Worcester Business Journal photo of CEO Grace Elton.

By Grace Elton 
New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill CEO

After four months on the job as CEO of New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill, I wanted to reflect on what I’ve learned and observed while I still have the perspective of being fairly new.

Originally from south Florida, I have also lived and worked at gardens in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and the UK. I had only ever visited New England once before considering this job, so many people often ask me what drew me to New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill. At the time I accepted the job, I could only say that something irresistible was pulling me to this Garden, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what that was. Now, after a few months of reflection, I can say that it is the plants, the people, and the Garden’s mission.

Farmhouse in the fall.

Last October, my husband and I first visited New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill when I was considering applying for this new job. We left Virginia and drove north through Washington DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and finally Massachusetts. Honestly, we were questioning why we were looking at a Garden so far from home, but as we drove north, the fall colors became more and more vibrant and the forests became more dense and beautiful. Once we reached Tower Hill, we made the slow approach up Fuller Drive, and as we first saw the meadows and old apple orchard, our blood pressure dropped and we could tell that we were in a special place. At that time, most of the perennial gardens were starting to go into their winter dormancy, the ornamental grasses were in full bloom, and the Conservatories were filled with tropical potted plants. We loved not only the formal gardens, but also the trails, the wildlife pond, and the breathtaking view of the Wachusett Reservoir. Fast forward a few months from that initial visit, I started working full time at the Garden in early April and I have greatly enjoyed the experience of seeing the New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill landscape break dormancy and come into bloom for the first time. You only get one first spring in a Garden and I’ve treasured every minute of it!

View of the Wachusett Reservoir.

Working in gardens around the world, I have enjoyed observing the connection that visitors have with horticulture in different cultures. The plants lay the foundation