ROC Gardens

A close-up of one of my own wisteria blossoms from 2008.Most of my colleagues and friends know this about me: I am a gardener. Except during winter, you’ll find me in my garden whenever I have a spare moment. Gardening ranks as one of the most popular forms of adult leisure, so I know I’m not alone in my hobby. My gardening enthusiasm also links me to the museum’s founder, Margaret Strong, who loved cultivating her home’s landscape.

Strong National Museum of Play’s Discovery Garden is a great place to sit and relax, while the kids have fun exploring.When I can’t be in my own garden, I find other gardens to enjoy. One of my favorite places is the museum’s own Discovery Garden, which guests pass on their way to the main entrance. In season, it’s free and open during museum hours. Designed to attract butterflies and birds, the Discovery Garden serves as an official monarch butterfly way station and educates our guests about growing various plants and flowers.

Emma Lambert Cooper’s simple impressionistic painting “The Garden Fence,” from about 1918. From the collection at Strong National Museum of Play.

If you’ve never seen our Dancing Wings butterfly garden alight during early evening, do yourself a favor and drive by!I can also find a beautiful garden and fluttering butterflies inside the museum, regardless of the season. The Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden® offers lush tropical flora along with stunning butterflies, all housed in a remarkable butterfly-shaped building. Come February, when my garden’s covered with snow and even the house plants are drooping, a visit to Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden is guaranteed to raise my horticultural spirits.

Terrace garden at 1 HSBC Plaza. Walled, but open to the sky.On my lunch hour, I sometimes explore a garden hidden in the nearby HSBC office building. Underground, but open to the sky, the garden’s architecture follows the building’s structure. The circular opening is too tall to see into from the street, so the only way to see this garden is from the building’s concourse level. It’s a very peaceful space right in the middle of downtown.

A postcard from 1910 shows New York’s Central Park during a daily promenade. From the collection at Strong National Museum of Play.

Olmstead’s vision helped develop Rochester’s Highland Park in 1890. The Lamberton Conservatory was added in 1910. This woman, identified only as “Mother,” visited Lamberton in 1915. From the collection at Strong National Museum of Play.Urban gardens and parks like these are nothing new. After Frederick Law Olmsted designed New York’s Central Park more than 150 years ago, park development blossomed in cities and towns throughout the United States. Rochester’s landscape includes a variety of public gardens and parks, some historic, some new, and some even designed by Olmsted. Across the years, everyday Americans have also created gardens to share and more private planted spaces around their homes. Hundreds of artifacts in the collections at Strong National Museum of Play® help document both public and private gardening and the many ways that Americans enjoyed this evergreen pastime. And we’re always interested in considering additional examples of gardening objects, photographs, and printed materials—in case there’s something you’d like to donate. Just let us know at collections@museumofplay.org.