Winter nights mean warm lights at two regional botanical gardens

November may seem an odd time to think about botanic gardens, but two of southern New England’s best-known tempt us outdoors with colorful holiday events from Thanksgiving to New Years.

Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Boylston, MA, for instance, holds an evening festival of lights called “Winter Reimagined.” They wrap about 30 acres of trees and shrubs in LED lights, hold marshmallow roasts, and open their greenhouses to thousands of night visitors. 

In Bristol, RI, on Narragansett Bay, Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum takes the holidays outdoors with two winter events. It holds Sparkle Nights on Friday evenings in November and December. Staff and volunteers deck the mansion in themed holiday décor. Outside, lantern-lit pathways lead to warm greenhouses and bonfires where visitors enjoy hot cocoa, s’mores, crafts, and singing. Also, Blithewold visitors to Thursday tea in December can take a “Starlight Stroll” on lantern-lit paths until 8 p.m. Learn more from my recent article at Zip06/TheDay.

Blithewold greenhouse

Photo: Blithewold Mansion, Gardens, and Arboretum, Bristol, RI

What is a botanical garden?

These increasingly popular destinations offer horticultural and botanic displays and education to both public and professionals. They are distinguished from other open spaces and museums, however, by the practice of collecting and studying plants and keeping long-term records of those plants’ growth characteristics. Arboreta (a.k.a, arboretums) have the same practices but specialize in trees and shrubs. Botanic gardens and arboreta usually label plants with common names, botanical names, and sometimes their places of origin. And, in case you're wondering, there is no difference between a botanic and botanical garden.