Gardens are historically places of rest and reflection; of focus and attention to detail. Botanist Luther Burbank said, “Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”
Enjoy a peaceful afternoon at one of these arboretums, labyrinths, or botanical gardens, all within a 2-hour drive of Rochester.
1. Lamberton Conservatory
A tropical forest display as well as collections of exotic plants, desert plants, economic plants (such as banana and coffee trees), and house plants.
Don’t miss the Spring Show each April, and the Holiday Show in December.
2. Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens
The historic Buffalo Botanical Gardens is a living museum that inspires curiosity and connects people to the natural world. It is a premier cultural destination that engages visitors through a distinct and unique plant collection. Don’t miss Lumagination each February.
3. Strong Museum’s Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden
It’s just like a miniature Lamberton Conservatory with butterflies! If it’s been a while since you’ve visited, tickets are no longer timed and you can stay as long as you’d like.
4. George Eastman Museum & House
Listed by the National Geographic Society as one of the best public gardens in the U.S. and Canada. The 12.5 acre estate’s gardens are free and open to the public; fee to enter the home and museum.
Don’t miss the annual Dutch Collection held in February featuring the most incredible display of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, amaryllis, and freesias, in various vibrant shades—the same colors Eastman featured 100 years ago.
5. Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park
Listed by the National Geographic Society as on of the best public gardens in the U.S. and Canada. Sonnenberg Gardens is a New York State Historic Park where a late nineteenth century Victorian Estate with a Queen Anne-style mansion and nine formal gardens of the world is being preserved.
This 50-acre estate is one of just two public gardens in the NYS Parks system. Sonnenberg is known for its distinctive period architecture, statuary, formal gardens, fountains and unique garden structures.
6. Linwood Gardens
Private tree peony garden, open to the public on weekends during the annual Tree Peony Festival of Flowers late-May to early June.
7. Genesee Country Village & Museum
The village maintains 12 gardens, including an Heirloom Garden.
8. Ellwanger Garden
Owned by the Landmark Society, this half-acre garden once belonged to noted nurseryman and horticulturist George Ellwanger of Mt. Hope Nurseries.
The Estate is now a bed & breakfast, though the gardens are open to the public during the Lilac Festival in May and Peony Weekend in June, and Tuesday evenings June-September.
9. Stone-Tolan House
The museum demonstrates life at a frontier home and rural tavern. Outside features include a privy, smokehouse, orchard and garden.
Sixty-five acre farm overlooking Cayuga Lake. The grounds—open to the public—are home to sprawling gardens, and a farmhouse furnished with MacKenzie-Childs designs that is open for tours.
11. Geneva on the Lake
This elegant 1910 resort’s manicured grounds feature hedged gardens and marble statues, and are accessible only to hotel or dinner guests.
12. Warner Castle Sunken Garden
In 1951 and the castle and grounds became part of Highland Park.
Arboretums & Outdoor
13. Highland Botanical Park
Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and home to Rochester’s Lilac Festival in May, the arboretum includes 1200 lilacs, a Japanese Maple collection, 35 varieties of magnolias, a barberry collection, a rock garden with dwarf evergreens, 700 varieties of rhododendron, azaleas, mountain laurel and andromeda, horse chestnuts, spring bulbs and wildflowers and a large number of trees.
14. Webster Arboretum
This 32.5-acre arboretum features a pond, meandering trails, rose gardens, and perennial theme gardens, with more than 50 varieties of trees and shrubs.
15. Cornell Botanic Gardens
Listed by the National Geographic Society as one of the best public gardens in the U.S. and Canada, Cornell Botanic Gardens includes the 14 collections in the gardens, the F.R. Newman Arboretum, and the more than 4,000 acres of natural areas (fens, bogs, gorges, glens, meadows, and woodlands) belonging to Cornell University. Formerly known as Cornell Plantations.
16. Maplewood Rose Garden
Over 300 varieties of roses on a 1-acre site. Peak bloom is the second week in June celebrated during the Rose Festival.
17. Mills Rose Garden
Located in Thornden Park and set high on a hill overlooking Syracuse University, the garden is comprised of 3,850 plants and more than 360 varieties of roses.
18. Robin Hill Nature Preserve
A collection of 250 rare and interesting trees, including the oldest metasequoias in the Western hemisphere.
19. Spencer J. Roemer Arboretum
More than 70 species of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers on 20 acres on the South Campus. Check out the majestic oaks and black walnut trees, many of them over 200 years old.
20. Durand Eastman Arboretum
Slavin’s Arboretum in Durand Eastman Park offers a wide variety of mature trees. Of special note is Pine Valley, a world class pinetum of many rare and unusual conifers, and Rhododendron Valley, planted with members of the Ericaceae family.
21. Rochester Museum & Science Center
The museum maintains 12 acres near the center of the city with stately trees, native wildflowers, a formal herb garden, and colorful annuals. This garden has Braille signs for the visually impaired.
