Festive crowd honors Polly Hill at 100

Nina Schneider
Among the guests was Nina Schneider who is known for her splendid flower gardens at her West Tisbury home. Photos by Lynn Christoffers

By Pat Waring - February 8, 2007

It seemed as though every conservationist, gardener, farmer, and plant lover on the Island turned out at the Polly Hill Arboretum last week to honor Polly Hill on the grand occasion of her 100th birthday. Ms. Hill herself remained at home in Delaware, where, according to arboretum director Tim Boland, she remains healthy, active, and still passionately interested in horticulture. But some 200 well-wishers celebrated, filling the new greenhouse with conversation and laughter, taking photos, and feasting on a sweet buffet, including scrumptious cupcakes baked by students in the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School Culinary Arts Department.

Tim Boland
Tim Boland, arboretum director, welcomed partygoers and explained features of the new greenhouse.

Mr. Boland recalled driving around with Ms. Hill looking at plants in 2002, the last summer she spent here.

"I asked Polly what we could do to preserve and enhance her horticultural legacy," he said. "Her response was pure Polly - 'Grow!'"

"She always is thinking about the future," he said with admiration.

Ms. Hill began the arboretum in 1957 at the property, which was her family's summer home, and for years it thrived under her personal care. In 1997 it became the Polly Hill Arboretum, a public garden and scientific institution devoted to the cultivation and study of plants.

The new greenhouse, nick-named the Polly House, is attached to an old shed which has been renovated to provide storage, office, and study space; a corridor to the greenhouse will be equipped with benches for working with plants. The double-layered polyethylene structure is energy efficient and can be used for growing new plants, research, and educational activities, Mr. Boland said.

"It was such a great day," said Mr. Boland. "People are pleased that Polly is doing so well and that we could celebrate her life and give her something she always wanted - a greenhouse!"