February 1, 2015



It seems as if every time I visit Tower Hill Botanic Garden near me in Boylston, MA, I am surprised lately - and this past Saturday has again, surprised me - so many events all happening at once - there was hardly any parking ( and it wasn't just because of my sold out sweet pea workshop which was held first thing in the morning! Thank you everyone who attended, what a great class - I promise that I will post the sweet pea varieties here at the end, so that you will know which varieties you all left with! Still working on that list, but here is what happened today;

What's impressing me about Tower Hill is that the staff, decor, shows and in fact - the entire spirit of the place feels so invigorated and fresh - this month ( February) just may be the perfect month to visit too, as Flora in Winter, a month-long event promises floral themed events every weekend culminating in a bit of a flower show on the last weekend of the month. If you live nearby, do plan a visit and let me know if you feel the change, too!

Many of the floral designs are influenced by a new school of design - looser, more irregular and natural arrangements using branches, shrubs, trees and interesting greens. This one ( a bit blurry due to my iPhone) is by Lindsey Swett, from Boston, MA. It was one of my favorites - so textural and botanically interesting.

Floral designs were the focus this weekend, with displays from local Massachusetts florists dominating the galleries and halls. I've been involved with the Worcester County Horticultural Society for much of my life it seems ( at least since I was about 9 years old), and I've been exhibiting in many of their exhibitions both at the old location in the city of Worcester at Horticultural Hall, and now at their new location.

A smart and striking arrangement by Vicki Harrington from Stargazer Design in Hopkinton, MA.

 I have to say - the art of floral arranging is experiencing  a shift - a flux, some may say it is a generational thing, others - just styles changing, but it's been interesting to see how twenty-somethings are approaching this once highly structured and formalized art - and at this show, it's easy to see the influences of the hip Brooklyn stylists, surely so hip that I imagine some of the old school formalists are horrified. I say - it's all stunningly beautiful, honest and real. Check them out for yourself.

In so many ways, this show was also a personal walk through my life - Sally Jablonski, the designer of this interesting display went to college with me at Stockbridge, so we go way back  - she owns Herbert Berg Florists near where I live, which is across the street from the elementary school that I went to ( my kindergarten teacher would take us across the street to buy pansies in the spring which we would pot up into egg shells!). Also, Herbert Berg himself went to the same school and was a class mate of my fathers. Sally is such a talented designer.

This mass arrangement was submitted by Paul Shusas, who own Holmes Shusas florists, where I worked while in high school - and Mrs. Holmes, who owned the other greenhouse company that merged with Paul's is the place where I first saw camellia's growing during the winter - old trees from the early 20th century. Holmes Shusas was my first real job, growing annuals, greenhouse crops and then floral design when I was still just a kid. He's a great guy and I still pop in every now and then to say hi to his family.

The famous Betsy Williams from Andover created this masterpiece ( sorry Betsy for the bad shot!). You know I love Hellebores - I met Betsey as she was presenting a workshop right after mine, and I spotted the elevator full of hellebores!

If you take a day to come to Tower Hill, the Lemonaia and the Orangerie offer two different environments, full of fragrance, conservatory plants and yes, lemons.

Some of the lemon trees at Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

A view of the Orangerie from the Lemonaia.It's  6º F  outside, 75º inside. Need I say more.

I couldn't help myself, and I had to snoop around a bit to get some ideas on potted plants for my greenhouse - and how could I have missed this one? A Jasimine mesnyi, the Primrose Jasmine from China - a species I was not familiar with, and now on my looooong wish list which continues to grow longer after visits like this.

Jasminum mesnyi Trained as a standard 

I have to ask Joanne at Tower Hill for a cutting of this white selection of  Hardenbergia violate, a vine which in it's 'violacea' form is in full bloom in my greenhouse, oh - I need this white one!


  1. anonymouse12:44 PM

    Hi Matt,
    I really enjoyed the workshop on Saturday. Maybe this year I'll have success (beyond the first month or two) with my English sweet peas!
    I don't know where you want to take the horticulture side of your career but I think you'd be fantastic doing similar specialized online workshops/classes (whether self-hosted or via Skillshare or Craftsy). As you noted early on, it can be really difficult to find precise and practical guidance for learning about some of these topics (beyond a rote couple of pages in a book that might raise more questions about specifics than it answers). I would imagine that your greenhouse- and winter-growing knowledge would be particularly valuable. Just a thought.

    1. Tanks Mouse! So glad it went well, it was a fun class to teach, although obviously I could have gone on for more hours! Thanks too for the reminder about Skillshare - I always forget about those opportunities. I've been thinking about creating some downloadable pdf's also on how to raise specific plants (poppies, sweet peas, etc) - wondering if there would be any interest it those?

  2. What a fabulous place to spend a cold winters day! Thank you for the tour!


Oh yes, do leave me a comment!