Charbrook is located on 100 acres of the historic Stimson dairy farm and successional hay fields in central Massachusetts. Situated at the foothills of Wachusett Mountain, the site is a diverse mosaic of New England landscape typologies. In 2003, Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects began to think about this landscape in a new way: as a testing ground and a way to integrate research into our practice.
The firm established Charbrook Nursery for native tree and shrub cultivation. Low-lying wetlands, wet meadows and successional fields, and glacial drumlins offer a rich environment for siting selected species in response to the farm’s micro-ecosystems. Our design projects benefit from this unique knowledge of planted form, growth and habit.
The nursery cultivates native plant communities that are thriving in the local landscape such as birch, maple, and oak species. Less than 20 acres of the farm’s original eighty acres of fields remain in production as hay. As a way to restore the agrarian production, three abandoned and successional fields were identified as the first sites for tree and shrub production. Inventory of existing plant communities, and the study of soil conditions and microclimates was undertaken in order to guide plant selections for each field. These native plant typologies are strengthened and enhanced by the introduction of a diverse selection of cultivars that is based on the core species, and selected for their hardiness, design potential, and habitat value. Organic practices are implemented to control weeds, insects and agressive plants. In some cases, grazing by animals has been tried as an alternative to continual mowing. Soils during planting seasons are amended with farm manure, and the nursery remains free of pesticides.