An Autumn Stroll Through Tower Hill Botanical Garden
Travelogue: Discovery through the eyes of a six-year-old
Discovering the natural world through the eyes of my six-year-old daughter
Love at First Sight
In November of 2009, my daughter and I discovered the joys of visiting Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston, MA. When we lived in Boston, we frequented the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, so we needed a similar place to visit that involved a shorter distance to travel. I had read a newspaper article about Tower Hill several years ago, and discovered that the place was very close (a 10 minute car ride) to where we now live. Since the moving boxes were emptied and we were settled into our new home, it was time to pay this garden a visit.
It seemed good sense to me that we should support the Worcester Horticultural Society through membership to Tower Hill Botanical Garden because I knew that I would be taking family and friends there all year. The site also houses a library with literature for a wide range of ages in its collection. Because I was writing a gardening book at the time, this resource that came with our membership was essential to me.
Flip the calendar to November 2010. My family and I have now come full circle around a cycle of seasons, and it is time to write about the wonders of meandering through the grounds at this small piece of paradise in central Massachusetts.The best of flowers, plants, trees, and even some winged creatures inhabit Tower Hill Botanical Garden across all the seasons. It is prime real estate to them, and they do not plan to move away any time soon.
My daughter loves to play outdoors, so walking with her and discovering the natural world together is an ongoing pleasure. Her sense of wonder is still very strong, matching my passion for learning more about nature. We are both kinesthetic-tactile learners and love to touch the world as we explore its beauty. The photos taken of Tower Hill Botanical Garden are a chronicle of our tour of the grounds and what we enjoyed doing on a sunny, October afternoon.
Tower Hill Botanic Garden houses a replica of an eighteenth century greenhouse filled with tropical plants, including dwarf orange trees. There are gurgling fountains, one of which host a small school of goldfish, ivy that climb up pillars, and tables and chairs to sit at for a picnic lunch. My daughter loves to feel the texture of leaves on a variety of plants, and to test the sharpness of cactus quills (very slowly). She also enjoys holding her hands under the gently falling water of the fountains. I usually bring a sketchbook for each of us and some pens and pencils for drawing, which keep us busy for a little while. The music that emanates from the speakers is quiet, reflective, and encourages us to linger.
Some of our favorite discoveries on this particular afternoon include the Emerald Fern, the Mourning Cypress, and the Powder Puff flower. We also greet familiar statues that seem like old friends, now. It was fun to notice how the present arrangement of all the features is different from the arrangement we had become accustomed to the previous year.
The Primoridal Pool to Pliny's Fountain
When we step outside the Orangerie, we find a stone pool full of water, providing cool mists that are welcome on a warm afternoon. This fountain was named the Primordial Pool because it houses species of vegetation that have evolved over millions of years. My daughter enjoys touching the soft, green moss and observing the plant life that grows up through the rocks that surround the water.
Near the Primordial Pool is a lane of deciduous trees, mostly maples and oaks. A variety of ivies hug the trunks of the trees, and nestled between them are benches on which lichen has been allowed to reproduce, as if to "own" it. The spots of green give the benches a natural tint that enhances their ability to blend in with their surroundings. The lane is grassy, and my daughter often enjoys taking off her shoes to run barefoot through this portion of the garden.
At the end of the lane sits Pliny's Fountain , and a bench nearby for resting and observing its habits. The water arc rises and falls. Chipmunks scurry across its smooth, stone surface. Fallen leaves provide a soft carpet and an extra splash of color.
Gravel Path through the Woods
If you turn to the right of the fountain (facing the bench), there is a gravel footpath strewn with leaves and acorns, that leads through a more heavily wooded area. By the roots of trees and on rock surfaces are a variety of soft mosses. My daughter runs her fingers across the mosses, and climbs the rocks barefooted. From that perch, she becomes inspired to find sticks, leaves, and nuts to create a "fairy playground" by one tree, a gift for the mysterious sprites to remember her by. In the woods are benches, stone pillars, and a replica of a Roman temple. There is also a grassy path to a large field, leading away from the woods, toward a bench swing that hangs from an oak tree. We both enjoy sitting on this swing together, and taking turns pushing each other.
Gazebo and Pond
From the swing we see a panorama of flaming foliage that warms our hearts, like our hearth at home. We wave to the wooden gazebo that we have stopped by on past visits, which hosts benches on each of its eight sides, made with branches of trees braided together. The gazebo serves as an observatory of waterfowl that swim on the nearby pond, and of the plant life such as the giant cattails and reeds that grace the grassy banks by the water. It serves as a gorgeous backdrop to our swinging this time.
Back to the Beginning
It is time to wind down our visit. My daughter lays amidst fragrant fallen leaves on the grass on our way back up to the entrance of the Orangerie . The sun has sunk closer to the horizon, and we were ready to make our way back to the car. When we have arrived back at the Primordial Pool, the water has caught the sun at an angle that beaks the light into a rainbow, which I capture with my cell phone camera.
An abundance of autumn harvest serves as splashes of décor. The steps are adorned with pumpkins, and a small cadre of gourds bid us farewell, encouraging us to return soon. We certainly will return again, throughout the year, to stroll around the grounds and eat lunch at Twigs, their lovely cafe.
Winter at Tower Hill Botanical Garden is still full of life ~
As the year wanes and the winter weather approaches, the warmth of the Orangerie and the inside displays along the halls of the education center will be our refuge. As outside during the warmer months, we'll learn to identify new plants through studying and drawing their leaves and flowers, and the small oranges that grow from the orange trees. The splashes of greens, blues, purples, and pink blossoms will mark a cheerful diversion from the blankets of snow on the ground outside. We'll take time to read about the plant life presented at the garden, and to listen to the water flowing from the fountains. We'll chat, snack and draw, and continue to learn. As always, we enjoy each other.
Winter Beauty at Tower Hill
Will you join us?
If the above description of Tower Hill Botanical Garden has inspired you, please join us for a visit. A map has been provided below, and the drive includes enchanting views of the Wachusett River basin. The continued success of places like this is essential to the survival of our planet. They are beautiful, and inspire us to cultivate beauty in our own backyards. Toward that purpose. they often host plant and flower sales so that appreciative visitors have a chance to take home their favorite species to transplant near their homes. Buying plants and taking classes at botanical gardens such as Tower Hill also supports the educational programs they offer and ensures their ongoing success for future generations.
Link to the THBG site for planning a visit ~
- Tower Hill Botanic Garden
Comprehensive review of Tower Hill Botanic Garden, owned and operated by the Worcester County Horticultural Society in Boylston, Massachusetts, including the gardens, library, classes, programs, history, special events and upcoming flower shows
Finding and Visiting Tower Hill Botanical Garden
Are you ready for a visit?
Has this hub inspired you to visit your local botanical garden?
Plant Species Conservation begins with Love
This labor of love illustrates the types of plant life that are cultivated and flourish in Botanical Gardens. Such places offer glimpses into natural history and the power of conserving plants that may be in danger of extinction.
© 2010 Karen Szklany Gault