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The Best Spring Festivals and Flower Spots in New England | Chasing Spring

“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.”

The Best Flower Shows and Festivals in New England
Photo/Art by Matt Kalinowski
The lush grounds of the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut attract painters all year round, but spring offers something special.

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.


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.

The Best Flower Shows and Festivals in New England
Photo/Art by Matt Kalinowski
Long Hill offers free guided tours spring through autumn. Surrounding a stately brick Federal home, a series of distinct outdoor garden “rooms” are flanked by woodlands and trails an apple orchard, fields, and an organic vegetable farm.

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.

The Best Flower Shows and Festivals in New England
Photo/Art by Matt Kalinowski
The Arnold Arboretum includes 265 acres of gorgeous blooms, wth particular emphasis on trees and shrubs from all over North America and East Asia.

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.

Do you have a favorite New England spring flower festival or spot to enjoy spring blooms?

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Updated Thursday, February 17th, 2011

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