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Heirloom Gardens
Kitchen gardens, heirloom varieties, and orchards

The Beauty and Function of Our Gardens

Heirloom gardens add another dimension to your museum experience. Eye-catching blossoms, fragrant herbs, luscious fruits, and rows upon rows of colorful vegetables all vie for your attention. They are also used regularly by Historic Village interpreters for preparing meals in historic kitchens, dyeing fibers, medicinal preparations, decorations, and craft projects.

Garden tours with an experienced horticultural interpreter can be arranged throughout the season. Please contact our Interpretation Department at (585) 294-8250 or to learn more!


Jones Farm Kitchen Garden

The heirloom garden at Jones Farm (c. 1820, Orleans, NY) contains hardy crops commonly grown in the 19th-century kitchen garden. These vegetables are grown from seed “bred back” to original types. Among the vegetables often grown here are Danvers Half Long carrots, early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, and China rose radish. These varieties would have been grown and saved for their flavor and storage capacity. 

This garden also features some herbs for practical and culinary uses: lovage, tarragon, dill, and mint. The garden is surrounded by fruit trees (peach, cherry, and quince.) What’s grown in the Jones Farm Kitchen Garden is regularly utilized by the historic cook working in Jones Farm! 

Livingston-Backus House Garden

Just as they did in the 1800s, some of the gardens—both large and small—serve as decorative, yet complementary, elements to the buildings. The Livingston-Backus garden, for example, is laid out in a classical style compatible with the architecture it surrounds: a Federal-style garden house, built in 1826 in Cortland, NY, and the main residence, built in Rochester’s Third Ward c. 1827-40.

A wisteria-covered pergola stands at one edge of the garden and boxwood-trimmed beds of fruit trees (pear), tulips, bearded iris, tree peonies, phlox, roses, Rose of Sharon (seventeen varieties!), columbine. and hosta provide a display of color throughout the growing season.

The Summer House in the Livingston-Backus Garden was built in 1827 and originally located behind a house in Cortland, NY.  

Hyde House Garden

Another fine example of a formal garden is located behind Hyde House (c. 1870, Friendship, NY). The curvilinear gardens and bricks paths surrounding the octagon-shaped house are derived from plans for romantic landscapes appearing in landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing’s Cottage Residences, published in 1842.

The lilac-rimmed garden features a profusion of colors provided by bearded iris, day lilies, peonies, dianthus, hosta, germander, amaranth, cleome, nicotiana, and petunias.

Shaker Trustees’ Garden

Shakers were well known for the medicines they produced and their exemplary seed production and sales. A medicinal garden is featured in the yard next to the Shaker Trustees’ Building (1839, Sonyea, NY). Bayberry, feverfew, lavender, pot marigold (calendula), rue, and sage are but a few of the plants often grown there.

Shakers were credited for being early at starting seeds indoors in wooden flats in volume to get a jump on growing, growing high-quality seeds and herbs, and processing them with high standards for broom making, running seed and herb sale routes along the East Coast, and making exemplary furniture. 

MacKay Dooryard Garden

The MacKay House Dooryard Garden reflects an early garden style, usually fenced to keep out livestock. Dooryard gardens in early Western NY were a copy of their English or European-style counterparts, intended to look orderly against the wilderness. 

Dooryard gardens would have included practical and medicinal plants, and were originally often located behind the house, as they were not thought of as being ornamental. 

Hetchler Garden

The Hetchler House Garden is an example of an early vegetable and practical garden. Everything grown in this garden is utilized by the historic cook in Hetchler! Vegetables grown here are appropriate for an early 19th-century time period, including pumpkins, squash, dryables like peas and beans, garlic, onions, or easily cooked-up options like cabbage or lettuce. 

Herbs are planted around the base of Hetchler House such as mint, lemon balm, and horseradish. Much of the food stuffs consumed by a family in a dwelling like this would have been foraged from the countryside: berries, acorns, sumac, ramps, and mushrooms. 

Berry Garden and Vineyard at MacArthur

With the Finger Lakes Region as a prime example, we know that Western NY has an excellent climate for growing grapes! We have evidence that even thought the Livingston-Backus House was a Rochester city dwelling, they were growing quite a few varirties of berry plants. Gooseberry, currant (red and black), and raspberries were used fresh and dried for baking, making jams and jellies, and creating syrups. 

Grapes grown in the vineyard portion of the garden are heirloom table, juice, and wine grapes. 

The Hop Yard

At the peak of hop production in this region in the 19th century, over 80,000 acres of hops were grown in Western NY. Grown vertically on poles, hops are a perennial vine that is grown as a flavoring and a preservative/stabilizing agent in the brewing process. When harvest time came, the whole community would have a picnic, perhaps bring in a band, and make a social event of the harvest. 

Heavy gloves were worn to avoid the sticky, sharp nature of the bines. Harvest basket contents were evaluated by weight. The flowers were dried in heated buildings and pressed into bales. 

It is hard to say what variety of hops would have been grown in the Genesee Valley Region in the 19th century.

The Orchards

A number of orchards can be found around the grounds at Genesee Country Village & Museum. New York State was renowned for its apples, with many varieties being produced in this region. Apple trees were often seen as the cheapest crop a farmer could grow – you could plant once, and harvest for years. 

Don’t miss a celebration of all things “Apples!” during our annual Apples, Apples, Apples! event on the last Monday of the regular season!