Horticulture and Culture

  • Post published:09/07/2009
  • Post comments:3 Comments
Tower Hill Botanic Garden entry
Tower Hill Botanic Garden entry

Last week some friends and I declared a Girls Day Out and set off to the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boyleston, MA. There is so much to see and enjoy and learn at Tower Hill. I always come away inspired.

Some people manage to arrange several plants in a single pot for a beautiful arrangement. But it might be just as easy to get that beautiful arrangement by massing several pots with different plants together. A lesson when we have barely stepped beyond the entry.


A double lesson. Look at this collection of begonias. A lesson in the variety of a single plant, and the beauty of massing of a single plant.

One of the most instructive sections of Tower Hill is the Systemic Garden where each bed is filled with plants of a specific family.  This beautiful fountain is at one end of the Garden.

This is a view of the gazebo in the Systemic Garden from the other end.

In addition to formal gardens there are woodland walks where one might come across Pan playing his magic pipes. We spent a lot of time in the woodlands on that hot day.

Pliny's Pool at Tower Hill

Pliny’s Pool was another cool woodland space. Pliny the Elder is the Roman who wrote the first natural history encyclopedia in 79 BC. He covered all aspects of the natural word including botany. He died while watching and recording the eruption of Mount Vesuvius from the bay.

The moss steps are beautifully romantic, but not very functional.

There are benches where one can rest and enjoy the green shade throughout the woodland, but bird watchers can sit inside the screen Bird House to watch birds that come to feed at the feeders. Posters with photos and information about the most common local birds are helpful to novice birdwatchers.


As we left the woodland and prepared for the trip home, we passed through the gateway marked with 2 busts of Janus, the god who looks both backward and forward. In this representation, the young Janus looks to the east, and the old Janus looks to the west.  I thought it was an appropriate conceit, since we gardeners can hardly look at what we have in our gardens without thinking about the next thing that we need, or need to remove. Janus knows all about change, I think.

On Saturday I had to make my rounds – to the library, the transfer station, the yarn shop and down into the Valley.

I stopped to shop at the Greenfield Farmer’s Market and got some Ginger Golds and Paula Reds from Clarkdale Fruit Farm.

I was panic stricken when I drove up to Nasami Farm, run by the New England Wildflower Society. The old sales shed was demolished and I didn’t see any cars around – until I went a little further down the drive.

There Nasami’s beautiful new Center was revealed.  The offices and classrooms are not quite complete. Indeed office furntiture was being brought in while I was there choosing more barrenwort plants for ground cover and an oakleaf hydrangea, but the sales desk was definitley open. Nasami is open weekends from Thursday through Sunday through September. Lots of great plants ready for the fall planting season.

Sunday morning we were visited by our neighbor giving his new tractor a test run. Jamie is a genius with motors.  He put two old Ford 8N (1951) tractors together, oiled it up, wired it up, and voila, a new tractor!  We had other visitors, Hazel, nearly 3, and her Papa, but we were so busy picking blueberries and eating them that there was no time for photos.

John Clark
John Clark

On Sunday afternoon we were happy to make our way to the Heath Union Church and the final concert of the summer to raise money for the restoration of the Johnson Opus 16 organ, built in 1851. It is possibly the oldest working Johnson organ in the country. 

John Clark, a neighbor and wonderful musician who has toured many countries with famous jazz ensembles put on a varied program with everything from Mozart, and Bach to Duke Ellington with his nephew in law Paul Undreiner who teaches at Rutgers University as well as concertizing and composing.

As an extra treat, Andrew Jaffe, artist in residence at Williams College, who was in the audience, got up to tickle the ivories himself.  What a way to close the weekend.

Actually, we got a bit of interesting history during the concert. Another one of the audience members was from Whately. She said that the organ originally belonged to a church there, and was sold to Heath early in the 20th century for $100!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Frances

    Man Pat, how great it would be to hang around with you! You do the most interesting stuff. Tower Hill is amazing, many good ideas just from these photos. I agree about one plant per pot then make the arrangement, now to just make myself do it. Cool about the organ and how fun to listen to great musicians that you know personally. All good. 🙂

  2. admin

    Frances – My children, who are very busy with their own children, are always amazed at all the activity up here. Quite the social whirl. You’d love Nasami.

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