Walking through gardens rich with flowers, shrubs, magnificent trees, stone walls and statuary is like a cleansing for the spirit. Many Massachusetts public gardens are open to the public now. For health reasons, you should assume that the gardens’ buildings, including indoor restrooms, will be closed. But self-guided walks in gardens are the reason, especially in this flowery season. Here are some gems:
The Gardens at Elm Bank, a 40-acre property managed by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, displays garden plots in traditional and modern styles. Individual gardens include the Asian gardens; a herb garden; a garden dotted with goddess statuary; a Botanic Victorian Lodge; a children’s garden; and more. Paths, arched bridges and an ornate greenhouse make your stroll feel like a mystery and an adventure. In the 17th century, elms were placed planted along the banks of the Charles. In 1907, the Olmsted Brothers, among the most famous landscape designers of the time, created these gardens. Garden map. The gardens are open without access to restrooms or drinking fountains. Guests may picnic in the maple grove. Open May 2-October, daily, noon to 7 p.m. Visitors must reserve a timed entry ticket. Admission is $10 for people over age 12. 900 Washington Street, Wellesley, MA. 617-933-4900.
Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard is named in honor of the horticulturalist who started the garden from seed in 1958. Now, the garden encompasses 20 acres of cultivated beds and 40 acres of native woodland. The collection includes North Tisbury azaleas, a stewartia collection, camellias, clematis, crabapples, agnolias, and more, all labeled. Serious plant lovers can use the Arboretum Explorer link to find specific plants on the property. A What’s in Bloom page gives you an idea of what flowers you may see on your visit. Open daily, sunrise to sunset. Admission is $5 per person over age 12. Picnic tables. No dogs, please. 795 State Road. West Tisbury, on Martha’s Vineyard. 508-693-9426.
Ashintully Gardens takes its name from the Gaelic phrase “on the brow of the hill.” Owned by the Trustees of Reservations, the property is surrounded by the beauty of the Berkshires region of Massachusetts. Formal and more-natural parts of the property pass a stream, a raised knoll, and meadows. Formal elements include the Trellis Triptych, Rams Head Terrace, Bowling Green, Regency Bridge. Paths, stone stairs and tiny bridges carry visitors among classical elements like urns and statuary. A half-mile trail through woods leads to a row of Doric columns, the remains of a 1903 Georgian-style mansion that was nicknamed the Marble Palace for the way the white stucco reflected the light. The mansion burned down in 1952, leaving these lonely columns on a magnificent promontory that looks north into the Tyringham Valley. Open mid-June to mid-September, Wednesdays and Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sodem and Main Roads Tyringham, MA. 413-298-3239
Acton Arboretum’s public gardens and trails hit all the right notes of a welcoming place (like a trail from the property to the town green) with lots of variety. The many different gardens will stretch your image of what public gardens can be. A butterfly garden is planted with heavy pollinators. A bog garden carries visitors on a boardwalk. Other gardens specialize in herbs; fragrances; pond plants; crabapple trees along an allee; and favorites like hosta, day lilies, and rhododendron. The wildflower garden is a meandering path through the woods. Three trails are the Orchard Loop, Wildflower Loop, and the Highland/Bog Loop. A trail travels parallel to Taylor Road and connects to the town green. FAQs. Arboretum Map. Trail maps. Open year-round; daily; dawn to dusk. No admission charge. Some trails and gardens are handicapped accessible. Dogs allowed if they are kept under control. 2 Taylor Road Acton, MA