Deep in the heart of New York State Wine Country
is a garden paradise. The Sonnenberg Gardens
and Mansion sit on fifty acres in Canandaigua, New York. Walking the gardens is a day long adventure and a retrospective of garden history. The property was home to the Thompson family from 1863 to 1931. Mrs. Thompson who developed the gardens, after her husbands death in 1899, traveled the globe for inspiration for the 13 distinct types of gardens on the estate. Today it is maintained by a seasonal volunteer staff of 320 and 6 full time staffers and is open from May through October. After a day in this horticultural wonder there's the adjacent town of Canandaigua and its many restaurants, local vineyards, shops and lake for further amusement.
One of the gardens many antique greenhouses were filled with an wide array of Proven Winner
hydrangeas the day we were there.
The complex of greenhouses were built between 1902 and 1915 and are rare examples of Lord & Burnham Greenhouses using wood frames. Today they are in the process of being
restored to their original uses.
The property name means Sunny Hill in german and was the name of the original farm that the house sits on. The great Queen Anne mansion replaced the humble farm house in 1887. The house is open to the public and is a classic American 19th century country house, loads of brown furniture and dark rooms, but it has an interesting floor plan.
One of the most splendid gardens on the grounds is the Italian Garden. Walking through this garden is like being transported to a wonderful garden in the heart of Italy. It's design is based on a 16th Century carpet bed pattern and is planted in vibrant red and gold flowers with beds bordered by manicured conical bushes.
Mrs. Thompson's rose garden was installed in 1906 and is planted in the original red, pink and white scheme. The Belvedere offers a wonderful view of the garden especially at its peak in June.
Looking out into the Italiain garden from the house on ground level. Examples of the importance of symmetry in a classic garden design are everywhere on the property.