The Best Flower Shows and Festivals in New England | Chasing Spring
At the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, adults, children, and the occasional dog (no dogs!) crisscross a 400-foot span over the Deerfield River. In 1928-29, the local Women’s Club reclaimed this abandoned trolley bridge with 80 tons of soil and a crew of volunteers. Now, opening April 1, with gardens lining either side of a generous path and hints of wisteria arching overhead, this “bridge of beauty” is a monument to imagination and community spirit. “It’s the prettiest garden I’ve ever seen,” says one visitor. “I feel like spring is really here.” Tulips, daffodils, and heavenly blue hyacinths hang suspended over the water, a small-town version of the ancient Babylonian gardens, with tree peonies up by a foot and sturdy pink primroses lit by spring’s bright light.
The Painterly Touch
“Obviously we’re not painters, but we’re getting the experience,” says Grace Astrove, a Connecticut College student sitting on the deep porch overlooking the Lieutenant River at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut. It’s early May in the place where American Impressionism flourished and a colony of 200 artists gathered, most notably Childe Hassam, who called it “just the place for high thinking and low living.”
An astute businesswoman, Florence was also a keen gardener, and the museum is restoring her plantings, with more than 1,500 heirloom perennials planned. Modern-day painters are scattered around the grounds of the former boardinghouse (canvas and paint are provided free on Sundays, April-October). The gardens are awash in tender color: pale green, yellow, violet, with dogwoods leaning over the painters’ shoulders.
Waves of Color
Which brings us to the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church’s Dogwood Festival in Fairfield, Connecticut (75 years and counting), where blossoms are bursting out of control–as they also are at Belltown Hill Orchards, a little piece of Italy in South Glastonbury. Color comes in waves, April and May, moving across the trees that Mike Preli’s grandfather, Louis, started when he came to this country in 1904. Mike gestures over the rolling hillside–150 acres of blooming, ethereal beauty. “You’ve got the whites of the apples and pears, the pinks and fuchsias of the nectarines and peaches. It’s always changing,” he says.
To the north, a haze of color washes over the gardens at Long Hill in Beverly, Massachusetts, and at Boston’s Arnold Arboretum, a sprawling property that’s been around since 1872, a partnership between Harvard University and the city. Think Central Park on Miracle-Gro, with giant tree canopies and thousands of shrubs and vines from around the world. On Lilac Sunday in early May, rows of deep-purple flowers hang heavily, sensuous and plump, the air saturated with their scent. On that special day, visitors can enjoy kids’ craft activities, guided tours, music, dance, storytelling, and art demonstrations. But don’t wait for the official date; show up early, gently pull down a branch, and inhale the inevitability of it all.
Chase it for all it’s worth. Because it’s worth everything, our New England spring–careening across the calendar, spilling out festivals and gardens and glorious color. It’s worth it all.