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A Letter from the Friends of Maudslay President

"Krinkle White" Peonies

Dear Friends of Maudslay,                                                                                                          June 16, 2020
When several years have gone by and we have had time to reflect on 2020, I believe we will find some positives to accompany the negatives that we are currently experiencing.  Although we are all concerned about the health of ourselves, our people and the world, we are seeing glimmers of hope.   We’ve also found time to complete tasks that have eluded us, to spend reading and in reflection, in our gardens, on walks and hopefully enjoying the beauty of nature which, despite what we are all experiencing, has put on a spectacular show this spring.
Many visitors have found solace on the trails of Maudslay – evidenced by the number of cars in the parking lot over the past three months.  When an escape is needed from the four walls of home, Maudslay offers a landscape of space, beauty and variety.  People have come in solo, with family and with their dogs but all have been very respectful of social distancing as they capture some moments of peace in this time of turmoil.  I suspect when other parks and beaches open, many will return to this treasure they discovered in Newburyport.
Our newsletter this spring is packed full of articles to pique your interest including pieces about our local birds, azaleas, volunteers and some local Maudslay State Park news as well.   David Moon, Sanctuary Director of Joppa Flats Education Center, has written a piece about the birds that nest in grass fields and we’ll all better understand the Maudslay mowing practices that make room for both birds and recreation.  We have also featured another one of our wonderful volunteers whose efforts make such a difference in our park.  And the article about the azaleas will capture for all how lucky we are that the Moseleys were so interested in horticulture in the early 1900’s.  Enjoy!

As we adjust to our new normal, it is always a bit shocking to see that life continues on.  The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is moving forward with the reconstruction of the dam this fall and the assessment of the brick walls in the Italian/Rose Gardens before hopefully starting construction next spring.  In my May membership letter, I asked people to renew their memberships.  If you haven’t already done so, please do so now by going to our website  If you are not a member, please join The Friends of Maudslay.  Our membership dollars are what help keep this gem beautiful. My heartfelt thanks for all of the members and volunteers who give to the effort!
Enjoy the blooms of spring and know that the mountain laurels will be performing in this month of June. 

Marlys Edwards
President, Friends of Maudslay 

By David Moon

It is a beautiful June morning that screams early summer, even if the official date is a week or two off. Stretched out in front of me are millions of tassels of grass flowers. The smell of that flowering grass is enough to set my nose itching, but the sound of Bobolinks fills my ears and makes me forget that. Male Bobolinks are flying back-and-forth over the field, making a sound that strikes one as impossibly synthetic. They are blackbirds adorned with white and gold patches that catch the eye as they make their slow, gaudy display flights. Bobolink song is like electronic burbles and bubbles, as they flutter ostentatiously over the domain in which they have courted as many females they can, females that after being impressed by their performance, may have given them the opportunity to engage in dramatic chases that can end with mating.
The demure female bobolinks nest right on the ground in that field, and their young begin exploring sooner than tree-nesters, but can't fly for some time. Thus they need the field to remain un-mowed for a time to grow flight feathers, and that period of egg-laying to juvenile flight may be when the grass is ripe for haying, which would mean disaster. This is why grassland birds like Bobolinks, the more musical Eastern Meadowlarks and distinctive Savannah Sparrows only thrive in fields that are not intensively managed for hay.
Because these species have declined dramatically in New England in past decades, organizations like Mass Audubon and others are now managing grasslands to give birds time to breed. That can mean a loss of quality and therefore cash value of hay produced from such fields, but some programs such as the Bobolink Project raise funds to compensate farmers for the difference. Setting aside grassland for these special birds is one of many choices managers of public land can select in balancing uses, but is one that produces beautiful results and can coincide with many other needs. The reward is greater biological diversity, and the uplifting experience of Bobolink song.

David Moon
Sanctuary Director
Joppa Flats Education Center
Mass Audubon
1 Plum Island Turnpike
Newburyport, MA  01950

Azaleas at Maudslay
By Lindsay Cavanagh

Exploration and discovery were among the western world’s late 19th and early 20th century passions, and that was certainly true in the field of horticulture.  Beginning in 1900, Mr. Moseley and his gardeners, Mr. Bayley and Mr. Gattrell were firmly connected to the web of American plantsmen seeking both new and unusual plants from Japan, Korea, China and Europe and the improvement of varieties that they had developed through hybridizing. At Maudslay, their prime focus was genus Rhododendron, which includes azaleas. For those technically minded, the main difference between most rhododendron and azalea is that azalea blossoms have five pollen-bearing stamen while rhododendron have ten or more.

“And what is so rare as a day in June?” asked William Shakespeare. At Maudslay, a day in May is a winner too, for that is when the pink, yellow and salmon colored azalea blooms come back to life, accompanied by the dazzling white flowers of the dogwood. Their return marks the end of the dark season and spring’s return to the Park.

Early blooming azalea at the Park include the vaseyi, or Pink Shell. They are the first to reflect in the pond, and stand out in a haze of pale pink among the trees near the Main and Hedge drives. The reflecting pond was originally designed for four to six weeks of bloom. Flowers mirroring in the pond include dogwood, laurel and azalea: aside from the vaseyi there are Exburys and indigenous wild azaleas. Although they are beautiful, remember that members of the Rhododendron family are toxic.

Vaseyi Azalea or known as Pink Shell

 The impressive Royal or schlippenbachii are only found on the main drive. Their pink, saucer-shaped scented flowers attract birds and butterflies. Pale green foliage is touched with bronze tones before the leaves fall. Originally found in Korea, this deciduous variety came to Maudslay from Shawme Farm in Sandwich, Massachusetts, now Heritage Plantation. Owner Charles Owens Dexter, a contemporary of Frederick Moseley, became recognized for hybridizing and plant experimentation; many of his azaleas and rhododendrons made their way to Maudslay, and, in exchange, rare and unusual hybrids were swapped back to Sandwich.

