414. Peters Hill

Peters Hill

At 240 feet, the peak of Peters Hill is the second-highest point in Boston, after Bellevue Hill (330 feet) in the West Roxbury neighborhood. Acquired in 1895, this parcel of land fulfilled a goal of founding director Charles Sprague Sargent: a space for plantings which “need not necessarily be permanent.” Over the years, Peters Hill has hosted various experimental plantings. In the early 1900s, this space was home to hundreds of hawthorns—a specific fascination of Sargent’s. After World War II, most of these were removed, and crabapples and conifers were planted. Today, the hill also contains many of the Arboretum’s nationally recognized ginkgos.

Horticulturist Laura Mele maintains Peters Hill. Hear her speak about her experience tending 45 historic acres.

My name is Laura Mele. I’m a Horticulturist here at the Arnold Arboretum, and my main area is Peters Hill.

I really like to manage such a large area as Peters Hill. It’s, I believe it’s 45, 46 acres. I like it because it’s one of the areas that is not as high maintenance. It’s more of, I wouldn’t say wild area, but it is more natural area. So unlike the BRC or the LG (Leventritt Garden), things can be a little bit more natural. And I really like that. That allows for less resource needed, so I kind of like that balance of, the acreage on Peters Hill definitely needs a lot of care, but ... It’s a balance—balancing the resources of how much you have to do and how much you don’t have to do—and I really, I appreciate that.

I got into this field at 18. I got my first landscape job, it was in Oregon, and I just fell in love, and it was just a mowing job. I basically mowed lawns and took care of residential lawn care programs, and I just loved being outside all day and being physical. I grew up in the suburbs, so I had no idea that you could do this for a living, and I felt like I had just found home.

From there, I went to school. I got my associates degree in horticulture at UConn and worked for some landscape companies, and then got into tree work, basically because the landscape companies would lay everybody off in the winter. So I joined up with a local tree service and pruned apple trees all winter long, which I loved. So that’s what got me into more of the arboriculture work.

Then coming to the Arboretum has been the greatest gift, because it’s almost like back where I started, where I have, there’s an orchard of so many Malus trees and hawthorn trees, and it’s what I love to do, and they’re all just waiting to be pruned, so that makes me happy. But yeah, this has been such a gift, coming to work here, because it’s really about the plants. To be able to work somewhere where our only goal is to take care of these plants is such… I’m very grateful. I have a lot of gratitude for what I do for work every day.

I think what I like so much about horticulture is, it almost sounds silly, but I feel like no matter how old I get, if you see, if you plant a seed and you see something come up, it is still so amazing. It’s still like, “That’s amazing.” I feel like I hold that at any age. So to be able to ... It’s a real ... I enjoy being able to help plants grow and be well, but also acknowledge that they’ve been doing fine without us for millions of years. So, I mean, it’s kind of a humbling experience, of being able to contribute to their wellbeing, but also know that they’re okay. So that’s an honor to be able to do.

Last week before it snowed, I was trying to cut down some Campsis vine for the season, and this guy ran by and he said, it was one of those days where it had been rainy, rainy, rainy, and then there was a little bit of sun. So I was doing that, and a guy ran by and he said, “Who has the best job in the world?” And I was like, “I do.” I mean you couldn’t have scripted it better, but, and I feel that way too. Even when they pass me and I’m in the rain, shoveling snow, it’s still, it is really the best job.

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