We moved to Winchester Ma., U.S.A. and began this Z.5 garden in 1987. Aside from an evergreen hedge, and various mature maples and conifers, nothing that you now see – was here.

There were no fences and the back of our property was a wild woodland of junk trees and scrub. We began our landscape design by laying out garden beds that were visible from key viewpoints in our house. As new gardeners, our interest was in perennial plants, particularly peonies , Siberian iris and daylilies. Our property had a variety of sun and shade situations and we dove into researching the vast world of Zone 5 -hardy perennials. We joined the Mass.Horticultural Society and The Garden Conservancy, subscribed to Horticulture and Fine Gardening magazines, attended many classes and workshops, and visited as many gardens as possible. And we learned volumes from garden owners, teachers, classmates and vendors.

After three years of intense garden development, our gardens were awarded the “Best in Show” prize in an amateur gardeners competition sponsored by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and Boston Magazine. For our prize, we were sent to Holland, where, at Trompenberg Arboretum, we discovered the wonderful world of conifers. This life-changing experience took us out of our perennials focus and raised our vision, literally and figuratively, so that we began to emphasize the ‘bones’ of our gardens- with conifers, shrubs and trees. Visiting private and public arboretums and gardens in New England, the Pacific Northwest and England- we further developed our passion for these plants, particularly for Japanese maples, dwarf conifers and variegated trees and shrubs.Ever aware of the peaceful influence of running water in the garden, we put in a number of fountains and built a series of waterfall/ponds- to mask the traffic noise and provide some quiet sitting spots. Over the years, various pieces of garden art, quirky, beautiful or funny, have found their way in and taken up residence.

If this is your first visit, you will be surprised how different the gardens look from one week to the next. In the spring, perennials are short, there are many empty spots, and the gardens have a much more open feeling. You can see from one area to the next. In the summer, plants grow taller and fill in so that the various gardens become their own ’garden rooms’. Fences disappear and flowering vines ramble over railings,walls and obelisks. By September, the plants are at their tallest,highlighted by the many ornamental grasses.

Things we hope you will notice: The role of purple foliage , yellow foliage and variegated foliage in keeping your eyes entertained; The role of varying heights in a garden bed; The role of hidden elements and glimpses of vistas – in drawing you into the various garden areas; The role of water elements; The roles of garden art and architecture. We are so glad you have come to share our gardens. Please bring friends and come back often.

**And remember- When you see a gate, open it and explore!!**

The Cotton-Arbo retum
The Way To Have What We Want Is To Share What We Have


Imagine My Surprise!:
Behind the Curtains at The Cotton-Arbo retum

So, my beloved partner in all things and gardening, Dudley, and I , were sitting at late dinner one night …after planting a few shrubs and trees and perennials … after Dudley had returned from a day of golf… after our morning spent planting. Just 10 days before, we had returned from our yearly nursery touring B’day trip to Ct. with a steamed-windows-van packed so full that pots were nestled on pots and the top 3’ of a 12’ tree stretched discretely between our seats so we could barely move, much less see out the rearview mirror. The past ten days had flown by with a wide diversity of activities: thinking about where to put things in the garden, making lists of where to put things in the garden, researching the special needs of new plants to be planted in the garden, re-thinking where to put things in the garden, making new lists of where to put things in the garden, planting in the garden, digging up new plants just planted in the garden and rotating them or repositioning them in their holes and replanting them in the garden, digging up those things just planted and re-locating them entirely in the garden, digging up things that were planted earlier in the garden ( the previous day, week, month, year or decade) and moving them to entirely new places in the garden, revising the lists of where to put things in the garden, planting in the garden, watering and staking what’s just been planted in the garden, and so many more varied activities. So, as Dudley and I were finishing our late night dinner, after I had finished telling him about the day’s plantings, imagine my surprise when he hesitatingly said, “Mindy, I think you need to get a little less intense about this planting stuff.” Now, tell me, dear friends, whatever could he mean?



This site is dedicated to the hundreds of gardeners, nursery owners and authors who have shared their knowledge with us over the years.

We are firm believers that Knowledge is a great gift, and that our lives would not be the same without having benefitted from these people.

Special “Chapeaux!” (French for ‘Hats Off!’ ) to Mr. Van Hooey Smith, Fred McGourty, Beth Chatto, Dan Hinkley, J.D. Vertrees, Michael Dirr, Allen Haskell, Bonnie Brown, Byron Getchel, Warren Leach and Phil Boucher, John Gallant, Andy Brand, Linda Cochran, Steve Antonow, Jerry Sedenko, Glen Patterson, Francesca Dart, Pam Frost, Thomas Hobbs, Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd, Christopher Lloyd, Lynden Miller, Frank Cabot, Tracy DiSabato Aust, Glen Withey and Charles Price, Ned Wells, Bob and Love Seawright, Anne Lovejoy, Peter del Tredici, Roger Gossler, Gary Koller, Pam Harper, Don Avery, Pierre Du Pont, and Ruth and Karl Roehrig. You are always in our thoughts and surrounded by our deep gratitude.

