By Anne Cathcart
Are you a horticulturalist or garden enthusiast? Are you wondering where you might find the best gardens in the Berkshires this spring and summer? Gardens of the Berkshires is your answer! A consortium of eight sites with designated landscapes for discerning visitors, Gardens of the Berkshires is proud to protect, preserve and restore the treasured gardens of the Berkshires.
Stockbridge’s Berkshire Botanical Garden is comprised of 15 acres of gardens, woodland trails, and an arboretum. With more than 3,000 species and varieties of plants, Berkshire Botanical Garden is a must-see for any garden enthusiast. The annual plant sale, featuring an incredible selection of plants hand-picked by the site’s horticulture team, will return May 10-11.
Chesterwood is best known as the country home and studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French, sculptor of The Minute Man and Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial. However, French also was a passionate landscape architect, sculpting his 122-acre property into perennial gardens, woodland walks, and mountain vistas. From June 22 to October 31, contemporary sculpture will dot the bucolic landscape as part of the site’s 35th anniversary exhibition of Contemporary Sculpture at Chesterwood.
The Mount, Edith Wharton’s spectacular estate in Lenox— is prepared to delight guests with a full array of colors, announcing the return of spring. Acres of periwinkle flowers, dense patches of myrtle, and velvety fiddleheads align the walkway to the main house and gardens. This year, the flower gardens will boast early blooms including Bleeding Hearts, Daffodils, Forget Me Nots, and Allium. Hundreds of tulips in shades of red will border the magnificent dolphin fountain, as they did in Wharton’s day. While at The Mount, be sure to visit the grass steps, a landscape feature rarely seen in America. Fully reconstructed and part of Wharton’s original design, the steps are flanked by a rock garden and butterfly bushes that attract visitors, both winged and on foot.
At Hancock Shaker Villagein Pittsfield, visitors can explore the historic gardens – including herbs, medicinal plants, heirloom vegetables and seed beds – of the Shakers who lived at Hancock during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The site’s new CSA garden program as well as its workshops, including a Backyard Poultry Workshop and a Backyard Beekeeping Workshop, will appeal to gardeners of all levels. Also, purchase starter plants, including flowers, herbs and vegetables, at Pittsfield’s new downtown Farmers Market on May 11. Last but not least, Baby Animals is back! Visit the site now to meet its newest additions.
Hebert Arboretum’s 231-acre site displays a collection of trees and formal landscapes within an urban park. Explore this educational and environmental center’s demonstration gardens, all conveniently located in downtown Pittsfield.
Three sites of The Trustees of Reservationsare highlighted in the Gardens of the Berkshires consortium: composer John McLennan’s Ashintully with its outdoor sculpture and elegant gardens in Tyringham; Mission House’s Colonial Revival gardens designed by famed landscape architect Fletcher Steele in Stockbridge, and the Choate family’s beloved Naumkeag, also located in Stockbridge. In 2013, Naumkeag is undergoing a major renovation of its beautifully landscaped grounds, originally designed by Nathan Barrett and then transformed and expanded by Steele and Mabel Choate.
We hope to see you at each Gardens of the Berkshires site this season! Please visit sites’ individual website for hours and more information.
Anne Cathcart is the Associate Manager of Collections & Programs at Chesterwood.