Planting Fields: A Historic Arboretum

A grand estate built in 1904 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, Planting Fields is now a public arboretum owned by the State of New York. This spacious site includes a restored mansion with adjacent sweeping lawn areas bounded by large specimen trees; formal gardens and fountains; extensive plant collections; numerous woodland trails; tropical greenhouses; and other structures and spaces of historic value. There were several designers involved in planning this property over the years, including the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm of Brookline, Massachusetts, who oversaw projects from 1918 until 1944. Below are a few images of the property that I took during a visit this summer.


Colorful blooms at the Arboretum Center


Vegetation covers a wall near the Rose and Pool Gardens


The Italian Blue Pool Garden


Perennials at the Pool Garden


Perennials at the Pool Garden


A pleasant, shady trail


Parrotia persica in the Synoptic Garden


The Synoptic Garden includes an extensive plant collection.


Coe Hall (north side)


Coe Hall (south side)


East Lawn near Coe Hall

Photos by Alice Webb

Tower Hill Botanic Garden


One of my favorite places to visit in New England is a hidden gem in central Massachusetts called Tower Hill Botanic Garden. It consists of a wide variety of beautiful garden areas, including both formal and informally-designed spaces, and ranging from large open sites to shady woodland trails. The visitor/education center is also very impressive, with tropical greenhouses, classrooms, a café, and gift shop.


Gazebo at the garden entrance


Bromeliads frame the gazebo archway


The Entry Garden


Approach to the visitor center


A colorful vertical garden was recently installed near the visitor center entrance.


Café terrace


The Winter Garden


Mist fountain at the entrance to the Systematic Garden


The Systematic Garden


Inviting seating areas are scattered throughout the property.


Outdoor fireplace surrounded by plants near the old farmhouse (administrative offices)


A pleasant, shady spot in the garden


Terraced entrance to the Lawn Garden


The Lawn Garden is surrounded by colorful plantings.


Pergola at the south end of the Lawn Garden


A seating area in the Secret Garden also provides a view to Tower Hill’s heirloom apple orchard to the south.


Heading back to the parking lot through the lovely Entry Garden

For views of Tower Hill (and its tropical greenhouses) during another season, check out Winter Garden Scenes — an earlier post in this blog.

Photos by Alice Webb

National Public Gardens Day

Today, May 6th, is the third annual National Public Gardens Day in the U.S. Its purpose is to highlight public gardens across the nation and to emphasize the important roles they play in plant/water conservation, environmental stewardship, education, and provision of green/open space. In celebration of this day, below is a sampling of a few favorite plants from my own private garden. (Photos were taken from May through October, depending on period of bloom).


 Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Red Velvet’


 Helianthus x ‘Lemon Queen’


 Hemerocallis x ‘Frans Hals’ (Daylily)


 Nipponanthemum nipponicum (Montauk Daisy)


 Baptisia australis (False Indigo)


 Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’



 Sedum x ‘John Creech’





 Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ (Dwarf Lilac)



 Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (Plumbago)



 Veronica spicata ‘Purpleicious’



 Amsonia tabernaemontana (Blue Star)

Photos by Alice Webb

Winter Garden Scenes

I recently spent a part of an afternoon at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Boylston, Massachusetts, which is a short 15-minute drive from my home. It’s always an inspiring place to visit, regardless of the season. In November they opened the second of two indoor winter plant spaces, called the Limonaia (Lemon House), primarily containing their Citrus and Camellia collections. The Orangerie is the original indoor plant wing, which is full of gorgeous tropical plants, including orange trees, of course. These two wings are delightful places to spend a cold winter day, where you can imagine yourself in a more southerly clime.

The outdoor spaces are still beautiful during winter, though. The walkway that meanders along the perimeter of the Lawn Garden has been cleared of snow, so I took a stroll down this path for some fresh air and photos. There are several other garden areas that aren’t currently accessible, but I plan to return during the spring or summer and write about these in a future post.



This is the new Winter Garden, situated between the Orangerie (building wing in background), and the Limonaia. An unusually deep snow cover hides most of the plantings.


View from the Limonaia toward the Winter Garden


One of several seating nooks in the Orangerie


Path along the perimeter of the Lawn Garden


Pergolas on the south side of the Lawn Garden


View toward the botanic garden buildings, including an old farm house with staff offices


Colorful winter scenery

For more information on Tower Hill Botanic Garden, visit http://www.towerhillbg.org/

Photos by Alice Webb