When thousands of Maine residents and summer visitors descend on the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, they usually experience a true cornucopia of beautiful flowers and plants that inspire the senses and captivate the soul.
But those who choose to venture further and go for a hike on the property’s wooded trails will encounter something new and magical—five giant trolls known as the Guardians of the Seeds. The trolls were created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo of Copenhagen.
Daniel Ungier, the Gardens’ Vice President of Education and Guest Experience, said that project discussions began two years ago and that it cost half a million dollars to complete. LL Bean, the exhibit’s primary sponsor, contributed a great deal of the funds along with grants and donations, Daniel said.
“The exhibit opened on May 29, and the reception has been fantastic,” Daniel explained. “We have been very busy, and we have found that people have absolutely loved discovering these giant creatures in the woods.”
The trolls are 15- to 20-feet tall and are made from recycled materials, discarded lumber, and pallets that were collected from the region, Daniel explained. The heads were created by Dambo in his studio from materials that were also recycled, he said.
Daniel said Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens wanted to create something that would illuminate the true beauty and power of nature throughout its property. Daniel said that Thomas believes that when people discover the trolls, they discover many other beautiful things in the forest as well.
“What we have found is the trolls are adding a whole new layer to visiting here,” Daniel said. “It is so in keeping with our mission.”
Daniel said this new exhibit appeals to just about anyone who loves nature. They are also seeing plenty of grandparents bring their grandchildren to the trails to teach them about the beauty of the forest and the importance of caring for the environment.
The trolls are located long a three-mile walk within the property’s 10 miles of hiking trails. Visitors will meet Roskva, the trunk troll; Lilja, the flower troll who looks like a baby; Søren, the branch troll who is also the tallest; the bearded Birk, the root troll, and Gro, the leaf troll, who sits with crossed legs and open mouth.
A story accompanies the trolls exhibit to give visitors some perspective on why they are now here, waiting to be discovered:
Somewhere between the mountains and the rocky coast
lies a forest of pristine green, forgotten by most.
Deep in this forest is a secret place
with 10 golden seeds at the end of a maze.
They were hidden by five giant forest trolls
protecting each part of the forest so old.
It was told that the trolls spoke the tongue of the trees
and had sworn to protect them from war and disease.
Birk had roots. Roskva was wide as the trunks.
Gro was like the leaves, breathing life with her lungs.
Søren, like branches, would wave in the wind,
and Lilja, like the flowers, each year would spring.
The forest was ancient, had stood for millions of years,
but recently the trolls had seen just what they had feared.
Little people came plenty, across and over the seas,
to cut, fell, and break down tree after tree after tree.
So, in fear of a day when all the trees would be gone,
they collected every seed forever and on—
chestnut, cherry, elm, spruce, and hazel,
oak, ash, beech, birch, and, last, a little maple.
The five trolls then held around all of the seeds
and harder and harder they started to squeeze—
so hard that stars started flashing and shaking,
so hard the ground started rumbling and quaking.
Then 10 golden seeds appeared in a haze.
The trolls took them and hid them at the end of a maze,
where in secret and safe all the trees could grow tall,
Because a future with no trees is no future at all.
So, the question is now, do you want to help?
Because a secret is lost if kept to itself.
Please run, find the seeds, and hold them in your heart,
and if everything gets lost, you’ll know where to start.
“We’re thrilled to offer this incredible experience on our grounds to people who come and visit the Gardens. Dambo’s vision, coupled with our beautiful and unique property, are a match made in heaven,” said Gretchen Ostherr, President and CEO of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. “The trolls, affectionately called ‘Guardians of the Seeds’, tell a unique story of sustainability that is echoed in everything our organization stands for. Each troll lives in different places across our 300-acre property, and visitors could spend the whole day searching for each one. That said, any visit will be a complete one–whether that’s a day’s hike to see them all, or a visit with one or two, the magic is the same. We encourage everyone to come see us, enjoy a self-guided tour of our grounds, and visit with our new friends.”
Thomas Dambo was also thrilled to bring his art to Maine for others to discover and enjoy.
“While being caught back home in Copenhagen during COVID, I’ve really been looking forward to this project in Maine to finally get to go outside, travel, and build my art in such a beautiful forest,” said Thomas Dambo, Giant Trolls artist and partner to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. “The last six weeks have been awesome working in the gardens and watching the trees and flowers bloom while building my sculptures. So, I am really looking forward to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and the world opening up again so we can share this experience with everyone else.”
Daniel said it will cost a family of four $55 to get tickets to view the botanical gardens and the trolls. A senior ticket is $18. All tickets must be purchased online on the Gardens’ website (www.mainegardens.org). He said it’s a practice they adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure safety. Now they are using it a tool to ensure that everyone who journeys to Boothbay will have ample time and space to enjoy the exhibits.
“The magic of trolls” draws people in, and “it delivers the power of the importance of taking care of our planet,” Daniel said. “It is really the largest project of this magnitude we have ever undertaken.”
When asked what message Thomas Dambo wants to convey to visitors, Daniel replied, “we look out a nature and think about it, but we don’t think about how nature thinks of us, and that is what he, the artist Dambo, is drawing our attention to.”
Daniel and the staff and volunteers at the Gardens hope people will slow down and think about their place in nature among us.
He said they hope to retain the trolls for the next three to four years. They will require a great deal of maintenance to preserve them, Daniel added. “The trolls will be here as long as they are willing to stay.”
For more information about the Guardians of the Seeds exhibit and the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, please visit www.mainegardens.org.