One of the most historic and beloved sites in the Finger Lakes is Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park. Sonnenberg, meaning “Sunny Hill” in German, was built in 1887 to be the summer home of philanthropists Mary Clark and Frederick Ferris Thompson. Today their estate, consisting of 9-themed gardens, a mature arboretum, a Lord & Burnham greenhouse complex and a 40-room Queen Anne style Victorian mansion, is open to the public as a New York State Historic Park. What few park guests realize is the how much Sonnenberg changes throughout the four seasons. The appearance and character of the place is ever shifting with each season’s beauty on display.
Spring The early spring months of April and May, when winter finally loses his icy grip, bring long awaited blooms of thousands of spring bulbs and many flowering trees. These blooms, spread across all corners of the site, include tulips, daffodils, and magnolia. After the long bleak winter these blossoms are a balm to the eyes and soul!
Summer Quickly the season begins to shift and the late spring/early summer months bring some of the park’s most fragrant blooms – peonies and roses. The rose is certainly the single most celebrated flower at Sonnenberg for there is an entire garden, the Rose Garden with thousands of plants, dedicated to it. While there are roses in bloom all season long in this garden, June is the peak bloom time. Imagine walking amongst thousands of roses all in bloom. It is surely a special treat for the nose as well as the eyes.
The bright sunny days of summer bring a startling array of color across the gardens as the colorful summer annuals and mature perennials put on their summer displays. Blooms abound in the Old Fashioned Garden. Each week brings a new type of flower in bloom. The Italian Garden’s sunken beds, refilled each spring with a carpet of tens of thousands of brilliantly colored annuals, are rich and full. Even the Japanese Garden, not designed to be a floral display space, features the beautiful and graceful blooms of the water lilies in its ponds.
Autumn As nights begin to cool and summer wanes into September and October, the trees again take center stage with their brilliantly colored cloaks of leaves. Leaves with hues of orange, scarlet, and amber fill the trees and the crunch underfoot. The late flowering plants such as dahlias grace the gardens with their colorful blooms and unusual fungi in woodsy, less traveled locations can be seen.
Winter While the killing frosts of fall bring an end to the growing season, the beauty does not stop. Without floral competition, the sculpture and architecture of the site becomes more obviously on display. The graceful arch of limbs and trunks of trees devoid of leafy shawls can clearly be seen. And the winter frosting of snow brings on an ethereal world of stark whites and deep shadows.
Plan your visit today. Sonnenberg is open to the public seven days a week May 1 through October 31. And be sure to visit often in order not to miss out on the ever shifting palette of colors and moods of this special place. ...more>>