Remember the book "The Secret Garden"? If that magical place really existed, you would find it at Linwood Gardens near Pavilion, NY. It's about a 45-minute drive from Rochester, one of the hidden treasures of upstate New York.
Covering the grounds of a once-regal mansion -- which was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1973 -- the gardens are best known for their tree peonies. But I found the architecture, the setting, the colors, the light, the imperfection of the place to be totally enchanting.
The owner, William Gratwick III, added some whimsical pieces to his garden, including this cupola salvaged from an old building nearby.
There's a labyrinth on the grounds, which I would love to explore.
This is the view of the Genesee Valley from the terrace where my friend and I had lunch.
The mansion itself is only about 1/3 intact, but you can see the tile-floored dining room, done in an Arts and Crafts style, with its gorgeous green and gold Tiffany sconces -- and the oak-panelled library and cavernous fireplace, from an old English home, which William Gratwick II purchased in its entirety from Tiffany himself!
Make sure to check the website for when Linwood Gardens is open, because the visiting hours are limited: www.linwoodgardens.org. It's well worth the planning.