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Tower Hill Botanic Garden | A Colorful Showplace in Central Massachusetts

Tower Hill Botanic Garden in the inviting town of Boylston, Massachusetts, earned a spot on Yankee’s “Best Public Gardens” list in the Mar/Apr 2014 issue, and was also named an “Editors’ Choice” selection in Yankee’s May/June 2014 issue.  Hmm.  Seems it must be worth a drive over to investigate, which is what I did, albeit on a blustery and slightly overcast early May day, with point-and-shoot Canon in hand.

The colorful tulips attract lots of photographic attention alongside the entrance to the Visitor Center.

The colorful tulips attract lots of photographic attention alongside the entrance to the Visitor Center.

Tower Hill is the home of the Worcester County Horticultural Society, which traces its origins back to the 1840s. However, it was not until 1986 that the Society settled into this 132-acre hilltop site overlooking the Wachusett Reservoir and distant mountains and began creating their inspirational gardens. More than just a pretty place, Tower Hill is a fantastic resource for gardening enthusiasts offering an extensive library (8,000 volumes, some dating back to the 1800s), flower shows, talks, and tours—and just for fun, there are also concerts and family events. Here, you’ll find an array of plants fit for cultivating in central New England.  In fact, check out the spring plant sale held on May 31, 2014 for the opportunity to choose from numerous indoor and outdoor varieties, including rare specimens.

On this day, I was simply hoping to enjoy the sweet scents and sights of spring.  So it was most convenient that a daffodil show was going on at the far end of the Visitors’ Center. My nose led the way to the judging room…

Tower Hill Daffodil Show

Continuing on to the next sight, it seemed even the expansive space and cathedral ceiling could not diffuse the pleasing smell of citrus within The Orangerie—a popular venue for weddings and other events, and a wonderfully warm place to be on a raw, cool day.

Tower Hill Botanic Garden Orangerie

A view of the whimsical water feature facing The Orangerie.

Photo/Art by Deb Despres
A view of the whimsical water feature facing The Orangerie.

Back outside, the path leads to the Systematic Garden, designed in the Italianate style, presenting a collection of plants arranged according to their evolutionary relationships.  It was all very educational, but there was also a mountain view to my left, and a field of blooming daffodils to my right—very distracting.

The fountain is a central focus in the Systematic Garden.

The fountain is a central focus in the Systematic Garden.

No one can resist a photo of the daffodil covered hillside.

No one can resist a photo of the daffodil covered hillside.

Tower Hill mtn views

Photo/Art by Deb Despres
There are mountain views aplenty from Tower Hill’s hilltop setting–even Twigs Cafe has a wall of windows facing such views.

The wooded trails presented sculptures and informational placards along the way, and even an unexpected bit of company…

Tower Hill Turkey trail

Now, when I received my property map, it listed some guidelines of “garden etiquette.”  Among the expected (don’t step on the plants) and the less obvious (youths under 16 must be accompanied by an adult), the list stated that visitors should leave their pets at home.  So, what could this be for…?

Tower Hill Dog station

Apparently, if you purchase a membership to Tower Hill, you can also purchase one for your four-legged friend, allowing your dog to accompany you on certain trails at set times. See all the details by clicking here:  Tails n’ Trails Dog Membership.

The trail continues it’s loop—down to the wildlife pond, and up to the farmhouse that’s adjacent to the Cottage and Vegetable Garden, and overlooks the Lawn Garden.

Tower Hill Pond

A view across the half-acre Wildlife Refuge Pond.

Tower Hill farmhouse with blossoms

The farmhouse is surrounded by blossoms, and faces the Lawn Garden, a collection of some 350 species of trees and shrubs and assorted plantings.

Tower Hill farmhouse front garden

Blooms spring up within the Lawn Garden.

Beyond the decorative pergolas, a stone staircase leads to the (not so much) Secret Garden, an oval-shaped space with assorted fragrant perennials, and a view to the edge of the Frank L. Harrington Sr. Orchard—238 trees of which 119 are heirloom varieties (visitors can sample the fruit of these unusual varieties during Tower Hill’s harvest celebration).

The stone staircase leading to the Secret Garden is just beyond the pergolas.

The stone staircase leading to the Secret Garden is just beyond the pergolas.

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Clearly, spring was just emerging on the day of my visit. But, since they’re open year-round, Tower Hill Botanic Garden remains not just a gardening resource, but also a scenic, serene escape in all seasons.

Tower Hill basking in blossoms

Basking in the blossoms at Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

Please Note: This article 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.

Debbie Despres

Author:

Debbie Despres

Biography:

Debbie Despres is an associate editor for the magazine. Deb is the primary fact checker for Yankee Magazine and also contributes content to each issue. A member of YPI’s corporate staff since 2000, Deb joined Yankee’s editorial team in 2011. A native of New Hampshire, with a work history that includes several years in the travel industry, she enjoys discovering new destinations, and the myriad of road trip opportunities unique to New England.
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2 Responses to Tower Hill Botanic Garden | A Colorful Showplace in Central Massachusetts

  1. Joyce DeWallace May 19, 2014 at 10:13 am #

    What a great story and wonderful pictures! I loved the way you toured the garden with the varity of different shots and the commentary. As a staff member of Tower Hill, I couldn’t be more pleased with your depiction of what we consider, ‘a little piece of heaven in Central Massachusetts.’
    Thanks so much for your time and efforts.
    Joyce DeWallace

    • Debbie Despres May 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

      Thank you for your kind words, Ms. DeWallace. Tower Hill is certainly worthy of all the accolades. I look forward to visiting again and seeing the changes in the landscape and gardens from season to season.

      -Deb Despres

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