Ellwanger Estate is an exquisite bed & breakfast today, but in the 1800s it was the home of esteemed horticulturalist George Ellwanger. He and his business partner, Patrick Barry, built the largest nursery in the world on 650 acres along Mount Hope Blvd.
In 1888, Ellwanger & Barry donated twenty acres of nursery land to form Highland Park—Rochester’s first park. The newly formed Rochester Parks Department commissioned Frederick Law Olmsted to design Highland Park, as well as Genesee Valley, Seneca, and Maplewood Parks. Ellwanger & Barry also donated trees that are still thriving in the Highland Park Arboretum today. Barry’s home is located across the street from Ellwanger Estate and is owned by the University of Rochester.
While the home is private, the garden is maintained by the Landmark Society of Western New York and is periodically open to the public. Special events include the Lilac Festival in May and Peony Weekend in June. Tuesday evenings June-September are also open to the public. Of course, volunteer “weeders” are always welcome to care for the garden all year round! According to the Society’s website, “this living preservation site boasts eighty different kinds of perennials, including strong collections of peonies, roses, daylilies, hostas, irises and spring- and summer-flowering bulbs.” When I visited I spoke with a volunteer who was so excited to see the transition of the garden every week.