22. Sharon’s Sensory Garden at Mendon Ponds Park
A sensory (touch, tear, smell) garden with raised beds, smooth, wide paths, and Braille and raised-lettering plant labels.
23. University of Rochester Arboretum
24. Mount Hope Cemetery
In 2009, more than 20% of the trees in Mount Hope were characterized as historic, with 250 year old oak trees, and rare specimen trees gifted to the Cemetery in 1848 by famed 19th-century horticulturists George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry. Mount Hope is a rare example of rural Victorian cemetery design, a uniquely preserved urban park, a year round recreational resource and arboretum, a historic outdoor museum.
25. The Maud Gordon Holmes Arboretum
SUNY Buffalo State
Many varying species of trees, over 100 shrub beds, and numerous landscape beds featuring vibrant annuals and perennials. The campus displays greenery year-round while marking the seasons with fragrant blossoms, shade-giving trees, and luminous autumn colors.
26. Nannen Arboretum
Eight-acres with over 260 species of trees and a number of gardens including an herb garden, an American Indian Garden, a Japanese meditation garden, and a Biblical Garden, to name a few.
27. Our Lady of Fatima Shrine
A Catholic shrine with a glass Dome Church with a 13 foot granite statue of Mary and intensively landscaped grounds graced by over 100 statues and a heart-shaped Rosary Pond
28. James Pass Arboretum
A quiet place to stroll and watch the birds, with specimens that are now nearly 100 years old. One of the must-see trees is a member of the legume family–a massive yellow-wood whose white flowers hang in cascading panicles.
29. Delaware Park Japanese Garden
Delaware Park, a Frederick Law Olmsted designed public park, showcases a 6-acre Japanese Garden plus several other themed gardens. Situated on Mirror Lake, the park features over 1,000 plantings, nearly 20 globe-type lights, and three small islands connected to the mainland by bridges. Don’t miss the Buffalo Cherry Blossom Festival held each May.
30. Ithaca Children’s Garden
The 3-acre site across from the inlet to Cayuga Lake features a wetland habitat garden with a huge Turtle Earth sculpture and a wheelchair/stroller-friendly winding stone pathway.
31. Morgan Garden
Ithaca, Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University
Designed by landscape architect Marc Peter Keane, this is a small but artistic garden in stones and moss. Access to the garden is either through the museum (admission is free) or from the stairway on the University Avenue side of the building.
Labyrinths & Zen Gardens Around Rochester
32. Tinker Nature Park
This labyrinth hopes to capture the multiple facets of David’s life; the geometry of engineering, the beauty of nature, and the inspiring nature of his leadership.
33. Daemen College
The 52 foot labyrinth that is located on the front lawn near Curtis Hall, is comprised of 1600 paving stones.
34. St. Augustine’s Church
Labyrinth is located to the left as come into large portion of the lot. Approximately 65 feet round with 50 foot path to reach entrance.
35. Unity Peace Park
The entrance is a good place to stop, reflect and set an intention for your spiritual walk.
36. First Unitarian Church
A beautiful outdoor labyrinth located down the hill from the parking lot at the edge of the garden.
37. Quiet Meadows
Quiet Meadows offers several meadow paths and a labyrinth cut into the grass on five picturesque acres overlooking Canandaigua Lake.
38. Springs Labyrinth
The Springs Labyrinth sits beside the sulfur spring-fed brook. The public is free to walk or dance or play on the path at any time.
39. Amazing Acres
The labyrinth is made up of a bed of small pebbles and larger individually chosen pathway stones. There is also a 7,000 square foot hedge maze, planted in arborvitae.
40. First Baptist Church
Free and open, located at the far end of the parking lot.
BONUS: Flower Farms
Some, like The Sunflower Field, are purely eye-candy, while others are commercial enterprise where you can pick your own, turning your day trip it into a floral experience!
The Sunflower Field
Each and every August, neighbors of the Hopkins Farm on Clover Street are treated to a field of golden sunflowers on their daily commutes.
There are several fields used in annual crop rotations, so it moves along Clover anywhere between Calkins and Lehigh Station Roads, trading places with the soy beans, wheat and corn.
Lockwood Lavender Farm
Lockwood Lavender Farm is a 120 acre flower and fiber farm tucked in the hillside overlooking Skaneateles Lake. From the 2nd week of June through the 2nd week of July they harvest 2000 plants of 20 varieties.
Take Your Pick Flowers
Pick your own flowers in their self-service cutting gardens. Scissors, water and floral tissue are provided as well as buckets to hold your flowers while you pick.
Seasonal cut flower arrangements available, and they are open for field trips.
Rochester became a global center for flower and tree nurseries in the mid-1800s, fostering our identity as The Flower City.
Where are your favorites public gardens around Rochester?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments. Your insight and experience is invaluable!