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Garden Diary: What’s to come

Garden Diary: What’s to come

It’s been a long, tough winter in our corner of Upstate New York. But now that spring has officially arrived, we’re excited to see our 65-acre campus, which is in the beautiful Finger Lakes region, come into bloom.

There are at least a dozen different gardens on our property, and they’re managed by Corinne Bowman, who has been with MacKenzie-Childs for more than 20 years. Corinne started working here when she was 16 years old, helping with the gardens during the summers. Three years ago, she became our estate manager, and in addition to overseeing the property, she tends to our menagerie of sheep, cattle, chickens, and geese.

Our campus overlooks Cayuga Lake, which is one of the 11 Finger Lakes. The lakes, located mostly between Rochester and Syracuse, were carved out by glaciers. Their slender shapes reminded early map-makers of human fingers, and the name stuck.

Here are a few facts about Cayuga Lake from Cayuga Lake Scene Byway:

  • At 38.2 miles long, Cayuga Lake is the longest of the Finger Lakes. It’s also the second deepest and is 435 feet at its deepest point.
  • The lake’s northern shore is near Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, and at the southern tip lies the city of Ithaca, home to Cornell University.
  • On the east side of Cayuga Lake, at its widest point, you’ll find the village of Aurora, which is just a few miles from our location.

This little geography lesson also explains why we’re in USDA Hardiness Zone 6A, which means plants here can withstand a minimum temperature of -10 degrees to -5 degrees Fahrenheit. In a good year, our growing season lasts about six months, from the first snowdrops in late March to the final pumpkins and gourds in early October.

Says Corinne, “Once the season starts, there’s always something up and blooming.” With that in mind, this blog will return regularly to our gardens in the next several months, highlighting a different spot that is at its peak of bloom. We also hope if you’re in the area that you’ll stop by and look for yourself. Our grounds are open to the public from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily.

Most of our flowering gardens include a mix of spring-blooming bulbs, perennials that fill in after those flowers fade, and some annuals that are planted for additional pops of color. The property also includes a large vegetable garden filled with several raised beds, a cutting garden of tulips, a grove of lilac bushes, a pumpkin patch, a couple of rose gardens, and water lilies that bloom in our pond. A greenhouse located behind two barns is where vegetables are started from seed in mid-April and where our flowering annuals grow from small plugs that are ordered online.

With all this activity, it’s probably no surprise that there isn’t much downtime during the season for Corinne and her summer staff of five. And in addition to the ongoing maintenance of the grounds, there are the daily challenges that range from the unpredictability of the weather to an abundance of plant-chewing deer.

Corinne looks forward to the growing season nonetheless. Her favorite time is when the tulips bloom, which should start in late April and peak by mid-May. Corrine says last year’s show was “spectacular,” and she planted more than 10,000 tulip and daffodil bulbs last fall in hopes of topping that.

Our next blog post on the gardens will focus on those areas. We’ll also share a few tips from Corinne for your spring garden and tell you how she tries to deal with the deer. In the meantime, here’s to a growing season that’s in full bloom.

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