Martha’s Vineyard: Five Reasons Why You Need to Add Polly Hill Arboretum to Your List

Polly Hill Arboretum, MV

The last time that I visited Polly Hill Arboretum was in the Fall. I was immediately greeted by the smell of woodlands mixed with sweet rain from earlier that morning. The fog lifted its veil revealing color and form in a public garden that is pure magic. I’ve missed the turn to PHA in West Tisbury many times. There is something about driving along State Road after being away from the vineyard. Combine that with your favorite playlist and a good cup of coffee. That afternoon was no different. Yes, I missed the turn. I was caught up in the pastoral scenes along the way. It gets me every time. If you have never been to Polly Hill Arboretum, I can give you five reasons why you need to add her to your list. 

Polly Hill Arboretum, MV

Polly Hill is History

Old stone fences meander around the 72 acre public garden reminding you of a different time on the vineyard. In 1926, Polly Hill’s family purchased what was then Barnard’s Inn Sheep Farm for use as a summer home. Historical records on the property go back as far as 1669. The offices are in a building once referred to as the Homestead and were built around 1750. The Far Barn was built the same year. Even the yellow stone fireplace that sits under a shady tree has a story. It was once a place where Polly and her family would gather. Over time, the Lichen plant gave the fireplace its vivid yellow color.

It is art and wonder

Sculpture by artist Bill O’Callaghan

Whether it is creatively tucked behind a tree, posed in an open meadow, or on a secluded path, art is synchronized with nature in the most clever way at Polly Hill.  It doesn’t matter your age as this is a place of wonder. At the time of my last visit, I was treated to the sculptures of Bill O’Callaghan, an island artisan. I was transported to a storybook set deep in a forest with woodland fairies and whimsical figures. Be sure to visit his sculpture and pottery shop, Island Folk Pottery in Chilmark. Things are always fresh at Polly Hill.  Be sure to check out their website for information on current exhibits.

Sculpture by artist Bill O’Callaghan

Polly Hill is Education

Polly Hill was a world renowned horticulturist who acquired her family farm in 1958. At the age of 50, she began the process of sowing seeds. She took a big chance as many of the seeds were from different parts of the world.  There was a chance that many of the trees and shrubs would not flourish in the soil and climate conditions of the vineyard. Thankfully they did. PHA has been open as a public garden since 1998. In 2015, it was given the distinction and honor by the National Park Service by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today elementary as well as high school students come for the learning experience. PHA also serves as a place for internships in order to carry on Polly Hill’s mission in horticulture.

The Arboretum is Mindfulness

Even if you don’t practice mindfulness, it happens when you set foot here. Time stops and you are no longer looking at your phone. The air is richer and colors are more vibrant. There are opportunities for your own personal growth and mindfulness at PHA. Check out some of their current classes and events. What better setting than here?

Polly Hill Arboretum, MV

Polly  Hill is Nature at its finest

Did you know that there are close to 2000 varieties of plants, shrubs and trees? Be prepared to wander through pathways and meadows that take you past witch hazels, conifers, holly bushes, and rhododendrons just to name a few.  My favorite is the Monkey Puzzle Tree from Chile. Polly and her legacy is found everywhere you look.

Polly Hill lived to be 100. Her goal was to study and cultivate plants. By doing so, she cultivated joy for others. That is a life well lived and a great legacy to leave behind. For hours of operation please refer to the website. 

Don’t miss the turn off and enjoy your visit!


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