Rochester NY - The Flower City

The Flower City: Exploring Rochester’s Extraordinary Flowers and Trees

Rochester became a global center for flower and tree nurseries in the mid-1800s, fostering our identity as The Flower City. George Ellwanger from Germany and Patrick Barry from Ireland lead the way.

Their nursery catalog was issued in 1843, selling fruit trees, ornamentals and flowers, roses and green house plants across the globe.  In 1888, they donated some of their land and trees to the City of Rochester to establish Highland Park (our first park), designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Here are a few places you can enjoy their contribution, and the continued work of other unique flower gardens and arboretums around Rochester.

Explore the Flower City

  1. In and Around Highland Park
  2. Monroe County
  3. Greater Rochester
  4. Flower City Guides
  5. Flower City Shows & Events
  6. Nurseries

In and Around Highland Park

Highland Park in Rochester

Highland Park was designed to be enjoyed year-round. Every pathway, every tree, every vista & every relationship between the land & water is intentional.

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Lamberton Conservatory

Featuring aromatic hyacinth, daffodils, and tulips, the 2021 Lamberton Conservatory Spring Show opens March 26 and runs through mid-May.

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Rochester’s Olmsted Designed Parks

Rochester is fortunate to be one of a handful of American cities that have a park system comprised of Frederick Law Olmsted-designed parks.

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Sunken Garden at Warner Castle

Take a stroll behind Warner Castle & down the grassy lawn. There you will find the Sunken Garden—a peaceful retreat anytime of the year.

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Ellwanger Garden

While the Ellwanger Estate is private, the garden is maintained by the Landmark Society and is periodically open to the public for special events.

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Mount Hope Cemetery

It may seem odd to think of a cemetery as a family-friendly destination, but Mount Hope Cemetery is as park-like as Highland Park next door.

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Also, take look at the arboretum on the University of Rochester campus!

Around Monroe County

Webster Arboretum at Kent Park

Follow the pathways that meander around Webster Arboretum–40 acres of open spaces, flower & herb gardens, water elements, and a wide variety of trees.

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Durand Eastman Park

Durand Eastman Park encompasses 977 acres of land including Durand Lake, Eastman Lake, and a swimming beach on Lake Ontario.

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Powder Mills Park

Powder Mills Park favorites include the fish hatchery, Daffodil Meadow Trail in early May, The Mushroom House, and fishing Irondequoit Creek.

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George Eastman Museum

The George Eastman Museum is a beautiful tribute to his life & legacy, and is the world’s oldest photography museum with one of the oldest film archives.

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Genesee Country Village & Museum

Genesee Country Village is the largest living history museum in New York State, and the third-largest in the United States.

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Greater Rochester

Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion

Sonnenberg Gardens, in the City of Canandaigua, is an exceptional example of the lavish wealth and philanthropy of the Gilded Age.

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Cornell Botanic Gardens

The 4,000-acres that make up Cornell Botanic Gardens are free to explore and are full of opportunities to learn about plants and environmental conservation.

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Flower City Guides

40 Public Gardens Around Rochester

Enjoy a peaceful afternoon at one of these arboretums, labyrinths, estate gardens, or botanical gardens, all within a 2-hour drive of Rochester.

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27 House & Garden Tours Around Rochester

Every year there are dozens of opportunities around Rochester to walk through grand and historic homes, and meticulously manicured garden spaces.

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Sunflowers: 5 Fabulous Fields Around Rochester

Lose yourself in a sea of sunflowers! Each August, acres of bold blooms become the perfect backdrop for family photos and sunny selfies.

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Fall Foliage: 7 Breathtaking Views Near Rochester

These destinations offer colorful fall foliage and varied landscapes so you can appreciate them each in their own unique way.

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Flower City Shows & Events

Flower City: Dutch Connection at Eastman Museum
Dutch Connection

Jan-Feb – Buffalo Botanical Gardens Lumagination

February – Dutch Connection at Eastman Museum

March – Annual Spring Orchid Show

March – Orchid Show at Buffalo Botanical Gardens

March – Plantasia

March – Rochester Home & Garden Show

March – Central New York Home & Garden Show

March – Gardenscape

April – Spring Wildflower & Orchid Show at Sonnenberg Gardens

April – Spring Flower Exhibit Buffalo Botanical Gardens

April-May – Lamberton Conservatory Holiday and Spring Shows

May – Lilac Festival

May – Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival

May – Tulip Festival of Holland, NY

May – Daffodil Trail in Powder Mills Park

May – Williamson Apple Blossom Festival

May-June – Flower City Days at the Market

June –Maplewood Rose Celebration

July – Lavender Festival at Ol’Factory Lavender Farm

Aug-Sep – Sunflowers


Saras Garden Center stone archway
Sara’s Garden
Saras Garden Center
Sara’s Garden
Garden Factory
Garden Factory
Bergen Water Gardens yellow lotus flower
Bergen Water Gardens

There are dozens of incredible nurseries in the Rochester area to begin your own garden or arboretum. These are a few places you can visit for inspiration:

Sara’s Garden & Nursery

Garden Factory

Bergen Water Gardens & Nursery

Van Putte Gardens

Wayside Garden Center

Frear’s Garden Center

Christmas tree selection

Fun Finds: Rochester’s 1st Christmas Tree

When doing research on a subject, I often stumble across fascinating information that warrants sharing!

From The Flower City: George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry:

George Ellwanger celebrated the establishment of the nursery by a fitting ceremony a week later when Vice-Chancellor Frederick Whittlesey affixed his seal to Ellwanger’s final citizenship papers, welcoming him officially as a new American.  

A little over a year later Ellwanger joined with other Rochester associates from the Old Country in erecting the first Christmas tree in Rochester. Hundreds of older Americans gathered to watch the strange ceremony, in front of the little German Lutheran Church on Grove Street, at which the tree was lighted up with candles.

So pleased were Rochesterians with the ceremony that it became a feature of the Christmas period and helped to transform a purely religious day into a social and family holiday. See also, Rochester’s First Christmas Tree.

Where are your favorite spots around our Flower City?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!


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COVID-19 NOTE: Some of the information you find in our articles may currently be inaccurate due to closures and cancellations.

Please follow the most current recommendations from the CDC and New York State for spending time away from your home. The great outdoors can provide a well needed respite & escape during stressful times. Please move quickly through parking lots, trail heads, and scenic areas. If crowded, choose a different park, trail, or time to visit. Please day trip responsibly.