Established in 1934, the Berkshire Botanical Garden is one of the oldest public display gardens in the Northeast. With over 3,000 species and varieties in its collection, it’s referred to as a “museum of living things” and is a showcase of horticulture and garden design.
Berkshire Botanical Garden encompasses 24 acres of land at the intersection of Routes 102 and 183 in beautiful and historic Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Producer Dave Fraser visited the garden and spoke with its Executive Director to find out what makes it so special for so many.
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Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Established in 1934, the Berkshire Botanical Garden is revered as one of the older public display gardens in the Northeast. With over 3,000 species and varieties in its collection, it’s referred to as a “Museum of Living Things” and is a showcase of horticulture and garden design.
It encompasses 24 acres of land at the intersection of Routes 102 and 183 in beautiful and historic Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and producer Dave Fraser visited the garden and spoke with its executive director to find out what makes it so special for so many.
Michael Beck, Berkshire Botanical Garden: We look at ourselves as a museum of living things, so we’re not a park. We’re not just a pleasure garden that you walk through and see beautiful things, but we’re really a collection of plants. So, people look at how many species there are and how many different types of plants we feature.
And botanical gardens sort of work together throughout the country, throughout the region, in communicating with one another and exchanging plants sometimes and exchanging science behind plants, as well.
Founded in 1934, and it was actually a collection of local garden clubs and civic organizations that got together and said, “oh, the Berkshires should really have a botanical garden.”
And so by 1935, there was an initial gift of land here that people started cultivating. The War years came shortly thereafter and really put us a little bit more on the map because the Botanical Gardens started focusing on our self-sufficiency because that was such a big theme during the War years.
And we became quite well-known for teaching people about growing your own fruits and vegetables. We had trial orchards on side. We had trial arbors where grapes were growing and vegetable plots. And so, what became known as Victory Gardens, that whole concept of growing your own produce and being self-sufficient, was very much something that the Botanical Garden was teaching the local population.
We are located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. So, in the heart of the Berkshires. We are about twenty four acres of gardens and wild areas.
Our main season is from May 1 through Columbus Day weekend, and that really coincides with a growing season. So, there’s not much really growing in the off season, but we’re very much open year-round.
We have classes year-round, so people come visit us even in the midst of winter. And the gardens themselves are actually quite beautiful in the middle of winter, as well. So, we have a lot of four-season interest.
If you look around, there are a lot of evergreen trees and shrubs, so they will just provide that structure in the middle of winter. And then you have this beautiful Berkshire snow scene developing. So, it’s almost as beautiful as it is in the middle of the season right now.
It’s a really great collection of different scaled garden rooms, I would say, and people really appreciate the fact that we’re not huge, we’re not a huge New York botanical garden or a Tower Hill. So, we’re at — the scale is as manageable. And you come here as a garden lover or a gardener yourself, and you can find things that fit on the scale of a home garden.
In a normal year and we’re heading into that normalcy again, you really go from town to town here in the Berkshires and you can really spend, you know, days and days just touring the county. And it’s certainly what attracted me to this area initially and originally.
And when I speak to newcomers to the area — and we’ve had quite a few as the result of COVID as well — you will hear that a lot. It’s sort of what attracts people’s attention even coming from a, you know, big metropolis like New York or Boston, people are quite taken by the quality and the quantity of what we offer here.