no traffic in the mockup designs for the new configuration. Corey Lane was rerouted to meet up with the main route at a point opposite the entrance for the country club, as if to give the impression that there was a great need for a round about in that particular stretch of a formerly straight road. Landscaping as extravagant as it is regimented was put into place redefining the image of the new Boothbay to be consistent with that of Mr Coulombe's Country Club and the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Incorporated. Current choice of the Lavender planting is appreciated as the natural organic beauty of the Lavender miraculously transcends the underlying rigidity of the formal gardenscaping which has made great strides in redefining the historical identity of the Boothbay Peninsula. One can view the foliage of the exuberant Lavender and imagine that one is driving through a natural field instead of a planned and cultivated formal garden. I submit that long tall Cosmos would also work as a mediating factor in the public landscaping.

The Rugosa Rose is like an endless evolving sculpture that twists and turns itself into many unexpected forms. As long as it is blooming, I cannot stop photographing it.

Conversational references to Boothbay on social media is dominated by the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, which is no surprise since a corporation so well funded with redistributed wealth has the means to advertise, while our traditional regional draws like the unparalleled Ocean Point do not. Over the years I have seen images identified as having been taken at the Boothbay Botanical Gardens on a Facebook page for photography of Maine Flowers. Recently there was an image posted of an exotic flower imported into our local ecosystem by the Gardens. This flower could not have been named more perfectly for the cultural and political discussion it generated. It is called Imperial, relating in meaning to that of imperialism.

Fritillaria imperialis (crown imperialimperial fritillary or Kaiser's crown) is a species of flowering plant in the lily family, native to a wide stretch from Kurdistan across the plateau of Turkey Iraq and Iran to AfghanistanPakistanand the Himalayan foothills. It is also widely cultivated as an ornamental and reportedly naturalized in AustriaSicily, and Washington State. The common names and also the epithet "imperialis", literally "of the emperor", refer to the large circle of golden flowers, reminiscent of an emperor's crown.   Wikipedia 
Definition of imperialism 
1 : imperial government, authority, or system
2 : the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas
broadly : the extension or imposition of power, authority, or influence  Miriam Webster
My reader might say' "what a stretch! to relate the name of a flower to a political meaning!". In justification, I commented that it was a beautiful photograph but not a Maine flower and instigated a ruckus in which I was accused of being anti-immigrant by questioning the practice by Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens of introducing exotic species into our local environment. Sentiments flowed profusely as the undertone of the conversation was unleashed by my comment. We are in the midst of a War of the Flowers.
An independently spirited Sculpture in Motion
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is the leading symbol of wealth and power in more than just looks. The Gardens has earned its reputation of dealing with environmental regulations through the power of a purse overflowing with redistributed wealth.

Abundant funding bought the legal might to build a parking lot in the water shed, after the Gardens lost the argument with the town ordinances, an argument which relied on defining the Gardens as a school, and not a museum. If the Gardens is not a museum, why then is it  introducing exotic plant species into our natural habitat?  The idea of it is not only environmentally dangerous but symbolic of the long historical cultural divide which has defined the Boothbay Peninsula for as long as I can remember.

The political undertone in a Facebook group dedicated to photographing Maine Flowers has been percolating for quite some time. It was evident when I posted a picture of a field of purple Loosestrife. Comments were made implicating myself as an irresponsible person, noncompliant with Maine environmental proclamations, although it was not my field. I do not know why purple loosestrife is planted there but It has not strayed onto other properties. The reason for concern about purple loosestrife is due to its crowding out other wild life species in the wetlands, but there may have been a reason why the purple loosestrife was planted due to particular environmental conditions at that location. I remember there was the intention to plant a field of wild flowers by the late artist who owned the property. Sometimes, what is detrimental for one purpose is advantageous for another. Honeysuckle trees are said to be an invasive species and yet in some states one is not allowed to interfere with them in a wetland.
photography (c) Susan Mackenzie Andersen 2019

I was reprimanded for posting a photograph of a neighbor's field. Was it really about an evasive species - or was it about landscaping that encourages the natural meandering habits of nature uncontrolled by man? Is there a mission by Maine's increasingly centralized government to ban nature's tendency to meander in a lyracle rather than an orderly manner? The Legislature may have access to qualified research but there are historical examples in which the Legislature simply ignores the research in order to do what it wants to do as a foregone conclusion.

The Rugosa Rose is classified as "very evasive" by The Maine Legislature circa 2019:

Rugosa Rose

(Beach rose)

Rosa rugosa

2019 Status in Maine: Widespread. Very Invasive.

The Rugosa Rose has been growing in Maine for as long as I remember.  It grows at the beach but not aggressively. It expands over time but not rapidly. If I want to establish a healthy clump of Rugosa Roses in a garden, I will require patience. If I want to get rid of it, there is an old tech invention called a shovel which will do the job.

In another recent post, a picture of the common ground cover, Mound of Gold was posted, asking how to get rid of it. The conversation veered into claims that the Maine Legislature had declared Mound of Gold to be toxic to live stock and had declared it to be an invasive species. One of the posters asked if I wasn't pleased that the Maine Legislature was looking after us. To which I responded that to my knowledge Mound of Gold is not a wild flower but a cultivated one. I have never seen live stock wandering in our streets and that I think farmers are better at making the  decision about what to feed live stock than the Maine Legislature. Later I concluded that the comment was just spreading fake news as I did not find Mound of Gold listed on the Maine invasive species list.

Mound of Gold is in the right corner. I confess to have made the first offense in the War of the Flowers when I posted a comment that my gardens, removed by a flipper, would be replaced with a designer gardens.
photography (c) Susan Mackenzie Andersen 2015
As the conversation progressed it became increasingly about the cultural divide which has always been a part of our region. No one responded to or acknowledged the environmental issue of  introducing exotic plants into our local ecosystem. The conversation was about the Botanical Gardens as a symbol of the new Boothbay. Someone said "Oh no! Not one of those anti-Botanical Gardens people, as if questioning the activities of Botanical Gardens Inc makes one a social pariah implying that the Gardens, symbol of wealth and high culture, can do no wrong as if it were a sacred religion. Questioning the act of introducing foreign plant species into the Boothbay Region was equated with being against immigration and new comers to the region. I said that attitude you encounter exists because the new comers so often show no regard for the existing culture. If questioning the Gardens for introducing exotic flora is equitable to the cultural divide between the population with long roots in the peninsula and the new arrivals, then my point was made when I was told that if I didn't like exotic plants from foreign parts of the world being posted as Maine flowers I had one choice, I could leave the group! I opted for a less drastic option by blocking the person who made the offending suggestion.
A Day in the Life of a Rose
Finally the person who had posted the imperial flower commented. She could see she didn't belong here, she said, and so she was leaving. The photo of the foreign flower was her first post, for which she saw no reason to apologize for posting as her first contribution to a Maine Flowers photography group, a flower from a distant part of the world. With transparent condescension, she parted with a decree that we should all be peaceful. The defenders of the Gardens said we should apologize to the new arrival, underscoring that none of the Garden's ardent defenders thought that a long standing member of the group was due an apology for being invited to leave if not accepting as an authentic Maine flower, foreign flora introduced into our local ecology by an attractive and menacing corporation.

Why menacing? Because the Gardens has dealt with environmental regulations with money and protestations that it was really nothing. Based on that record, why should we trust Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Inc, with safely introducing foreign species into our local environment?

The administrator of the group handles the rukus gracefully, saying it was acceptable to post some images of flowers not local to Maine but it was best to stay on the subject to which the group is dedicated.


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