Dr. David Smith, Polly Hill and Trudy Coxe hold the state's check. Photo by Mark Alan Lovewell.
State environmental affairs secretary Trudy Coxe this week contributed the state’s share of $300,000 towards the preservation of the Polly Hill Arboretum Inc.
Before an audience of 60 people at the Barnard Inn Farm in West Tisbury on Tuesday, the state environmental affairs secretary praised the efforts of Polly Hill and the unusual partnership that has arisen with David H. Smith and his foundation.
The state participated in the preservation of the 60-acre property to insure that it is never developed. Contributors provided the remainder of the $1.8 million acquisition price.
“I can’t tell you how important this land acquisition is, how important Polly Hill is to the community, not just as a horticulturist but in terms of setting an example to other landowners,” said Miss Coxe.
“This is part of an overall strategic plan on the Island in this area.
“It is true Massachusetts has one of the better land acquisition and protection programs anywhere in the country,” she said.
David H. Smith told the audience that the 60-plus acres was an entirely different place 50 years ago when Mrs. Hill began growing plants on the property. “This was a sheep farm. The sheep had eaten the grass,” he said. Over the years Mrs. Hill experimented with a variety of plants. “She did it all from seed. Everything you see on this property came from seed. Polly is a risk-taker, a person who is really unafraid to challenge dogma. The dogma said you have certain plants for certain areas,” he said. After 50 years of effort, there are a wide variety of plants no one would expect to find growing well here. Mr. Smith invited those in attendance to spend an hour and walk through the property. “Everything you see was not here 50 years ago.”
After praising the outcome of this land acquisition, state Department of Environmental Management commissioner Peter C. Webber said there are huge trees growing on the property which are rare for the area -- these include hollies, magnolias, rhododendrons and stewartia. He said there are 75 New England champion trees, a pleasant surprise to state foresters who have researched the property.
Mrs. Hill will retain a life estate in the property and will continue to do her work with the assistance of the Winter Garden staff. The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University will use the site as a working laboratory for primary schoolchildren. Public access will be provided.
Miss Coxe presented Mrs. Hill with a pewter plate to be engraved later. Miss Coxe said the special plate with a Massachusetts seal is given to friends of the state, an expression of appreciation for her 50 years of work. “We adore you,” said the environmental affairs secretary.
Miss Coxe said of the 90-year-old Polly Hill: “She is my role model.”