Story By: Shannon Horowitz
Video By: Shannon O’Connor
George and Ellen “Westy” Lovejoy first encountered the Boston Public Garden in 1956, while on their honeymoon. They stayed at the hotel that was once the Ritz (now the Taj, across the street from the park.) That day, they strolled through the park and took the brief passage aboard a swan boat. The were in love, and they were, it seemed to them, in the city’s version of Paradise. – the Public Garden.
After the honeymoon, Ellen and George returned to their home in Weston. They spent much of the time raising their four sons outdoors, hiking and picnicking around their home, as well as around the world. The family hiked in Nepal, near the Annapurna Mountain range in 1995, and five years later, traveled to Africa.
In 1985, they returned to Boston from Weston, Massachusetts. “When we left Weston, I said I wanted a garden and a place to park my car,” said Westy, “In Boston, we found a place to park my car, but no garden…because we were on the 10th floor. George got me involved with Friends of the Garden, and that was the beginning of my garden.”
For 25 years, Westy has worked on the Horticulture committee, dealing with all three domains under its care: the Mall on Commonwealth Ave., the Boston Public Garden and the Boston Common. Since the garden is at full capacity with trees, and the mall only replaces fallen trees, she mainly deals with soil compaction and maintenance of the trees and soil.
So far, Westy has donated three trees to the park: A willow tree by the pond near Boylston street, a maple tree near Arlington Street, and a sawtooth oak that overlooks the pond. The willow tree has a plaque dedicated to their four (now adult) sons, George, Edward (Ned), Philip and Henry. It was placed there in the mid 90s.
“We always tried to grow a willow,” said Westy, “We have a farm in New Hampshire and the kids always wanted a willow.”
The Lovejoy passion for preservation has been passed down to the sons, in particular, Philip who, “is in Northern Vermont on an organic off-the-grid farm, raising beef, lambs, chickens…”
“Forests are a big part of our life,” says George Lovejoy, “We protect a lot of land up in New Hampshire. We have several thousand acres, which we harvest. So again, it’s a connection, a back-to-back connection when we think of how we memorialize the boys..” They have owned the land up in New Hampshire since 1964, and harvest timber and wood from it. Taking and giving back, the circle continued with the donation of the maple tree.
The maple tree that Westy donated actually has a plaque on it memorializing another person. “Now what they do is they take money for old existing trees and they are putting plaques on those for new owners,” She explained, “So that’s what happened to my maple, which is great, because it brought money in. And I can still think of it as my tree.”
The last tree is one of Westy’s favorites.
Near the willow with the plaque donated to her sons, by the pond, sits the sawtooth oak. Westy specifically wanted that tree for the garden because of its distinctive leaves.
“It has very narrow leaves, and you think of an oak being sort of wide with serrated edges. They’re like willow leaves.” It was planted there in the mid 2000s.
The Lovejoys still love to care for the Garden, and look to the future. The couple, along with the Friends of The Public Garden, understand the impact that the park has and its contribution to the urban environment, even the adjacent hotels. “The park is a great benefit to the hotel. They recognize that benefit and they’re generous,” says George Lovejoy. The Taj is actually a sponsor of the Green and White Ball, a fundraising event that Friends of The Public Garden holds each year. So far this year, the Friends have raised over $200,000 to be used for restoration.
“I think this is a wonderful oasis,” says Westy, “and I wish the city would spend more money to help it keep going. But the Friends of the Public Garden have done a wonderful job. “