Late Winter Interest at Tower Hill

Late Winter Interest at Tower Hill

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a conference at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston Massachusetts. The conference was not exactly what I had been hoping for, but my trip allowed me to visit a truly beautiful garden finishing its long winter sleep, just about to awaken. Tower Hill overlooks the picturesque Wachusett Reservoir; its entry is a long uphill driveway that passes through thick woods, open fields and a small orchard, finally ending in a tiered parking area. A short walk to the main buildings, including its beautiful Orangerie, passes through a stunning gazebo and several welcoming landscapes. A must see garden, especially if you are within driving distance.

Here, at this time of year, the visitor is met with the mostly grays and browns of the late winter landscape. But, on closer inspection, and with minimal exploring, the sleepy garden begins to reveal its secrets. Pleasures not as visible come summer, are revealed. The curly, twisted branching structure of one of my all time favorite plants, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana contorta) seems to explode as the firework trails left behind during a Grand Finale. The Dark Black puffs of Black Pussy Willow (Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachy’) cover the plant, and appear as thousands of caterpillars standing on end to greet you. In yet another part of the garden, Coral Bark Willow (Salix alba ‘Britzensis’) glows a radiant red and yellow, bringing an otherwise nondescript evergreen backdrop to life. Click the pictures on the right, and see if any of these garden gems deserve a place in your landscape.

You may have noticed that willows are figuring prominently here, and rightfully so. Willows, as do a good portion of the Dogwood genus, have exemplary bark coloration during the colder months, and as such lend themselves wonderfully to the winter landscape. Willows also serve a vital role in ecological restoration projects. They freely root and create a network of structure in the soil that is invaluable to stream and riverbank restoration. Not all varieties are as aggressive though, and are some are terrifically suited for our smaller residential landscapes. Would you like to see more? Bluestem Nursery in Christina Lake, British Columbia, grows a wonderful assortment of willows, ornamental grasses, and perennials. Their website is a great resource to learn more about these colorful plants. When at the website, click on willows, and you will find a great deal of information including descriptions, their uses and awesome pictures!

Now, if you find yourself longing for a walk through a beautiful garden, but think you have to wait until the spring flush of flowers, I would encourage you to visit a botanic or public garden in your area. You just might be surprised at the variety, interest and color that awaits! Oh, and you can always go back come spring.

See you in the Garden,


3 thoughts on “Late Winter Interest at Tower Hill

  1. Scott, I really enjoyed your review of the garden, you really made it come alive. I am still hoping you’ll come out and check out my landscape and make some suggestions on where to go next with the woodland gardens. It’s my next big project. Robin

  2. Hi Scott, great post – it makes me want to go there. However, now spring is here with bells on, I’m not leaving my little corner of paradise. One of my favorite trees is old Harry, too. I worked for Bluestem Nursery for a couple of seasons, yes, great selection of willows, and grasses. The owner, Jim is quite a character!

    1. Jacki,

      Thank you for your comments! I too share your passion for “wooden objects, gardens and rustic antique junk”. It does personalize a garden. A tip of the hat to you for focusing on Xeric principles. I love Bluestem’s website, someday you’ll have to fill me in on what it was like to work there.



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