Royal Azalea
These early bloomers are quickly followed by the Flame and Kaempferi varieties. Visitors can sometimes can spot flame blossoms on either side of the three-arched bridge, other bushes are near the main house site. But also spectacular are the Kaempferi azaleas in the lane near the vegetable garden where they face an allee of dogwood, creating an eye-catching partnership. Botanist Charles Sprague Sargent introduced this evergreen azalea to Boston’s Arnold Arboretum in 1892; they were originally indigenous to Japan. Sargent probably suggested their inclusion at Maudslay because of his friendship with Mr. Moseley and fondness for the variety.

Kaempferi Azaleas

Beginning in 1825, Ghent, Belgium, became a center for breeding and propagating azaleas. Their varieties were known for a light fragrance, a range of bloom times and bright colors: yellows, oranges, bright pinks and reds. By 1825, Europe had been hybridizing azalea for close to a century. By 1760, wealthy Europeans had became enamored of Asian and American azalea and incorporated them into their estate gardens. Among the original parents of their hybrids were America’s indigenous sweet and swamp azalea. Lionel de Rothschild, owner of the Exbury estate in Southampton, England, continued this hybrid propogation with great success.

Maudslay forrester Willard Knights said that Peter Girard, from Wooster, Ohio, a well-known winner of American Rhododendron Society medals and another contemporary of Mr. Moseley’s, was the plantsman who introduced Exburys to Maudslay. Girard was known for deciduous double flowered azalea derived from old Ghent hybrids. These can be found around the reflecting pond, at Helen’s property and at along the Main Drive near the house.


Ghent Exbury

Swamp azalea, Rhododendron viscosum, includes a variety of deciduous azalea such as Swamp Honeysuckle, Hammock azalea, Clammy azalea. They have a clove-like perfume and dark green shiny leaves that turn yellow and orange in the fall. Important in New England, they are very cold hardy.  Some of these are found along Hedge Drive and Mile Circle. They are also found near the main gate in the Swamp Azalea Maze.

Swamp Azalea

Mr. Moseley, Mr. Bayley and Mr. Gattrell , all plantsmen in their own right, would be pleased to know that their enjoyment and interest in genus Rhododendron continues today at Maudslay State Park. 
“ I can see clearly now”
Views of the River thanks to Volunteer Steve
When/why did you first visit Maudslay State Park?
I was interested in seeing everything in park when it first opened as a State Park.  The land was private and not a place where the public could enter.  The state buying the land for a park was a good idea that has provided me and my family hours of enjoyment, exercise and relaxation.

How did you become involved as a volunteer at Maudslay?
My first volunteer opportunity came when my son’s Boy Scout troop took on clearing “Helen’s view.” I went along as a parent assistant.  This was about 25 years ago- I don’t really remember exactly when it started but my son is 39 now!

What do you do there?
My main job at Maudslay has been clearing three views along the river. The whole length of the river near the residences may have been open at one time, and now just the three are kept open.

Can visitors see the results of your work?
Yes, without the growth being cleared regularly the views of the river would be obscured.

What do you enjoy most about what you do there?
I find it to satisfying to have an outdoor activity that has clear results.

Why do you keep coming back year after year?
Well, mostly because the trees keep growing and block the views of the river.
I consider the scenic overlooks from the park to be a major attraction for visitors to Maudslay State Park.

Trail Miles
From Don Hennigar, Newburyport High School XC Coach
and Friends of Maudsay Board Member

For visitors to the park that want to log miles or just take a leisurely walk/jog through the park, there are trails for everyone. The red marked course is 3.0 miles long. It's the course used by Newburyport High cross country, Trav's Trail Run, and the Thanksgiving race. The green marked course is 1.5 miles. It's basically the first half of the 3.0 mile course with a different finish. It's very easy to run the 1.5 first and continue right onto the 3.0 to get a total of 4.5 miles.

Theater in the Open
Theater in the Open is adjusting to the financial and emotional realities of this crisis along with the rest of the arts organizations in and beyond our community.  We host a daily “Social Distancing Storytime” for children on Facebook Live, have turned our Spring Panto into a live YouTube series (available now and free to all), and are researching other digital tools we can use to create art and connect with our community until it’s safe and permits are again being granted for outdoor events in the park.  We are also launching “Workshop Reimagined,” a hybrid online and in-person arts education program to continue the work we have been doing for 40 summer’s outside.  For more information on any of these programs please visit us at

These times are difficult for all of us, as three months of social distancing and weeks of protest for racial justice force us to reconsider what is essential and how we can all do better, and we look forward to facing those questions boldly with our community in the “new normal” to come.

Edward F. Speck
Artistic Director 
Theater in the Open
Maudslay Arts Center
2020 Summer Concert Series Cancelled

The 28th consecutive year presenting Musical Performances has been silenced by the Pandemic!! For many of us, it’s just not summer without music at Maudslay Arts Center with family and friends.

MAC has a popular cultural and entertainment destination that has served tens of thousands of patrons since its founding 28 years ago in 1992. Situated in a picturesque corner of the 442-acre Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, MAC is best known for its outstanding summer concert series. However, from mid-May through mid-October, it has also been a popular setting for special events such as weddings, corporate functions, educational activities, reunions, and more.

We look forward to a time when we can all gather together again at Maudslay Arts Center.

Copyright © 2020 Maudslay State Park Association, All rights reserved.

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