Arriving at Tower Hill Botanic Garden late Saturday afternoon, I soon realized that it was the perfect time of day for enjoying and photographing the camellia and citrus collection housed in the new Limonaia. The crowds had thinned and the late day sun lent a warm glow to the conservatory collections and the surrounding hillsides.
The hallway leading from the Limonaia to the Orangerie was lined with luscious displays of camellia blossoms, which were part of the special camellia exhibit taking place at the botanic garden, and were provided by members of The Massachusetts Camellia Society.
Originally from the Isabella Stewart Gardner collection, Camellia japonica in the Limonaia are part of the permanent collection at Tower Hill. The Limonaia is a joy to wander through–not in the least over crowded–allowing the visitor to see the bones, or structure, of the plant, which is especially appreciated with larger specimens of citrus and camellia. Myriad and beautiful examples of Camellia japonica abound, including well-labeled known cultivars, as well as those of unknown lineage. With plumpest buds of promised beauty held tightly along stems, and the high-gloss evergreen foliage offsetting opened blossoms, I would be hard pressed to name a favorite. Look for the vivid red striations bespattering the Persian pink petals of C. japonica ‘Haru-no-utena’ and the sunlight-white splodges in the carmine pink blossoms of C. japonica ‘Masayoshii.’
Camellia japonica is related to Camellia sinensis from which beverage tea is cultivated, and many of the flowering Japanese camellias on display have the similarly nodding habit, where you gaze up into the blossom. In its wild habitat Camellia japonica grows 20 to 30 feet; many of the oldest camellia plants in the Tower Hill collection stand a good eight feet, which is the perfect height for admiring the bowing blossoms. I recommend a visit to the Limonaia now, or in the very near future, if you wish to see the garden’s stunning collection of C. japonica in bloom.
Members of the Rutaceae, commonly called rue or citrus family, are well represented with great specimens of kumquats, Ponderosa lemon, calamondin orange, Persian lime, and more. The larger trees are potted in sturdy and attractive “Versailles Boxes,” which are custom made replicas of those built for Louis the XIV’s Orangerie du château de Versailles.
Shoo away those winter blues and head to the Limonaia and Orangerie at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. You will be delighted with the fresh scents, brilliant plant arrangements, color green in all its infinite many hues, and every other delicious color of the rainbow—a welcome respite from our monochromatic winterscape. The walkways from the parking lot to the visitor center are well maintained, with no treacherous ice!
The following text is provided from the sign near the pavilion pictured above: Wachusett Resevoir and Wachusett Mountain ~ Tower hill summit, at 641.5 feet above sea level, is one of the highest points in the area. It takes its name from a tower erected atop the hill used as a survey site for the construction of the Wachusetts Reservoir to the west. Completed in 1905, the reservoir provides drinking water for Boston and 64 surrounding cities and towns. Water originates mid-state at the Quabbin Reservoir and travels through a 24.6 mile tunnel to join the runoff from the Wachusett watershed. Tower Hill Botanic Garden lies within the Wachusett watershed. Every effort is being made during the development and daily maintenance of the garden to protect this valuable resource.
The Wachusett Reservoir covers 6.5 square miles within a 37 mile shoreline. Gravity powers the flow of water through the reservoir system east to Boston. The name “Wachusett” is Algonquin for “by the Great Hill.” Just beyond the reservoir looms Wachusett Mountain. At elevation 2006 feet above sea level, it is a popular destination.