It's the Plants, Darling, Real Gardens

A beautiful place when it was kept up


More photos here

That phrase is in the title of a book I bought yesterday after visiting Linwood Gardens in Pavilion, New York. The illustrated memoir describes a century-old estate that has had its ups and downs—it survived a devastating fire and the Great Depression—and is now known for its magnificent tree peony collection. (You might have read about it in a recent issue of Horticulture.)


Linwood was built in 1900 as the summer estate of Buffalo lumber baron William H. Gratwick; its gardens were designed by Thomas Fox, who had completed projects in Boston and Brookline. The gardens are beautifully laid out—one area in particular is reminiscent of a Lutyens/Jekyll design at Hestercombe—but what makes Linwood important for gardeners today are its spectacular peonies. William H. Gratwick, Jr. started hybridizing tree peonies with the assistance of A. P. Saunders in 1935, later working with Nassos Daphnis. The hybridization stopped with Gratwick’s death, but the gorgeous results can still be seen every May in Pavilion.


This was my first visit to a place that I’d heard fleetingly mentioned over the past ten years. Photographers I know have attended workshops there, and during its heyday, it was a haven for poets, artists, and musicians looking for a rural retreat. William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson, Minor White, and Robert Creeley had all visited at one time or another; Williams seems to have been the resident poet. Somewhat like Sonnenberg Gardens further east, Linwood has a time capsule aura, as though it might crumble and fade into the rural landscape at any time. That, even more than the peonies, is what I find so fascinating.


Gauguin, a Daphnis hybrid

This weekend will be the last peony weekend, but Open Days are scheduled throughout the summer. It’s well worth a trip. Learn more here.


Ezra pound, a Gratwick introduction

Posted by on May 26, 2009 at 10:00 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling, Real Gardens.
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4 responses to “A beautiful place when it was kept up”

  1. Ooooo, tree peonies. Can I wave my magic wand (just mis-typed “magic want”, which is apropos) and create some space and air for some?

  2. Susie says:

    Wow tree peonies…….have tried with no avail in my So Cal garden of heavy soil & not enough winter chill. Had to buy my fix at Trader Joe’s today.

  3. Lorrie says:

    Breathtaking peonies. I would love to be transported back in time to see the gardens in all their glory. Thank you for sharing this moment of tranquility.


  4. HortLog says:

    I know I should have visited this place when I was at Finger Lakes….its going to be some time before I am at that corner of the world again