Secret Gardens of the Flower City

Secret Gardens of the Flower City
a production of WXXI-TV


For information on obtaining a VHS copy, call (585) 258-0200

WXXI Reveals Rochester's 'Secret' Gardens!

Secret Gardens of the Flower City celebrates Rochester, New York's, long love affair with all things green and grown, and offers a colorful tour of some of its greatest gardens, with comments and confessions from the passionate people who tend them. Learn about the history of gardening and horticulture in the Greater Rochester area and roam the region visiting gardens, large and small... From a small patch in the back yard of a city residence to the understated flower beds of a country dwelling... From a riotous jumble of plant life surrounding a traditional colonial to the elegant landscaping of an urban mansion ... the fabulous flowers and gorgeous gardens provide indisputable proof that Rochester is indeed the "Flower City"!

The Eastman House Garden

Four of the gardens created and enjoyed by Kodak founder George Eastman (1854-1932) are in full bloom at George Eastman House. The largest is the Schuyler C. Townson Terrace Garden (pictured), which Mr. Eastman used for entertaining guests and for Kodak press conferences. Alongside Thomas Edison, he introduced Kodacolor (color motion-picture film) to the world from this garden in July 1928. The Townson Terrace Garden has been restored to the way it was in Mr. Eastman's day using photographs, samples, and detailed records and includes a variety of plantings, a pool filled with gold fish, a mile of boxwood, a wisteria-covered pergola, and two 17th-century Venetian wellheads.

The three other gardens on the 12-acre property are not fully restored but do appear the way they did during Mr. Eastman's time of residence, from 1905 to 1932. These gardens are the Rock Garden, the Library Garden, and the West Garden, the latter boasting a stone loggia and original lion-head fountain.

The Sonnenberg Gardens

Sonnenberg Gardens is a beautiful Victorian mansion and gardens, located at the north end of Canandaigua Lake, in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region in Upstate New York. Formerly the summer home of Canandaigua benefactors Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson, Sonnenberg (German for "sunny hill") is open to the public. There are many formal historic gardens in all at Sonnenberg. They include a Japanese Garden, a Blue and White Garden, a Pansy Garden, a Rose Garden, an Italian Garden, a rock Garden and an Old-fashioned Garden.

The Brown Garden

The Brown Garden was designed by the famous landscape artist, Alling De Forest. This garden was first created in 1931 and although the Browns have tried to keep it true to its original spirit, many things have changed over the years. "Because the yard is shaded as a result of several Norway maples that grew up on the other side of the wall," Pete Brown, Owner, said, "we had to change the mix to bring back the full plantings."

The Yancey Garden

This garden was designed by the Pittsford landscape artist, Fletcher Steele. He referred to this garden as a small garden. Steele worked on this garden for 52 years, starting in 1915. Because the original owner, Charlotte Whitney Allen, did not like flowers, this garden is a collection of textures, shapes and hues of green. When Geff Yancey bought this residence five years ago, he says "it was in very very good shape. The people between me and Charlotte [Whitney Allen] were very meticulous about taking care of it."

The Water Garden

There are many gardens at this private location. One featured garden is the Water Garden, that has a series of waterfalls, two ponds, water lilies and some spectacular lotus flowers. Built about five years ago by Bob Wilcox of Gardens for all Spaces, this garden is a special place for the owner as well as the landscape artist. "Everyplace you look is a wonderful view," says Wilcox, That is what a good garden should do...everywhere provides a wonderful scene."

The Urtis Gardens

The Urtis Gardens are quite eclectic. There is a rock garden, a children's garden as well as many annuals and perennials are sprinkled over the property. There's even several small electric trains that run through the garden! "I tried to use every inch of space because it is a small yard," says owner Mary Urtis. "I just lose myself and I will say this [in regards to gardening] you just have to use your imagination."

The Hart Garden

This garden has a distinct "Touch of the Orient." The owners wanted to live in a unique place. They designed this garden to be a place of tranquility and relaxation while capturing the feeling and flavor of Japan. A Japanese garden has a "very high proportion of evergreens, basically monochromatic ...Green," says Master Gardener Bill Hart, "then you use other colors as your accents." 

The Kral Garden

This garden has an incredible collection of conifers and evergreens. "I fell in love with miniature and dwarf conifers," says owner Jerry Kral, "I have over 200 different varieties." Also featured is an extensive collection of ornamental grasses and roses. The grounds give a sense of whimsy and delight to visitors.

The Monefeldt Garden

The Monefeldt Garden captures is an escape from the daily grind....offering the many shades and hues of green often found in a traditional Japanese Garden. A professional design, this garden is proof that one can transform their backyard into another world.

The Ellwanger Garden

This is a Victorian and family garden acquired by the Landmark Society from the famous George Ellwanger's granddaughter, Helen. It has thirty beds of perennials that volunteers help to maintain. It has maintained its original structure but does have plants introduced by Helen Ellwanger in the 1930s and 1940s. "It has many of the plants that would have been sold in the Ellwanger Barry Nursery, " said Beverly Gibson, Horticulturist from the Landmark Society. But Gibson also says that one of the nice things about it is "that it's full of surprises."

The Oesterly Garden

This garden is a meeting of East and West, melding the beauty of a traditional shade garden with the serene nature of the Orient. Covering nearly three acres it is a magnificent garden of textures and colors offering a relaxing environment for its owner.