Along about 1998, longtime friends of Ed and Mary Cady approached the Ann Arbor, Michigan, couple about the possibility of jointly purchasing a property in Blue Hill. “We weren’t sure a joint purchase was a good idea,” recalls Mary, “but it got us thinking about Maine for a second home. The following spring we made a dedicated trip to Maine and met with realtors from Blue Hill to Boothbay and ultimately chose the house in Port Clyde [on Howard Head]. It was the setting and the views that sold us—as well as the low-key nature of the St. George peninsula.”
Renovation of the 1907 Arts and Crafts-style stone house, which they believed had “good bones” to work with, was the Cady’s first priority. “When we bought the house we were hoping to restore it,” says Ed. “However, when we started uncovering things we realized it was beyond restoration.” So they turned their attention to renovating with an eye to bringing maximum light into the dark interior and capturing the views to the water and distant islands.
The landscaping also needed attention. “The 100-year-old Japanese maple on the north side of the house was the single best part of the landscaping,” Mary says. “It was our sense that the landscaping close to the house at one time had been nicely done with perennials and rock gardens, but was quite neglected. The land going down to the water wasn’t much more than a field filled with rocks. So something needed to be done to enhance the view looking out to the water and to clean up the areas around the house.”
Initially, the Cadys attempted to convert the field to wildflowers, but eventually clover took over. “Mowing became the easiest way to take care of this area, which is why it evolved into a lawn,” Ed explains. But it was when he began exposing outcroppings of ledge that he began to develop a vision of how to make the water side of the property a beautiful foreground to the longer water views.
“My initial uncovering of the ledge really excited me,” Ed says, “and it continues to do so because it adds some drama and beauty to the open area. It has been an evolutionary plan. Each year I look for other ledges to uncover.”
Ed has planted the exposed ledges with perennials. The loose stone wall at the base of the water side slope, which he built in 2014, has been planted with pollinators in mind.
While Ed Cady creates new rock gardens and takes on such tasks as beating back jewel weed, keeping up with blow downs (which have led to the creation of meadows) and developing woodland walkways, Mary Cady focuses on weeding, tidying and dead-heading the gardens close to the house.
“I love the views out to the water and islands and love to see the changes in sky and water—I never tire of sitting at the kitchen table and taking it all in,” Mary admits. “But on the other side of the house the patio under the shade of the magnificent maple, with all the different ferns and other shade lovers is very special… always cool and peaceful.”
Over the years the Cadys have been helped in their efforts to maintain and develop their property’s landscaping by a variety of landscape professionals, but while they are in residence—usually from mid-June to mid-October—they tend to their grounds themselves.
“We’ve both always enjoyed being outside and working in the gardens,” Mary says. “I’ve loved watching the property evolve from its original neglected state to where it is today.”—JW
The Cadys’ property is one of those that will be featured during the 2016 Georges River Land Trust’s “Gardens in the Watershed Tour” on Sunday, July 10. Check out georgesriver.org for information on the other venues on the tour and where to obtain tickets.
PHOTOS: Top, Anne Cox, bottom, Julie Wortman