Hills Garden Club of Wellesley gets down in the dirt for beauty

The day was overcast but spirits were high among Hills Garden Club of Wellesley (HGCW) members who showed up Tuesday at Sprague Clock Tower Park, one of the town’s National Register of Historic Places sites, for their yearly bulb-planting civic project.

Hills Garden Club of Wellesley, Clock Tower Park
Hills Garden Club of Wellesley, Clock Tower Park

Maintaining the 1.25-acre town-owned beauty spot is a true partnership between the Club and the Department of Public Works. Across the park, DPW crew members were dealing with the last of the fallen leaves from the mature maples and oaks that grace the park. Meanwhile, DPW horticultural technician Suzy Jordan had arrived, Santa-like, bearing sacks and sacks of spring-flowering bulbs. In conference with club members, Jordan pointed out spots in the park that needed a fresh infusion of color. HGCW donated the funds for the town to purchase the bulbs—this year it was 600 tulips and 1k daffodils.

An embarrassment of riches

Why so many? Generally speaking, tulips are treated as an annual, meaning they don’t come back year after year, or if they do, they’re never as robust as year one. Plus, rodents tend to treat tulip bulbs as snacks. Planting hundreds of tulips every fall ensures that enough will make it through the winter to put on a fine display. It’s a system that works at Clock Tower Park, a place that’s untroubled by deer who will, as many Wellesley gardeners can tell you, dig up and eat every, single tulip bulb they can find. Daffodils are another story. Poisonous to small rodents, the chipmunks and voles leave them alone. In fact, a sturdy clump of King Alfreds can last decades. If HGCW members come across any last-year’s bulbs while planting, they don’t toss them. Planters simply tuck them back into bed and plant around them. More bulbs, more better is the philosophy.

Hills Garden Club of Wellesley, Clock Tower Park
Sacks of daffodils, ready for their new home at Clock Tower Park.

HGCW president M.J. McGee says that during the spring, summer, and fall all 50 of the club’s active members (and some of the sustainers) at some time during each season does a 2-hour maintenance shift in the park. “We weed, we prune, we plant. If you want to contribute to the town this is a way to do it. I always say we grow friendships.”

During monthly meetings, the club hosts speakers on everything from composting, to planting the right tree for the right space, to container gardening. “One thing that’s different about our club is we meet in each other’s homes, so it really fosters a sense of community,” McGee says.

Hills Garden Club of Wellesley, Clock Tower Park
This clump of tulip bulbs will be planted 6″-8″ deep to protect them from frost.

Now for the tough question—when’s the next HGCW garden tour? The last one was in 2015 and featured such glories as an estate garden, a shade garden, a cottage garden, and a formal garden. Alas, at this time plans for a tour is not in the works, but maybe in the future. Meditate over the possibility by taking a spin around the labyrinth, located in the west side of Clock Tower Park. Built in 2018 in conjunction with the club, the town’s Park & Tree Division, and town landscape planner Cricket Vlass, the project interweaves stone and grass within the existing ground plane to create a contemplative area.

clock tower park labyrinth
Clock Tower Park labyrinth, 2018

For information about joining the Hills Garden Club of Wellesley, email the club’s membership chairs at hgcwinfo@gmail.com  or visit their website at HGCW.org.

Sprague Clock Tower Park, Wellesley
Sprague Clock Tower Park, fall 2022

Wellesley Clock Tower Park
Photo credit: The Hills Garden Club of Wellesley. Spring blooms

More Wellesley Hills garden talent


Comellas, Wellesley
Just one of the beautiful window boxes at Comellas, across the street from Clock Tower Park.


Holly Cleaners, Wellesley
Holly Cleaners always has a beautiful window box situation going on. Love the bright pink containers and harmonious plantings.

For information about joining the club, email the club’s membership chairs at hgcwinfo@gmail.com  or visit their website at HGCW.org.