July 8th, 2014
There’s no better place to learn about plants than public gardens… except if you go to the home garden of someone who really knows what he’s talking about.
I’m just back from taking a busload of Harrisburg-area gardeners to see both – a selection of great public gardens of New England and the home garden of long-time Victory Garden TV host Roger Swain, he of red-suspenders fame.
One of the public-garden stops was the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine. That one immediately jumped onto my list of top 10 all-time gardens and is so impressive that I have to devote an entire post to it. See a Photo Gallery of pictures from CMBG to judge for yourself.
Two other public gardens we saw are well worth singling out this week as well as adding to your must-visit list if you ever get up to the Boston area.
Tower Hill Botanical Garden Tower Hill Botanical Garden is a young public garden, opened in 1986 by the Worcester, Mass., County Historical Society. Its 132 acres are still being planted. What grabbed me most there was the “Systematic Garden.” Rather than lay out plants in beds by their use or by how they pair with one another, this one groups plants by their botanical families and when those families came along in the evolution of plants.
Did you know that cherry trees, hawthorns and cotoneasters are members of the same 2,800-species rose family? Or that ferns are some of the planet’s oldest plants? Want to guess the most highly evolved family at the opposite end of the fern spectrum? Asters.
Tower Hill has a nice mix of formal and natural areas, including a large event lawn surrounded by 1,000 trees and shrubs, a mid-1700s New England woodland with trails, and a beautiful cottage garden of perennials and flowering shrubs. It’s also got an ornamentally planted vegetable garden and a collection of more than 200 heirloom apple varieties.
The gardens are still working through their first 50-year master plan, which was designed by Pittsburgh-based Environmental Planning and Design, the same firm that designed Pittsburgh’s waterfronts and the plaza around the Capitol fountain in Harrisburg.