Rambling through autumn's riches

Tim Boland
Teaching as he goes, Tim Boland of the Polly Hill Arboretum leads a group of nature lovers through the West Tisbury Public Library grounds. Photos by Ralph Stewart

By Pat Waring - October 18, 2007

If you're lucky enough to live on Martha's Vineyard, you can find plenty of natural beauty right in your own back yard. That was the implicit message of last week's ramble through some little-known West Tisbury woodlands, led by Tim Boland, executive director of the Polly Hill Arboretum. In this case, the yards were located at the West Tisbury Public Library and the historic Old Mill, headquarters of the Martha's Vineyard Garden Club. Taking advantage of a welcome break in the week's rains, more than a dozen intrepid nature lovers gathered outside the library on Oct. 9. They followed Mr. Boland around the library grounds as he pointed out tree after tree, offering esoteric information as he went.

After scrambling down a hilly dirt path behind the library then through some underbrush, the group arrived behind the Old Mill, an area rich with trees and shrubs.

multi-flora rose berries
Bright multi-flora rose berries are a common Vineyard autumn sight.

Throughout the afternoon, Mr. Boland shared horticultural information, historical tidbits, traditional tales, and answered countless questions from the intrigued group members. He pointed out the difference between types of maple trees, explained what makes leaves turn bright in autumn and how stress and drought makes them fall. He picked sprigs of berries and evergreen needles and opened seeds so everyone could have a look, and talked about the buds and blossoms that would appear in spring. Thanks to Mr. Boland's expertise and love of nature, every tree and shrub became the focus of a fascinating lesson.

After more than an hour of meandering, observing, and learning, the adventurers returned reluctantly to the library parking lot and said goodbye. But not before enthusiastically taking Mr. Boland up on his offer to do a buds and bark walk on the library grounds when the weather turns wintry.

But those who want to get a new perspective on nature need not wait until the snow flies. The Polly Hill Arboretum will host a staff-led tree walk on Nov. 3. The brisk afternoon exploration will be topped off by a soup-making demonstration by Cathy Walthers, author of "Raising the Salad Bar."

For more information on the Polly Hill Arboretum, call 508-693-9426 or visit pollyhillarboretum.org.