Wandering around Innisfree Garden

PHOTO PROVIDED The Point, overlooking Lake Tyrell, is a great place to rest and contemplate before continuing the garden walk. This looks across to the Channel Crossing (wooded bridge across shorelines).

(Editors Note: This article is the first of a series exploring plants and horticulture within driving distance of central Pennsylvania.)

It is going to be a long winter this year. Moods are altered and activities limited during these long nights, cold temperatures, and sunless days. The pandemic into the mix is going to take this experience to a whole new level. But as gloomy as it seems, our spirits can be kept alive as we dream of vacations.

Researchers tell us that vacations are important as they reduce stress and heart disease, make you happier, and increase productivity at work. And now is the time to start thinking of some possibilities, even if short. And even better when the trip is scheduled around plants!

Innisfree Garden is about a 4-hour drive (outside of Millbrook, N.Y.), but the time spent in the car is well worth it. One garden writer has it listed as one of the “world’s ten best gardens.” When one thinks of a garden, a small backyard area for vegetable and flowers may come to mind. This display is almost 200 acres.

It was a labor of love for the owners and their landscape architect back in the 1920s. Over the next 50 years they transformed their private paradise into today’s public garden. The garden’s brochure best describes the original intent in which the garden “merges the essence of Modernist and Romantic ideas with traditional Chinese and Japanese garden design principles in a form that evolved through subtle handling of the site and slow manipulation of its ecology. The result is a distinctly American stroll garden.”

PHOTO PROVIDED A water feature below terraces is pictured.

And a stroll it is. A meandering path takes one through a variety of plantings with the 40-acre Tyrell Lake as the backbone of the garden. The main unpaved loop walkway is about 1.2 miles but there are numerous side trails to explore. Along the way, you will pass several waterfalls, terraces, and retaining walls. And of course, there are plants that frame these permanent structures. A good number of them are native to the northeast and mid-Atlantic region.

In some gardens and arboretums, the paths take visitors through rooms. The typical displays are plants with themes and specific designs with limited views. Innisfree is different with wide open panoramas of the whole garden. And every view and angle gives the garden a unique look. In these times, this visit with the plant world can reconnect us to something bigger than ourselves.

If interested, check out innisfreegarden.org for brochures and maps. There is a small entrance fee. Because of COVID-19, there are some restriction and rules in place (like pre-advanced tickets) so call or do your research before a trip of this distance.

In the next several articles, I will talk about plant life a little closer to home, the Finger Lakes Region.


PHOTO PROVIDED An established climbing hydrangea is shown on a terrace rock wall.

Tom Butzler is a horticulture educator with the Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension Service and may be reached at 570-726-0022.

PHOTO PROVIDED Water elements populate Innisfree Garden. An oxbow is shown flowing through a meadow with a glimpse of Lake Tyrell in the background.

PHOTO PROVIDED A view atop a terrace.

PHOTO PROVIDED Japanese maples and ferns are incorporated into terrace walls.


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