With diverse topography and climate from the Berkshires to the bay, Massachusetts has dozens of managed green spaces that invite groups to discover a world of manicured landscapes and historic arboretums.
The state’s horticultural heritage began in the 19th century, when Frederick Law Olmsted (known as the “Father of American Landscape Architecture”) was recruited by the City of Boston to design a 7-mile series of green spaces for its citizens. The result of Olmsted’s visionary work is now known as Boston’s Emerald Necklace, with each “jewel” being a green oasis ringing the city center.
On the edge of Boston Common, the Public Garden has welcomed city dwellers and visitors since 1837, when it became America’s first public botanical garden. Decorative displays of colorful flowers and varietals of roses blossom in ornamental beds. Visitors meandering the paths enjoy the shade of stately elms and other imported trees. Weeping willows touch the shores of the central lagoon popularized in “Make Way for Ducklings,” the 1941 children’s picture book by Robert McCloskey. Each summer, the pond is populated with a flock of swan boats, and groups can’t resist a ride.
The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University has been connecting city residents with nature since 1872. More than a park, the arboretum is a living museum of plant life that is open to all from dawn to dusk. Docents cater their 90-minute guided tours for groups of avid gardeners seeking to enhance horticultural knowledge or for those who simply desire a guided stroll to appreciate the arboretum’s seasonal highlights.
Just south of Boston is World’s End, another Olmsted project now managed by the Trustees of Reservations. More than 4 miles of tree-lined carriageways and footpaths line the landscape of rocky shores and open fields. The idyllic islands offer groups plenty of options for recreation with dramatic views of the harbor and Boston’s skyline.
The New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill is located an hour from Boston and invites visitors to find peace, joy, and discovery. With a dynamic landscape and grounds open year-round, the garden offers opportunities to learn on every visit. Many of its gardens showcase designs and companionable plants that visitors can replicate in their home gardens. The Garden of Inspiration features a collection of beds demonstrating a particular theme. The Vegetable Garden showcases sustainable gardening techniques. Groups are welcome to explore the garden through self-guided visits, but unique opportunities are available when they coordinate private experiences, such as walking tours, or participate in wellness activities or workshops.
Written by Michael McLaughlin
Featured Image: New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill; Credit: New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill