On the shores of Oyster Pond, enjoy strolling through gardens of daffodils, rhododendrons, lilies, irises and more, with pathways accented by millstones, ships bells, and antique anchors. Free and open to the public from 8am to 8pm, Spohr Gardens in Falmouth is the culmination of forty years of planning and effort by Charles and Margaret Spohr.
The six acres of woodland gardens sport colorful blooms all season long with a variety of perennials and trees including lilies, irises, azaleas, hydrangeas, skimmia, andromeda, leucothoe, Dexter rhododendrons, as well as crabapple, cherry, noir magnolia, paulownia, plum, fig, holly, umbrella pine, Japanese pine, beech, and peony trees. (For those looking to learn more about Dexter rhododendrons, be sure to visit the Heritage Gardens in Sandwich.)
The Spohr History of the Dottie and Skip
A history of the Spohr Gardens written by Rosemary Hoskins for the Wood Hole Museum notes that the gardens have changed and matured over the years, and once sported 34 varieties and over a million daffodils, Charlie Spohr’s favorite flower. The gardens were a joint effort between Charlie and Margaret, who called one another “Dottie” and “Skip.”
Charlie, born in 1914, worked as a civil engineer and served in World War II at Normandy and in Northern France where he was injured. Margaret, born in 1915, worked as a nurse, serving in the Air Force and Army for twenty years. The two met at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where Margaret was working as a nurse and Charles was recovering from his injuries. The couple married in 1946 and moved to the Cape in 1950, beginning the work on their joint garden project on Fells Road.
The gardens they envisioned were informal, friendly, and welcoming. They spent the winter months flipping through catalogues, deciding on what to plant the following year, they kept meticulous records, which has been helpful for the current managers of the gardens to replace plantings as needed.
While Margaret focused on the plantings, Charlie put his attention to the decorations adorning pathways and accenting the gardens. He acquired antique anchors, millstones, lighthouse lanterns, cobblestones, and granite troughs. Charlie had collected anchors since he was young and loved the history, they brought the gardens. His most prized anchor was slated for a voyage on the infamous HMS Bounty, but was left ashore before the fateful voyage. Thirteen historic anchors can be found lining the retaining wall beside Oyster Pond.
Treasures in the Spohr Gardens
As visitors walk the pathways of the gardens, they’ll also spot the New Bedford cobblestones, seventy-five millstones set into walkways and sitting among plantings, two large ships bells, and two lighthouse lanterns. Using his engineering background, Charles Spohr also designed a watering system still used at the gardens today.
During their lifetime, the Spohrs received support and praise from the community about their oasis. Since their deaths, the property has passed to a trust, which aims to share the beauty and serenity of the Spohr’s work with the public.
Now visitors can enjoy the quiet beauty of the woodlands and gardens, stepping away from the bustle of summer on the Cape to enjoy the hundreds of perennials, trees, shrubs, and unique artifacts of the Spohr Gardens.
Butterflies at the Spohr Gardens
In addition to their quiet peace, Spohr Gardens is also working to raise and release butterflies and support pollinators in their Butterfly Garden. The butterflies, mostly Monarchs as well as Spicebush Swallowtails, White Cabbage, and Painted Lady, are raised and released July through September. Other species that stop by the gardens have included Tiger Swallowtails, Red-Spotted Purples, Silver-spotted Skippers, Hummingbird Moths, Pearl Crescents, and a variety of bees. Kids and families will enjoy spotting the pollinators and learning more about the butterflies being raised at the gardens during their Butterfly Celebration Day.