Children’s Garden Inspired by Jackson Pollack at the CMBG

If you have yet to visit Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, (CMBG) then come this year. And when you do, be sure to check out the Alfond Children’s Garden. There is a change in grade from where you enter the garden down to the vegetable garden and pond. One way to get down takes you along a winding ramp planted along side with annuals. This curving and raised plant bed is called the Rainbow Terrace. It begins at the golden Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ and descends to the pitcher plant bog. From the Sun King aralia, this plant bed has typically been planted en masse with annuals in a ROY G. BIV fashion (red, orange, yellow, etc.). This year, the gardener for this area, Justin Nichols, wanted to shake things up a bit. Instead of planting in blocks of color, he tried to plant the space as if Jackson Pollock had designed the garden’s carpet bedding scheme. What he did is wonderful and the colors are a riot!
Coastal maine botanic garden planting via

Among the many colorful plants, the unsung hero that pulls it all together is the honeywort or Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens.’ This annual has silvery leaves and dangling, purple, bell-shaped flowers. Honeywort can be easily grown from seed and may overwinter in warmer parts of USDA Zone 7b and 8. A native of the Mediterranean region, Cerinthe will grow best in full-sun with adequate moisture and well-drained soils. Hummingbirds and bees love the nectar off of the flowers, hence the common name. Justin combined a few plants with Petunia ‘Pretty Much Picasso’ and the effect is outstanding. I don’t know what the real Picasso would think about having his name on loan to a Pollock inspired masterpiece but in this case, because of the color and texture of the Cerinthe, the combination works.
Cerinthe purpurascens via


Cerinthe purpurascens via

You can expect Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ to reach around 24″ or taller in the height of the summer. I am definitely making notes on this plant. I think I have heard somewhere that good artists steal even better ideas from other artists. Well, I am definitely going to steal this plant from Justin’s garden and use it in other areas of the gardens next year. It is outstanding!


Photos: Rodney Eason

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.


  1. Debbie Feely on August 6, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    You encourage me to try cerinthe again. Nice! Love the colors in these shots.

  2. rochelle on August 6, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Rodney –I love that top shot! Beautiful!

    • rodneyeason on August 6, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Thank you! It looks great in the morning. – R

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