The Worcester County Horticultural Society, the third oldest active horticultural society in the United States, is a non-profit educational organization formed for the purpose of advancing the science and encouraging and improving the practice of horticulture. Tower Hill’s history began in the fall of 1840. During the annual cattle show of the Worcester Agricultural Society, 24 professionals, merchants and public officials staged a fruit and flower display, which was received with rave reviews. The success of the fruit and flower show inspired the original 24 men to create the Worcester County Horticultural Society in 1842.
The continued success of the Society created a demand for a building to house offices, a library and exhibitions. In 1851, the Society’s first headquarters was built in downtown Worcester and weekly summer shows highlighted the produce and gardens of this thriving agricultural community. The crops were so robust and varied that in 1855 one exhibitor alone showed more than 200 varieties of pears! The Society continued to grow and by 1867, the annual exhibition had to be moved. By 1928, the Society had outgrown its Front Street property, so land was purchased to build a new headquarters, Horticultural Hall, at 30 Elm Street in Worcester. During the 1940s, as agriculture shifted and the large 19th and early 20th century country estate gardeners that had supported exhibitions dwindled, the exhibitions themselves decreased. In 1983 the Society turned its sights toward cultivating gardens. In 1986, the Society set its focus on creating a botanic garden at Tower Hill Farm in Boylston. The Society set to work with Environmental Planning and Design of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to produce a 50-year Master Plan for the garden, which would guide its development in the years to come.
Today, Tower Hill Botanic Garden features a year-round display of the finest plants for cultivation in New England. Carefully planned gardens and collections of ornamental, edible and native plants, plus trails that enhance the natural features of this beautiful 171-acre property and a robust program and event schedule make Tower Hill a year-round destination.
View Tower Hill Botanic Garden’s historical timeline here.
In 2014 the Society adopted a new mission and now commits itself to: Inspire the use and appreciation of horticulture to improve lives, enrich communities and strengthen commitment to the natural world.
We educate ourselves and our communities through our gardens, our programs and our collaborations.
We honor what has been entrusted to us as we meet the challenges – and opportunities – of the future.
We seek to connect people and plants for the benefit of the planet.
We welcome everyone to share in the joys of gardening and understand why plants matter in our lives.
We delight in the inherent beauty of plants, gardens and our natural world.
We strive for excellence in everything we do.
Growing a Better Future with People and Plants.
Our vision for the next five years builds on Tower Hill Botanic Garden’s unique vantage point atop Tower Hill in Central New England. We will grow our gardens and programs to connect with new audiences and deepen our relationship with those who know us.
Our gardens will become a must-see destination drawing visitors from near and far. We will strive to become a collection of people and plants that can make a difference beyond our boundaries. We will work with others to develop and disseminate plant-based solutions to societal issues. Finally, we will lead some of those efforts to build a better world with plants and people.