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Tower Hill Botanic Garden, an escape…


Succulent display in The Limonaia

….from winter

That silly groundhog doesn’t know anything. February may be short but it is still winter, and March is usually a big tease. If you’re like me, you must be tired from being cooped up and could use a green escape, perhaps to see and smell something verdant.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to travel very far. I  grabbed my camera, hopped in the car and within an hour and 15 minutes, I was at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens in Boylston, which is located in central Massachusetts just northeast of Worcester.  What a tonic for the senses.

As you enter the Stoddard Visitor Center, you are greeted with many options: a book/gift shop to browse, a cafe where you can refuel, a series of glass windows and doors which offer views and access to the newly installed winter garden, and immediately to your right, the beautiful Limonaia, a cathedral like conservatory featuring succulents, camellias, bromeliads, palms and you bet, citrus in bud and fruit.

It just so happened that on the day of my visit, The Worcester Horticultural Society’s annual event Flora in Winter was taking place at both Tower Hill and the Worcester Art Museum (so I made a date with an old friend and caught that show too, but I won’t digress further!) On display throughout the visitor center were exotic floral arrangements by both professional and amateur designers.

But enough talk for a moment, let me show you what I saw.

Billbergia nutans, an epiphytic bromeliad

Camellia ‘Mabel Bayard Thayer’


Another species of Acacia

Abutilon megapotamicum, aka Chinese Lanterns

Asparagus densiflorus, Foxtail Asparagus Fern… Love, again

Flora in Winter Arrangement Detail

Winter Flame Dogwood, and a chilly statue overlooking the Winter Garden

A corner view of the Winter Garden

It is amazing to see the evolution that has transpired at Tower Hill since its inception some 26 years ago. The first planted area was the Harrington Apple Orchard, a collection of heirloom varieties that would someday be lost if it were not for the stewardship here. Numerous new garden areas have been created over the years, and the latest, the Winter Garden, was opened to the public in November of 2010. The bones are in place and already the plantings are taking shape. Come visit for ideas on which hardy plants will add winter color and form to your landscape.

Tower Hill is open year round, Tuesday through Sunday, 9-5 (Closed Mondays). Admission is free with membership, otherwise, $12 per adult (seniors $9).

For much more information, including upcoming events visit:

or call:  508.869.6111


  1. Kathy,
    Thanks for those beautiful pictures and for featuring THBG. It’s a local jewel that doesn’t get enough interest. That first shot of the Limonaia is quite striking. Do you remember the ‘Stone acacias’ that used to be featured at the Boston Flower Show in the 70s and 80s? Wonderful memories of the fluffy yellow blossoms. Thanks for blogging!

    • We used to have an Acacia which we overwintered indoorsbefore we had a heated greenhouse. Definitely need to acquire another now that we run a heated structure.

  2. Your photos are lovely. You’ve made an Acacia lover out of me. They are so delicate and beautiful! Luckily I have a shot at making these work as I have a heated greenhouse attached to the main house. Do you know if some varieties of Acacia are hardier than others?

  3. Kathy, these photos are amazing, i have not been up there in a while, i think it is a great idea!!! Thanks for sharing. Hope you are surviving the winter! xoxoxo L

    • Hi Lyn! Thanks for visiting Garden Foreplay! we’re getting through winter begrudgingly. There’s already action in the greenhouses and shipment of bare roots and tiny rooted cuttings are arriving almost daily. And the days are getting longer. Hoo-ray!

  4. I just discovered your wonderful blog through Margaret at A Way to Garden. As an Australia I completely know the value of succulents in the garden. Aside from those succulents that are tasty to ducks (all of them except “Shrek”…sigh…) and the local wildlife (predominately wallabies who ADORE Sedums… HUGE sigh…) they are the most incredibly useful plants that pay you back over and over again in their hardy xeriscape goodness, in providing you with lots of babies and in sheer textural gorgeousness. I have Billbergia nutans growing in little pods all over the garden. Its gorgeous, almost orchid like flowers make it worth it and it is incredibly hardy. Mainland Australia (we live in Tasmania) can support an incredible array of bromeliads but we are colder here and Billbergia nutans is the most hardy. Our naturally acidic soil (Tassie is on an extinct volcanic range) is amazing for camellias and rhododendrons and azaleas and before we moved here I wouldn’t have thought that these plants were hardy but they most certainly are! I am laughing about you loving wattles! We have all different kinds here and in hayfever season, if you are prone to being sensitive to pollen, wattles immediately go into your “HATE” basket ;).
    We inherited our property from my late dad and we arrived to find 3 acres of weed infested bushland and an acre of overgrown once lovely landscaped garden. You are listing every single plant that we managed to uncover! That Abutilon megapotamicum was one of the survivors however it had grown incredibly tall and straggly because of a lack of light. We have other Abutilons that survived and if they survived here with no additional water for 20 years, they can survive anywhere!
    Asparagus fern is a weed here in Australia and that grevillea is lovely. I gave my Cornus (both red and yellow stemmed) to a friend who wanted winter colour in her garden. That was a really great read. Cheers for a wonderful post and I have put you in my rss feed reader so that I can read all of your posts from now on :).

    • So glad you found us. I always expect you southern hemisphere folk get a chuckle when you see how we struggle to grow your great plants.I’m really excited about the Boronia ‘Shark Bay’ we acquired recently, never seems to be out of bloom.

  5. I hear great things about Tower Hill and hope to visit one day. And not having Bilbergia nutans in my zone 10 garden is something I need to remedy immediately.


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