WHO: Globe staff member Milva DiDomizio with her husband and two daughters
WHERE: Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Boylston
WHAT: Exploring the gardens
When we pulled up to the booth at the entrance of the Worcester County Horticultural Society’s Tower Hill Botanic Garden, the attendant who checked us in said, “You’re in for a treat.” She was right. The year-round plant museum turned out to be one of our favorite family outings.
We entered through the pavilion garden and were immediately captivated. The Indigo Rose Hybrid Tomato, teeming with shiny, deep purple fruits, was like no other tomato we’d seen. The vertical herb garden set up against the outside wall of the visitor center, an idea my husband vowed to try at home, was both attractive and functional.
Inside, we found the Orangerie and Limonaia, 18th-century style greenhouses filled with citrus trees and tropical plants like hibiscus. They smelled sweet and inviting — like tea, according to my 16-year-old. We agreed that come winter, the greenhouses would provide welcome escape from cold temperatures and barren landscapes.
Outside in the courtyard, we encountered the first of several fountains, this one featuring water spraying out of the mouths of two turtle statues. In the nearby Systematic Garden, plants are arranged according to their taxonomic classification, or families. Among the 26 featured, some were familiar (Magnolia and Pea), while others (Saxifrage), were less well known to us.
We continued along the one-mile loop trail, stopping at the Rustic Pavilion, a charming structure made of knotty wood that offered a nice view of the Wildlife Refuge Pond. On our way back, we encountered the smaller Cottage and Vegetable Gardens, and the larger Lawn Garden, home to species like the Purple Beautyberry with clusters of tiny violet orbs, Viburnum and its multitude of crimson berries, and the Weeping Alaska Cedar.
At the end of the Lawn Garden, a pair of Pagodas overlook the sunken Secret Garden, a lovely spot for picnicking, playing, and smelling the flowers. We were sans picnic, but we still lunched outdoors in the garden’s Twigs Café, which serves soups, salads, and sandwiches. The food was adequate, but the ambience and view of Wachusett Mountain and the Wachusett Reservoir was stellar.
Our favorite moment of the outing came at the very end, when we spied a hummingbird, not much bigger than the bees buzzing around it, hovering and dipping its beak into a purple flower. After it collected its share of nectar, it perched on a nearby tree. We watched until it flew away like a speeding bullet, then we, too, made our exit, more slowly than the hummingbird, but just as satisfied.
Tower Hill Botanic Garden, 11 French Drive, Boylston. Hours: Tues-Sun, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. $12, $9 seniors, $7 ages 6-18, under 6 free. Special events on weekends include the upcoming Harvestival, a family celebration Oct. 12-14. 508-869-6111, www.towerhillbg.org