By Robert Burgess
Tower Hill staff

If you’ve visited Tower Hill Botanic Garden before, you know it is a must-see New England destination. But did you know that Tower Hill is much more than a pretty place? Staff, volunteers, and members work year-round to help improve the lives of as many people as possible by connecting them to plants. Tower Hill, a nonprofit organization run by the Worcester County Horticultural Society, is focused on inclusivity and wants as many people to experience the benefits of plants and nature as possible. Here are a few examples…

Tower Hill’s Cottage Garden.

Senior Tuesdays
Through a generous donation from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Tower Hill was able to offer free admission to seniors on Tuesdays in September 2017. This allowed visitors ages 65 and up the opportunity to enjoy valuable time socializing, walking, and exploring the gardens, regardless of their income level. Often families with multiple generations used this program as an opportunity to visit a place they can all enjoy together.

The Worcester Tree Initiative
Responding to the invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle infestation, the Worcester Tree Initiative formed in 2009 to educate the public and help replant areas in the city where susceptible trees were removed. Tower Hill has been a strong advocate of WTI’s since its inception and now WTI functions as a program of Tower Hill as the important work of tree advocacy and urban forests continues.

EBT Card to Culture
Tower Hill has been offering a discounted admission price since 2014 to those with EBT cards. This is part of the state’s EBT Card to Culture program which offers discounts to museums all over Massachusetts.

WRAP students at Tower Hill.

A Refuge for Refugees
The Worcester Refugee Assistance Project (WRAP), a network of individuals committed to assisting local refugees from Burma achieve sustainable self‐reliance through mentoring, advocacy, and material support, partners with Tower Hill to re-connect program participants with nature in an effort to build community. Children and teens are able to cook, garden, draw, and hike together while making connections with their new home.

Library Passes
While admission helps support Tower Hill’s operations, staff want anyone to be able to enjoy all that Tower Hill has to offer, which is why Tower Hill makes available discount passes at more than 150 area libraries that can be reserved in advance of a visit.

Fresh produce donations
Each growing season, Tower Hill’s staff and volunteers collect fresh fruit and vegetables to donate to our local food pantry in Worcester. In 2017, more than 1,000 pounds was harvested from our Vegetable Garden and Youth Garden for Rachel’s Table patrons to bring home to their families.

Sharing the Garden
Tower Hill staff want everyone to be able to enjoy the physical and psychological benefits of being close to nature and plants. In the past, Tower Hill has partnered with the Highland Street Foundation to provide free admission one day per summer. In 2018, Tower Hill is offering Free After Three Thursdays from June through September.

Worcester second grade field trip.

Worcester second-graders
With support from the George I. Alden Trust, The Stoddard Trust and in collaboration with the Worcester Education Development Foundation, Tower Hill is honored to host every second-grader in the Worcester Public School System on field trips to the gardens where students and teachers are able to reinforce STEM lessons learned in the classroom. Whenever children visit the gardens, they learn a little bit more about where their food comes from, why pollinators are important, how they can become nature’s advocates, and more.

Garden Within Reach
The Court: A Garden Within Reach opened in 2015 to offer a space on the property where visitors of all ages and levels of mobility could get close to plants and experience the positive benefits of time spent in nature. Journey Through Memory, which helps caregivers and people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, uses the Garden Within Reach. And volunteers from organizations like the Seven Hills Foundation help plant the garden each spring.

The Garden Within Reach.

Robert Burgess is the public relations manager at Tower Hill Botanic Garden and can be reached at