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Not Your Garden-Variety Calendar

A group of gardeners have bared all -- well, nearly all -- to preserve an historic public garden in the small town of South Paris, Maine. Their tool? A calendar that features the gardeners themelves, in diverse shapes and sizes, clad in not much more than nature provided them.

The front cover includes a group shot and a lovely quote from the esteemed garden writer Henry Mitchell: "Your garden will reveal yourself." Inside are individual shots of gardeners in action, featuring discreetly placed props -- a ladder here, a wheelbarrow there.

There's a story behind the effort, of course, and NPR's Scott Simon gets to the bottom of it with Lee Dassler, director of the garden.

After the death in 1995 of owner and caretaker Bernard McLaughlin, known as the "Dean of Maine Gardeners," mounting debt placed the garden's future in doubt.

Faced with a mortgage of $150,000, members of the McLaughlin Foundation came up with the calendar idea, and it has been well received, earning close to $100,000 to date.

Dassler says an important by-product is "outreach," noting: "We now have people from all over... who have purchased calendars that know about the McLaughlin Garden."

On its own merits, the McLaughlin Garden has drawn plant enthusiasts to its collection of perennials, wildflowers, ferns and other plants for more than 60 years. McLaughlin began planting his two-acre plot in 1936. Following his death, the foundation was formed to maintain the garden and create an educational center at the site.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.