Photo of Grace Elton by the Worcester Business Journal.

By Grace Elton

April marked my one-year anniversary at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. Leaving a job and a city that I loved and moving to New England felt like a big risk for me and my family. However, Tower Hill has a certain draw. After learning more about the Garden and the community that supports it, that feeling of risk quickly turned to excitement.

Over the past year, my pride for this Garden has grown each month. What I have come to cherish about Tower Hill is that we are more than a collection of plants, more than an outdoor learning environment, and more than a beautiful place for an event. Our visitors let Tower Hill become part of their lives and they often spend some of the most significant moments here. I have seen marriage proposals joyfully accepted, weddings and baby showers that bring loved ones together, and memorial services where lives are celebrated.

Our parent organization, the Worcester County Horticultural Society, has been a part of the Worcester community since 1842. Over the years, the Society and the Garden have both adapted to the needs of a changing community and have managed to not only remain relevant, but to be a progressive thought leader, holding fast to our values of learning, stewardship, sustainability, inclusivity, joy, and excellence. Our values are more than buzz words, but principles that we integrate into every aspect of the Garden.

I have great admiration for my Tower Hill colleagues. They are creative, hard working, and have a true passion for carrying out the mission of the Garden. They are willing to take risks and develop creative programming to attract new audiences, such as Botanical Tattoo Weekend and In Bloom: Stempunk. They are eager to take the initiative to show that Tower Hill is a place that welcomes all, such as raising a rainbow flag in support of Worcester Pride week. They find ways to give a sense of belonging and comfort to groups who may feel displaced, such as the educational programs we provide for the Worcester Refugee Assistance Program. They care about and support each other, working together to accomplish all of this as a team.

This teamwork resulted in our beautiful garden attracting more visitors over the past year than ever before. I believe that this is because of the welcoming environment that we create. This momentum continues as we work to connect more people to the natural world in new ways. We are currently working on plans to expand Tower Hill, adding a family-focused garden in the coming years.  In order to welcome the growing crowds, we will also be expanding and improving our infrastructure. I have to admit that I’m having a blast designing a new entrance and parking lots. Although on paper these this might seem like mundane design projects, it means that we will have the ability to connect more people to Tower Hill and our mission and I get to help figure out how to make a parking lot as beautiful as the formal gardens.

The dedication of our visitors, those who have walked the grounds for decades and those who are just discovering us; the enthusiasm of our staff in each new initiative they undertake; and our bold steps towards creating a garden for all keep me excited about being at Tower Hill. We continue to connect to people in meaningful ways, fostering curiosity, inspiring creativity, and cultivating community. If all of that excitement can be stirred up in just one year, I cannot wait for the next!

CEO Grace Elton with her staff.