We’ve been going to Mirbeau in Skaneateles, NY for quick getaways since at least 2017. For full-on escapism within a 2-hour drive, it doesn’t get much better. 

The place is widely known as a spa, but I have never had one treatment here, unless you count sipping cocktails by the outsized rock-lined “spa pool.”    

No, I’m here for the gardens, which define the place. The name comes from a gardening/art critic/novelist friend of Monet’s. And of course, the gardens are meant to be reminiscent of Giverny, though on a much smaller scale and not as organized. It keeps developing – for example, the bridge shown at top now has more wisteria.

The resort is built around a huge koi/water lily pond, which is itself surrounded by plantings, which in turn surround the buildings. The effect is awe-inspiring. I can’t imagine wanting to linger in the dim downstairs treatment areas (reeking of eucalyptus) when I can watch hummingbirds on the crocosmias in front of my room’s little patio. 

Most of the plants here are quite common: Shasta daisies, waves of H. fulva daylilies (and some hybrids), Joe Pye, big blue-leaved hosta, achillea, echinacea, and other spreadable perennials. Looks like there were iris earlier. Some Japanese maples and a rose planting that looks rather recent. Towards the trees at the edge of the property,  there’s a splash of petasites. 

As a whole, however, the sum is much more compelling than any of the individual parts. Wherever you walk here, you are surrounded by flowers. It’s no native meadow, and all the better for it. The “ditch lilies,” in particular, which are maligned by many, work wonderfully. Though I have always liked them. Plants that appear in profusion, given no help whatsoever, always have my admiration.

I suppose too that the equally abundant koi have a lot to do with this. And there’s probably plenty of work going on behind the scenes, though I never see anyone. That work is likely made easier with plants that need to be restrained rather than coaxed. 

A big part of the joy? Sitting or wandering in the midst of all this without having to deadhead, clip or water a thing. 

There are a couple of other Mirbeau locations, which apparently are quite similar. All the better. It’s a template worth replicating.