A Bush Garden

Last week I spent a day in Kennebunkport, a town long associated with the Bush family because of Walker’s Point, which was purchased by President H.W. Bush’s maternal great- and grandfather after the turn of the last century. The usual congregation of onlookers was there, looking down on the Point compound: summer white house towns seem to have lasting appeal and Kennebunkport is a summer white house town x two. I was thrilled because the gate to St. Ann’s-by-the-Sea, a bit further down the coast, was open and so too was the church itself: I had never been inside and this was my chance! It did not disappoint: what a lovely seaside chapel that actually accentuates its setting, a great achievement as its setting is magnificent.

On the road that connects Kennebunkport harbor and downtown to the coast is a small park owned and maintained by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust named River Green which is the site of a lovely little garden dedicated to former First Lady Barbara Pierce Bush. “Ganny’s Garden,” referring to the name she was called by her 17 grandchildren, was laid out in 2011 and became a memorial garden after Mrs. Bush’s death in 2018. It is completely charming, and also provides a good lesson about what one can do in a relatively small space. It is packed with plants, including some unusual ones (I was struck by the liberal use of mustardbut also personality and presence: bronze “statues” of Mrs. Bush’s gardening shoes and hat lie adjacent to that of an open book (her favorite Pride and Prejudice) as if she had just been there—or was still there.

The garden is overlooked by another statue dedicated to the seafaring forebears of Kennebunkport: Frank Handlen’s Our Forebears of the Coast, which was commissioned in 1994. Its presence made me wonder, in my compare-everything-to-Salem habit which I am trying to kick this summer: why no monument to Salem seafarers? If ever a settlement was made by the sea, it’s this one!

6 responses to “A Bush Garden

  • Katherine Greenough

    Dear Donna— thanks so much for this informative post and all the photographs! What a beautiful Garden and the church islovely too. I hope I can get to Kennebunkport sometime to see all of it, but I have a broken arm this summer and cannot drive, so it will have to wait. Thanks again, Kathy Greenough

  • Louis Sirianni

    Donna, Thank you for this introduction. I look forward to visiting .
    The excellent architecture of the church and the sophistication of the garden are so appealing. Lou

  • Nanny Almquist

    You’ve made me add yet another garden to my list of ones to visit sometime in the future. I love the unusual sculpture of Mrs. Bush – her gardening hat and shoes, plus her favorite novel. So quiet and understated.

    I also loved your pointing out that Salem could and should have some public statue Salem’s nautical past importance. Perhaps Nathaniel Bowditch or something or someone with ties to Salem’s great pepper trade?

  • Brian Bixby

    I had an uncle who settled in Cape Porpoise (part of Kennebunkport) after WWII. To him, even though he was a Republican in politics, the presence of the Bushes was primarily an inconvenience, in that the Secret Service blocked roads while they were in town. Just another aspect of their presence in town.
    He did not live to see that garden, but, despite his dislike of what the Bushes did to traffic, he’d still be pleased by the garden. Among other things, he was an authority on building stone walls, of which the garden seems to have a few, to judge from your photographs.

    • daseger

      I only experienced a bit of that as I worked in Ogunquit during the summers in high school and college and Bush Sr. would bring his cigarette boat into the cove, but I never saw it as an inconvenience—probably because I was not a business owner……

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