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

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. 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.

  2. 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

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