A Garden Visit

Today was a good, no a great day! I was able to successfully plan and execute a trip to Tower Hill Botanical Gardens, utilizing a half price pass from the Acton Memorial Library for myself and a friend. We left Acton around 09:30 a.m. on time (I really like punctuality) and drove out to Boylston MA while it was still quite chilly in the late morning air.
We walked through the foyer’s double doors and were immediately treated to the delightful fragrance of blooming Statice Sinuata filling the air with its welcoming aromas promising more spring like delights to follow, which we did. The Gardens are magical at anytime of the year but spring is my favorite because my senses had been deprived of the sights and smells of natures blooming goodness for too many months now, especially this winter.
Our first stop was the Limonaia, or Lemon House. This cavernous room creates the southern border of the Winter Garden. It was opened in late 2010. The Limonaia was designed by Centerbrook Architects and built by Cutler Construction. The cathedral-like interior of the cool-temperate Limonaia expands the display of non-hardy plants, augmenting those in the pre-existing Orangerie. Like the Orangerie plants, most of these go outdoors for the summer, so the Limonaia is primarily a winter display. Immediately upon entering both G. and looked at each other with curious expressions, it was the smell of salt sea air but warm and moist that filled our nostrils and soothed our winter weary minds and we simultaneously smiled at each other expressing our delight at being there.
I took a moment to explain to G. why I wanted us to attend here today. I relayed Alice’s story, how she was possessed of a miraculous green thumb and talent for growing things and a deep love for gardening. I explained that this was her final resting place by virtue of her ashes having been spread among the garden’s vast grounds last summer by myself and her two granddaughters.
Before making our way to the Orangerie we perused The Winter Garden which is enclosed on three sides by the Orangerie, the Stoddard Education & Visitors Center, and the Limonaia; eventually it will be completely enclosed by future buildings on the east side. Shielded from wind and extreme temperatures, the Winter Garden is a showcase for plants that are at their best during the winter months, featuring exquisite bark, structure, berries or evergreen forms. The hardscape was designed by Melissa Marshall of Marshall-Tyler-Raush, and planting design and selection was done by Tower Hill’s horticulture staff. Staff members and volunteers planted several thousand spring blooming bulbs, shrubs, trees, and low-maintenance perennials in the fall of 2010. The central feature of the Winter Garden is Domitian’s Pool, featuring bronze fountains that are large scale statues of our native Eastern Box Turtle. The turtles were created by renowned sculptor Priscilla Deichmann. The pool is heated slightly in winter to prevent freezing, thus allowing the fountains function all winter long. G. took several photos of the pool and marveled at its beauty and serenity. We walked around the perimeter until the temperatures sent us scurrying back inside.
Next we walked into the Marjorie Doyle Rockwell Orangerie that opened to the public on January 31, 1999. This cool temperate house is filled with winter-blooming, fragrant containerized plants from October through May. During the summer months the plants are moved outdoors and incorporated into the Gardens. The Orangerie is then available for exhibits, shows, and private social events. Horticulture staff offices occupy the basement level and connect to a pit house and a working greenhouse.
The Orangerie is a hybrid of an 18th century orangerie and a modern conservatory. The glass roof on the Orangerie admits a great deal of light, allowing for a large selection of plants to be grown, which also allowed for the structure to be wider than a traditional orangerie. Early solid-roof orangeries were no wider than they were tall, so the rays of the sun would reach the furthermost plants.
The English translation of the Latin inscription on the Orangerie reads: “If there be heaven on earth, this is it, joy everlasting.” It certainly was a joy just as I’d hoped it would be along with a cure for my winter time blues. The photos that I’ve posted were taken here. It was a perfect morning; I had G. all to myself and we conversed about this and that seated among such beautiful greenery that enriched our conversation and gave credence to the quote “The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.” ~Hanna Rion
We sat for while there in that green space talking for a while, grateful for the table and chairs so thoughtfully put out for visitors. I noticed a young girl accompanied by two women, the three encompassing three consecutive generations of garden enthusiasts’ who were also visitors to this magical place. The child, perhaps four years old, caught my eye because she was so precious and precocious, she seemed enamored by everything around her and like us just had to indulge her tactile sense and touch every leaf, blossom, and fruit she could reach.
My how the time flew and it was now closing on the midday hour. G. and I made our way leisurely toward Twigs Café for lunch. Choosing a table by the veranda doors I pointed out the salient points of the vista before us, Wachuset Mountain in the distance and Wachuset Reservoir in the foreground still locked in the icy grip of winter, frozen over and covered in a blanket of white snow. The wait staff was diligent in attending to our now hungry appetites and we dined on vegan fare that tantalized the taste buds and soothed our hungry bellies; topping it all off with a shared slice of chocolate cake. Hunger satiated, the conversation delightful, and day only half complete we left for the aromatic entryway and bid a fond adieu to Tower Hill Botanical Garden until another time, perhaps in late spring when I can muddy my shoes out walking the grounds and maybe catch a moment or two of Alice’s spirit as it too tarries among the garden, wouldn’t that be special?

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