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,” nine of them donated and decorated by Natick businesses and 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 decorated trees, donated by local businesses and individuals. To win a tree, enter the tree raffle in person or online, with raffle proceeds benefiting the educational and garden development programs at Mass Hort.
Mass Hort Trustee Gretel Anspach says 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.”
Stephanie Smith, a Natick resident and co-owner of holiday design business Occasional Magic, was excited to stretch her creative muscle and “do something fun and different” for her tree “Frozen.” Stephanie said she was inspired to design a beautiful tree “that people would be happy to have in their own home.”
Natick tree designers and donors
- A Friend of MHS—“Robin’s Gifts”
- Beth Gray-Nix (two trees!)—“Berry Bruin” and “Bees and Buds”
- Friends of the Bacon Free Library—“Caps for Sale”
- MIL Stitchers—“Christmas at the Beach”
- Natick Garden Club—“New England Winter”
- Natick Soccer—“Kicks”
- Stray Pets in Need—“Santa’s Beanies”
The Festival of Trees is open through December 31. For information on days, times and tickets, go to www.masshort.org/festival-of-trees.