In 1793, a Boston merchant named Theodore Lyman began developing his country estate in Waltham, Massachusetts. He hired an English gardener by the name of William Bell to lay out the property in the English picturesque style. Fascinated with agriculture and horticulture, Lyman’s property included large specimen trees, open fields, a pond system, a kitchen garden, and a greenhouse complex which is still in use today. It is among the oldest greenhouses in the country.
The greenhouses were used to grow a variety of hard-to-obtain fruits such as pineapples, figs, lemons, limes, and bananas. During the 1870s one of the greenhouses was transformed into a grapery. Three-and-a-half-foot-high ground beds were constructed of brick to hold soil for the root systems. Visit the Lyman greenhouses in June to taste the Black Hamburg grapes, still growing today. Cuttings were obtained from the royal greenhouses at Hampton Court, the former palace of King Henry VIII in England! Wafts of fragrant herbs flourish here in the greenhouses. Sample the different varieties of the scented geranium.
If you visit from January to March, you will be dazzled by the luscious camellia blooms which burst forth in a profusion of color: reds, whites, pinks, and variegated. Originally built to grow peach trees, the camellia house at the Lyman Estate has one of the few collections still in existence today. Camellias were first introduced to America in the late eighteenth century by a French botanist, Andre Michaux. He brought them to Middleton Place, an estate in South Carolina. Boston soon became a center for camellia culture. Exotic houseplants, orchids, pottery, and gifts are available for purchase. Take home a piece of living history and some excellent photos!