Places with personality

Posted: May 26, 2013 at 20:32 pm Author: Gina Mills

The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum’s Head of Fundraising, Louise Bird, and the Forestry Commission’s communications team at Westonbirt, Katrina Podlewska and Gina Mills, are currently in the USA, visiting their counterparts at arboretums and botanic gardens to find out who their visitors are, how they fundraise, and to learn from some of the best.

The trip has been funded by the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum.

The house where Polly Hill lived - now a library

The really striking thing about yesterday's visit to the Polly Hill Arboretum was the parallels to be found with Westonbirt, despite the fact that the arboretums themselves are over 100 years apart in age.

An avenue of trees with a distinctive Martha's Vineyard dry stone wall behind it

The Polly Hill Arboretum was started by the late Polly Hill in 1958, when she inherited the farm that had been in her family for generations - like Westonbirt's creator Robert Holford, the blank canvas for the arboretum she created was family land. Unlike him, she started her arboretum by planting seeds from scratch herself and waiting for them to germinate.

Rhododendron at Polly Hill Arboretum

Caring for the Polly Hill Arboretum also has parallels with Westonbirt. Like us, they try and honor the vision of their original creator. For example, they will never plant trees on the expanse of meadowland that lies at the back of the house she lived in, because her mother wanted to keep it this way and so did she.

Shingled barn at Polly Hill Arboretum

This former family farm is scattered with shingled outbuildings and houses dating to the 1700s. Polly Hill Arboretum is one of the few properties of this age open to the public on Martha's Vineyard, and is another key reason to visit for many.

View into the conifer collection at Polly Hill Arboretum

Her distinctive approach is the reason that her arboretum is so unique. In a similar way Robert Holford's adherence to the Picturesque principles of landscape design make Westonbirt such a unique experience, although Polly Hill's approach does take a little more of the botanical order of things into account than Holford's aesthetic approach.

The visitor centre at Polly Hill Arboretum

Another important personality at Polly Hill Arboretum is the late Dr David H. Smith. He was absolutely instrumental in making Polly Hill Arboretum into the public garden it is today. His interest in the work that Polly was doing blossomed into a great friendship. His generosity ensured that her vision of sharing her passion for plants and learning was realised.


Polly Hill Arboretum website: