Lyle E. Littlefield
    Ornamentals Trial Garden
         University of Maine
HOME PAGEUnique_Maine_Farms.html

Name:          Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamentals

                     Trial Garden

Address:      Rangeley Road

                     University of Maine

                     Orono, Maine  04469

Contact:       Brad Libby

Phone:          207-581-3112



Fax:               207-581-2999

Office Hours:

                       Mon.-Fri.  7 -9 a.m.

Products and Services

-research on container production

-research on field production

-research on plant culture

-research on plant culture

-public garden

-4000 woody and herbaceous plants

-collection of cold hardy landscape plants

-210 varieties of crab apples

-180 varieties of lilacs

-150 varieties of rhododendrums

-35 varieties of magnolias

-42 native woody plant collection

What Makes Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden Unique?

How fortunate it is for people doing research that the Bangor Daily News kindly posts old newspaper articles from their archives.  It seemed like quite a challenge to find out about Lyle E. Littlefield, the man for whom the Ornamental Trial Gardens at the University of Maine was named, since he passed away in 1988, over twenty-five years ago. 

An article in the June 28, 1988, issue of the Bangor Daily News about the accomplishments of Professor Lyle Littlefield provided some information about his contributions to the field of horticulture at the University.  According to the author, (whose name unfortunately was not cited), Professor Littlefield was an instructor at the University of Maine’s College of Life Sciences and Agriculture and an Extension Specialist in ornamental horticulture for thirty-nine years.  He was highly regarded for his down-to-earth, pragmatic and welcoming ways by nursery workers, landscapers, greenhouse growers, and home gardeners.

In 1965, Professor Lyle E. Littlefield established the trial hardiness gardens at the University of Maine.  These gardens proved to be such a boon to individuals interested in establishing successful landscaped gardens that could tolerate the harsh New England winters.  As the years passed by, impressive collections of crab apple trees, lilacs, and magnolias were planted in the garden which constitute approximately four acres of the University campus.  There is a lovely pond in the garden and birds and wildlife seem to frequently navigate to this verdant and peaceful location.

Littlefield and his colleagues acquired various plant specimens from several arboretums around the country including the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. and the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.  Throughout the gardens there are paths, arbors, benches, and beautiful hidden bowers that are made from tree boughs and twisted vines.  The peacefulness and natural beauty of this hillside garden invites students, staff, and the public to enjoy a stroll or simply take some time for a bit of rest or reflection.  The policies for the use of the garden can be found on the University’s website and Brad Libby, the Superintendent of the Littlefield Garden, welcomes any questions.

According to the Bangor Daily News article,

Professor Forrest Carmichael, a colleague of Professor Littlefield, also contributed greatly to the expansion of the garden thanks to the passion for plants that Littlefield seemed to inspire in others.  Littlefield was thoroughly involved with the world of plants both at the University and in the horticultural community.  He was honored as the 1982 recipient of the Edward D. Johnson Award for service to the industry by the Maine State Florist Association.  He also edited the newsletter of the Maine Nurserymen’s Association.

Representing Maine at President Lyndon Johnson’s White House Conference on Natural Beauty in 1965 was quite an honor for Professor Littlefield.  He also hosted a very popular television series called Gardeners’ Notebook that spanned thirty-nine weeks and was viewed and enjoyed on a national level.

Kevin Kearns, the Seedling Program Director at the Morrison Center in Scarborough and a well-known orchid expert, went to the University of Maine at Orono for his Bachelor of Science degree and had Professor Littlefield for numerous classes.  Lyle was Kevin’s advisor and Kevin recollected about how he did work-study jobs for him and helped in various research projects that he conducted.  Kearns also was a teaching assistant for him in his greenhouse crop production classes.  He shared that Lyle became a good friend and a mentor and that he “cherished his memories of him.” 

Kevin Kearns also commented that he thought it was wonderful that the gardens were named after him.  He explained that originally the gardens were crabapple and magnolia based because Lyle was into breeding both and looking for new varieties that could grow in our Maine climate. Kearns described Professor Littlefield as a “horticultural generalist” because he was talented in many aspects of the field.  When Kevin came to Orono he had already earned an Associates degree in horticulture and had worked for some well-known industry companies such as Olgelvee and Bryfogle’s.  He concluded his email with these words:  “Lyle took me under his wing and gave me opportunities I was able to run with.  Great, to feature him in some way as he was the ‘go to person’ in the plant industry for most of his career.”

In addition to the ornamental trial gardens, Professor Littlefield left several other legacies.  He was known throughout the Northeast as the “Dean of Horticulture.”  Because of the interest in developing a four-year degree program in landscape horticulture from Professor Littlefield, Professor James Swasey, and Professor William Mitchell, a BS degree in Landscape Horticulture was approved by the UMS Board of Trustees in 1984. After Professor Littlefield’s passing, a trust fund was established that annually awards the Lyle E. Littlefield Prize to an outstanding student in the Environmental Horticulture Program who has demonstrated a passion for horticulture.

In regard to the topic of holding a passion for horticulture at the University of Maine, another wonderful article from an old copy of the Bangor Daily News focused on Brad Libby, the present Superintendent of the Lyle E. Littlefield Gardens and the Roger Clapp Greenhouses.  The article, entitled “University of Maine Student On Fire for Flowers,” was written by Michael Zuck and it appeared in the August 6, 1993 issue. Zuck praised Libby for his enthusiasm for the study of plants and expressed how his former colleague, Lyle E. Littlefield, would have been very pleased that Brad had such an interest in his old planting records and his gardens.

On the day that Unique Maine Farms visited

the Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamental Trials Garden in June of 2013, quite a bit was in bloom.  The grounds were meticulously kept and guests were arriving for a wedding that was going to be taking place.  According to the University of Maine website, various research projects and programs take place in the Littlefield Garden. 

The University of Maine was a land grant institution that was originally named the Maine College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts when it opened in 1868.  While so many other disciplines are now offered at this University it is significant that the emphasis on agriculture is still very present.  Unique Maine Farms has had the opportunity to visit many of the farm and garden programs associated with the University of Maine.  The Lyle E. Littlefield Ornamentals Trial Garden is quite a treasure that has proven to be a great resource for staff, students, and the

general public.  Professor Littlefield’s passion for horticulture has proven to be an inspirational and long-lasting element in this stunning hilltop garden at the University of Maine.

Lyle E. LittlefieldLyle_E._Littlefield.html

This beautiful photo of a bee pollinating a Sargent cherry tree in the Lyle E. Littlefield Garden was taken by Bridget Brown and kindly shared by Brian Feulner of the Bangor Daily News.

This beautiful photo of  blossoms on a tulip magnolia tree in the Lyle E. Littlefield Garden was taken by Brian Swartz and kindly shared by Brian Feulner of the Bangor Daily News.