Arts & Culture

Why Public Gardens

The horticultural collections at our gardens bring vibrancy and seasonal color to each garden; and open a professional portal that links Trustees work to our horticultural peers.

As the nation’s oldest, statewide conservation and historic preservation organization, our properties are united by Charles Eliot’s simple but bold idea of connecting people to place. In this period of global pandemic, when health and safety protocols urge citizens to stay outdoors to stay well, our public gardens have taken on new importance and new meaning. Many visitors, including scores of first-time visitors, have found them to be a place for solace, reflection, engagement, and beauty. The horticultural collections at our gardens bring vibrancy and seasonal color to each garden; and open a professional portal that links Trustees work to our horticultural peers.

Eleven properties cover a total of 776 acres and the manicured gardens within them total almost 257 acres, ranging individually in size from 0.5 to 80 acres.  They include three National Historic Landmarks and seven of the gardens have won a total of 13 awards from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in their previous owners’ lifetimes.  They span climatic conditions from the moderate (Martha’s Vineyard) to the extreme (the Berkshires).  Each property blends great scenic beauty and important ecological habitat with plants that range from rare native species to unusual cultivars.

Over the next year the organization will focus on two of these special places, The Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens in North Andover and Long Hill in Beverly. We are striving to keep the important legacy of these sites, while infusing some new elements into the space.

Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens, 2019

Stevens-Coolidge Work in Progress

These properties illustrate the delicate balance between the designed and the natural, between introduced and indigenous plants, and the impacts of people on place. Through growth, maturation and decay these properties ignite an intellectual and emotional response to our surroundings that bridge the cultural and the natural world.  They also represent an opportunity for innovative site experiences that bring these places to life for everyone.

For the profession, the quality of a public garden rests in its horticultural diversity, curation and depth.  Cataloged and online searchable plant collections connect horticulturists, botanists, ecologists and scientists, providing the opportunity to study plant adaptability as climatic conditions and extreme weather patterns test their resilience more than ever before. Guided by our Living Collections Policy, our efforts to understand, analyze and curate unique plant collections at each of our gardens has revealed historic connections with peer institutions, unearthed unusual cultivars, and provided a platform to connect members, visitors and our peers in horticulture and public gardens with our work. As of 2020 our living collections catalog includes 1807 unique taxa on 11 Trustees properties with 2 properties’ initial inventories completed, and inventory procedures initiated at five others. The aesthetic arrangement and care of the living collections is of equal importance. The overall effect and care of plants within our public gardens – their masses of color, texture, spatial arrangement and seasonal diversity – consistently surprise and delight.

The spirit of place and heritage is very important to our organization and we hope that shines through as we activate these spaces, by building on their solid foundations.

Long Hill Work in Progress

Long Hill Work in Progress

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