There’s lots to dazzle the young and young-at-heart at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s 14th Annual Festival of Trees, on display through Dec. 31 at The Garden at Elm Bank, 900 Washington St., Wellesley. Gaze in awe at 70 beautifully and whimsically decorated indoor “trees,” many of them donated and decorated by Wellesley businesses, organizations, or residents. (Can a tree also be a wreath, a pile of books, and cat climbing structure? Sure!) Stroll the garden grounds hung with holiday lights, where a hot dog truck is on hand for some quick sustenance, and fire pits are ablaze for both warmth and s’more making. Discover the 400 village buildings of the Snow Village model railroad crisscrossed with several hundred feet of train track.
We met Bill Meagher of Needham, the conductor and mastermind of the Snow Village, as he was powering up the trains in the morning. The room buzzed with the drone of whizzing trains and clanging bells traveling between themed villages such as Dickens Village (look for “Downton Abby”), the North Pole (Bill’s favorite), and Christmas in the City (with the iconic Citgo sign overlooking Fenway Park).
As a young boy in Pawtucket, Bill would climb to the third-floor tenement apartment of his carpenter granduncle who would build small wooden houses and set up a train set for Christmas. Bill said he “loved going there…and always liked Christmas.”
This childhood inspiration motivated Bill in his 50s to start collecting model villages and train sets. He initially converted a bedroom into a staging area for his growing collection, and then expanded to his barn, complete with two stories of track.
Viewing was strictly for family and friends until he met Ellen, a Master Gardener at Mass Hort. After the two walked down the aisle side-by-side in marriage, Ellen next led him down the path to Mass Hort. Bill was inspired to donate his Snow Village model railroad to Mass Hort seven years ago, and ever since has volunteered 15-20 hours a week opening and maintaining the Snow Village model railroad during the Festival of Trees season.
And what’s a Festival of Trees without trees? Visit the antique carriage house to delight at 70 “trees,” decorated and donated by local businesses and individuals. To enter to win a tree, purchase raffle tickets in person or online. Raffle proceeds benefit the educational and garden development programs at Mass Hort.
Mass Hort Trustee Gretel Anspach says that the Festival of Trees is a great opportunity to expose people to Mass Hort at Elm Bank where they can enjoy the light display “highlighting the magnificent ancient trees and beautiful winter structure of the formal gardens, showing that gardens are for the whole year…and learn more about Mass Hort’s mission.”
The Wellesley Natural Resources Commission’s themed tree, “A Green Community,” was something of a town-wide effort. Lisa Moore, Environmental Education, Outreach, and Compliance Coordinator, says that she “put a call out as a community art challenge, asking for people to create holiday ornaments out of found objects in nature or reused and recycled materials. Over 100 original handmade ornaments were created and donated. Wellesley Brownie and Girl Scout troops joined the community art challenge and made dozens of wonderful ornaments, along with residents, board members and NRC staff.” Lisa noted that the winner of the NRC’s tree will also receive gifts including songbird and hummingbird feeders, a butterfly box, a rain barrel, and more.
Wellesley tree designers and donors
- Mass Hort Library Volunteers—“Santa Brings a Read” (A gardener’s winter reading fantasy.)
- New England Outdoor Camp—“Set in Nature, Rooted in Wonder, Bursting with FUN!” (Win some camp time for your outdoorsy kid!)
- Mass Hort Friends Council—“Quack” (Make way for these feathered fowl statues in your garden.)
- Mass Hort Staff—“Grow, Grow, Grow” (Additional giveaways to keep you visiting year-round.)
- The House and Garden Club of Wellesley—“Sea Shells By The Garden” (Creatively combining art and nature.)
- Villa DiCzynski—“Fruits and Berries”
- Wellesley Garden Study Club—“Celebrating All Creatures Big and Small” (For the Eric Carle book lover.)
- Wellesley Gardeners’ Guild—“Gingerbread Joy” (Books and baking, and all things gingerbread.)
- Wellesley Lions Club—“Kindness Through Service”
The Festival of Trees is open through December 31. For information on days, times and tickets, go to www.masshort.org/festival-of-trees.