And to our really hardworking Unitarian, Derryfield, and other helpers over these many years: Eric, Susan, Margaret, Julia, Carter, Christian, Sam, Andy, Andy, Chris, Colin, Geoff; just look at what you helped accomplish!

To all of you, we hope that your collective ears are twitching and that you will visit soon. Certainly we could not have created this without you.

Rear Garden Entry


Tour Groups and The Cotton-Arbo retum

The Cotton-Arbo retum has received many garden club visits and we are delighted to host all garden groups, whether official or informal. Groups should allow 40-60 minutes to see the gardens. We can also provide a talk on the plants and design concepts on display in the garden, followed by a Q and A session. There are plenty of shaded benches throughout the gardens. There is a handicapped entrance and a number of garden areas are wheelchair accessible. We will provide your group with bathroom access and fresh iced tea. For groups that are seeking a full day of tours and nursery visits, we can make suggestions and help coordinate that for you. Upon request, plants from our collection can be made available.




The Cotton-Arbo retum is open to the public, free of charge, 24/7 , year ’round. Unless you are a gardening group, there is no need to reserve or ‘call ahead’. However, if you wish to meet us/talk with us, please email us at the email address at the bottom of this page.

Plants are not typically labeled here. If we are not in the gardens and you wish help with plant I.D., please come up to the bay window by the chimney- in the back of the house (our study) and we are more than happy to help. Trust us, it is never a bother! I.D. is usually easiest for us if you break off a 4″ piece of the plant to show us.( There is so much plant material here; a 4″ piece taken here and there- will not be missed!!)

Directions to The Cotton-Arbo retum

597 Washington St. Winchester Ma. 01890

We are 5 minutes from the Rt. 93/128 intersection; 30 min. from Waltham center; 30 min. from Concord Ctr.; 15 min. from Arlington Ctr.; 15-30 min. from downtown Boston, 1 hr. from Plymouth Ma.; 2 hrs. from Hartford Ct.; 1 hr. from Portsmouth N.H.; 2 hrs. from Portland Me.; 3.5 hrs. from Burlington Vt. Also, a train ride from North Station to Winchester- takes only 15 minutes.

If you use a GPS, be sure to follow the Parking and Entry Directions below

From the North:

Take Rt 93 south (or from Rt. 128 to Rt 93 south, go 1 exit):

Exit at Montvale Ave. /Stoneham. At end of ramp, turn right, turn left at

Wendy’s (2nd light) onto Washington St. Look at your odometer.

Go 0.6 miles, just past a strip of parkland on your left, and turn left onto

Sunset Rd. and park.

Walk back to Washington St., turn left and walk down 1st driveway on your left.

This is the entry to The Cotton-Arbo retum.


From the South:

Take Rt. 93 North to last exit before Rt.128.

Exit at Montvale Ave. /Stoneham. At end of ramp, turn Left, turn left at

Wendy’s (2nd light) onto Washington St. Look at your odometer.

Go 0.6 miles, just past a strip of parkland on your left, and turn left onto

Sunset Rd. and park.

Walk back to Washington St., turn left and walk down 1st driveway on your Left.

This is the entry to The Cotton-Arbo retum.


From Rt. 16/MassAve. intersection:

Rt. 16 east towards 93. Pass Johnny’s Foodmaster,Tufts Rotary, Mobil Station.

Left at lights onto Boston Ave. (UHaul sign on your right, beyond gas station on corner);

Few blocks, right at light onto Harvard , go to end, turn right and go over RR tracks, immediate left onto Playstead Rd.

Go to end; left on Rt.38. In about ¼ – ½ mile, fork right at hospital sign onto Highland Ave.

Go a few miles, through the light at South Border Rd., to end.

At stop sign, turn left onto Forest St. At light, turn right onto WashingtonSt.

Take 2nd Right onto Sunset Rd. Park.

Walk back to Washington St., turn left and walk down 1st driveway on your Left.

This is the entry to The Cotton-Arbo retum.

****The Garden entrance on Sunset Rd. is for Handicapped ONLY.****

Gardens in the lawn , sidewalk and driveway areas are wheelchair accessible, but Sunken Paths are not.


All photographic and written material in this web site is the property of the The Cotton-Arbo retum or the listed photographers and cannot be copied or used without their express permission. Photographers include Mindy Arbo, Alison Conliffe, Robyn LeBuff, Monique Anthony, Tom Daley.

Web site managed by landscape designer Andrew Keys of oakleafgreen.com. Web site designed by Lela and Don Avery. For their truly beautiful gardens and website, see cadysfallsnursery.com.

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