By: Kimberly (Kim) Burkard
Growing up in a very rural location with parents that both grew up on farms, visiting a public garden was something that we just didn’t do. It wasn’t that we didn’t appreciate the greenery or beauty. No, it was much to the opposite for we had well-tended flower and vegetable gardens plus acres of wooded property and farmland to roam. I suppose you could say we had our own sort of gardens. I was fifteen before I visited my first public garden.
When I was a teenager, my mom went through a period where local history was a consuming passion of hers. She read all the local history books she could get her hands on and during summer vacations we took day-trips to visit the places in those local history books she was reading. One of those summer trips was to Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua, New York. Even though Canandaigua was only 30 minutes from our house, a great day-long excursion was planned. Lunch was packed – enough food for a small football team for my mom’s “picnic lunches” always included homemade macaroni and potato salads, fruit salad, homemade desserts, sandwiches, and more.
We went to Sonnenberg and spent the day roaming the property, eating lunch, and sharing time as a family. Always a lover of both gardens and mythology, Sonnenberg was extra special to me. The manicured gardens were large and amazing, like something out of a book on European castles. And the statuary that filled those gardens were like a who’s-who of ancient Greek gods. I’m sure I dreamed about the place for weeks.
Some twenty years later, my own children were introduced to Sonnenberg. Tiny and in strollers initially, they joined me on summer outings. Each summer we visited, pictures documenting each trip. I even became a member of Sonnenberg to support the garden as well as increase the number of our visits per summer. My kids enjoyed these outings for it was a combination of great exploration but with a comfort-level of a place we had been many times. Sounds strange but with young children, it really works.
Now fifteen years later, my children are teenagers themselves with a special place in their hearts for Sonnenberg. And, yes, they still visit this public garden.
I hope someday that they will share Sonnenberg with their own children and that they will remember what my mom taught me and hopefully what I shared with them… A trip never needs to be far away or expensive to be great and special!
Kimberly (Kim) Burkard is the Marketing & Membership Manager at Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park. Learn more about Sonnenberg at www.sonnenberg.org.