Historic Treasures

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park is a very special place that I discovered recently while attending a wedding in the nearby town of Canandaigua, NY. The 50-acre estate, a generous gift from Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson of New York Banking fame, is located just blocks away from downtown.  I must admit my expectations of the place were not as grand as the place itself.  I thought my trip to Sonnenberg would be a way to pass the time before the wedding festivities began.  While not all areas of the gardens were in tip top condition, the bones of the landscape remained intact and several sections were lovingly maintained by volunteers. The garden’s historic elegance was evident in the period architecture, garden statuary, and themed gardens including a Japanese garden, a Roman bath house, formal gardens and a rock garden.

Sonnenberg Mansion
The formal gardens
The Japanese garden
The rock garden
A protected space in the rock garden

Another historic garden treasure is located a stone’s throw from where I live.  I have lived in the Philadelphia area since 1983, yet I was unaware that Wyck existed until my Longwood Gardens Vines instructor, a gardener for the property, informed the class of its special place in US history.  I think I might have liked history class if they had talked about gardens instead of battles!  Wyck is one of Philadelphia’s oldest houses dating back to 1690. The home is surrounded by the nation’s oldest rose garden, which is considered a living treasure and features 70+ varieties of roses growing in their original plan. The roses were originally planted for medicinal purposes as rose petals are full of vitamin C. I guess the scent of roses also helped to soften the smells of horses that traveled on nearby Germantown Avenue!  What an amazing experience it was to visit this lovely place. Not only was it visually stimulating, but the fragrance was indescribable and intoxicating. 

The house at Wyck dating to 1690
Rosa gallica var. officinalis
A trained rose
Pink Leda with Adlumia fungosa vine – what a sweet combination
Another beautiful rose frames the nearby cathedral
Whatever you do, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!

I hope you found inspiration in this trip down memory lane and that you’ll implement some historic elements in your own landscape, whether through an ‘old-fashioned’ plant, by introducing fragrance, or by installing a structure that pays tribute to a longstanding garden.  

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