Adirondack Journal — The Gardens of the Adirondack Museum

The Gardens of the Adirondack Museum

The grounds of the Adirondack Museum have changed a great deal since the museum first opened in 1957. However, the commitment to beautiful gardens has remained constant over the years.

Mary Marquand Hochschild, wife of the Adirondack Museum's founder Harold K. Hochschild, carefully designed the first gardens. She created beautiful grounds through nurturing care and the understanding that in the Adirondacks, a "ten-dollar hole" is vital for the success of the "five-dollar plant." Thin topsoil and short growing seasons have long plagued the Adirondack gardener.

While the museum was being built, the grounds were also being carefully shaped. Mary Hochschild's work, along with the truckloads of soil that were brought in, ensured the success of the gardens.

While many plants require extra care and attention, this is not to say there are no thriving flowers in the Adirondack region. A number of perennials return year after year with no additional assistance. Flowers like the pink lupine, blue delphinium, and the Oregon grape flourish here. However, roses and rhododendrons require far more coaxing and are not often seen as practical plantings in this region.

The difficulties Adirondack gardeners face do not stop them from following fanciful pursuits. However, plants still must be carefully selected to ensure they are hearty enough to survive.

A number of non-native plants grace gardens around the region and at the museum. While many bloom at least a month later than in other climates, it is not uncommon to find azaleas, lilies, and peonies along with countless other "transplants" in this mountainous region. With many of the non-native plantings, the importance of Mary Hochschild's idea of a "ten-dollar" hole becomes apparent.

Much like the gardening staff at the museum, gardeners throughout the Adirondacks have always had to make adjustments for tricky planting conditions and shorter growing seasons. While Lucelia Mills Clark's diaries spoke of planting vegetables rather than prized flower gardens, her records typify methods created to overcome short, more difficult growing seasons.

In her April 4, 1906 journal entry, Lucelia Mills Clark who had a homestead near Cranberry Lake, New York, writes that she started cabbage and lettuce indoors in eggshells. As the ground is not suitable for planting at this time of year in the Adirondacks, one must come up with alternate means of starting plants. There is often still snow remaining on the ground in early April when gardeners in other regions have started planting.

While the important feature of the Adirondack Museum's grounds are the flower gardens, a new element was added during the 2008 season. Mrs. Merwin's Kitchen Garden was introduced. Frances (Fannie) Merwin ran the Blue Mountain House, now the site of the Adirondack Museum, with her husband Tyler.

Kitchen gardens were a common feature of Adirondack homes and included vegetables, fruits, and herbs. The museum's Kitchen Garden includes typical staples found in many Adirondack gardens, such as zucchini, lettuce, strawberries, and sage. All of these plants were also found in Mrs. Merwin's garden, which she used to feed guests staying at the Blue Mountain House.

As the museum changes every year so do its gardens. Many different gardeners have tended to the grounds and ensured that Mary Hochschild's vision continues. While the Circle Garden near the View Deck and the Cutting Garden today remain much as Hochschild originally designed them, most of the gardens have changed as buildings are added and the museum's campus has evolved.

Below you can find a sample of plants in the 2009 gardens at the museum.

Gardens of the Adirondack Museum

Visitor Center Garden


Cranesbill - Geranium sp.Hay-scented Fern - Dennstaedtia punctiloba
Coral Bells - Heuchera sp.Day Lillies - Hemerocallis sp.
Astilbe - Astilbe sp.Tulips
Anemone - Anemone sylvestris

Lowbush Cranberry - Viburnum trilobum 'compactum'
Winterberry bush - Ilex verticillata
Bearberry - Cotoneaster dammeri

Reflection Pond and Main Building Gardens


Astilbe - Astilbe sp.Hay-scented Fern - Dennstaedtia punctiloba
Hosta - Hosta sp.Lily of the Valley - Convallaria majalis
Day Lilies - Hemerocallis sp.Ostrich Fern - Matteuccia struthiopteris
Royal Ferns - Osmunda regalis

Amur Maple - Acer ginnai

Post - n - Rail Garden


Autumn Crocus - Colchicum speciosumFalse Indigo - Baptista sp.
Lilies - Lilium (asiatic and oriental)Purple Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea
Japanese Anemone - Anemone x hybridaJacobs Ladder - Polemonium sp.
Globe Thistle - Echinops ritro Rudbeckia maxima
Yarrow - Achillea sp.Butterfly Weed - Asclepias tuberosa
Lady's Mantle - Alchemilla mollisBachelor Buttons - Centaurea montana
Cranesbill Geranium - Geranium sp.Garden Phlox - Phlox paniculata
Silvermound - Artemesia schidtiana 'Nana'Tall Gayfeather - Liatris scariosa
Fernleaf Yarrow - Achillea filipendulinaAllium - Allium sp.
Tickseed - Coreopsis lanceolataBalloon flower - Platycodon sp.
Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart - Dicentra 'candy hearts'
Threadleaf Coreopsis - Coreopsis verticillata
Dropwort Meadowsweet - Filipendula vulgaris


Spirea - Spirea sp.

Mining Rock Garden and Fire Tower Garden


Creeping Phlox - Phlox subulataBlue Phlox - Phlox divaricata
Spiderwort - Tradescantia ohiensisVipers Bugloss - Echium vulgare
Wild Thyme - Thymus serphyllumNasturtium (annual)
Day Lilies - Hemerocallis sp.Bergenia - Bergenia cordifolia
Bracken Fern - Pteridium aquilinumMyrtle - Vinca minor
Purple Trillium - Trillium erectumMeadowsweet - Spirea alba
Sedum - Sedum sp.Bladder Campion - Silene Vulgaris
Perennial Foxglove - Digitalis grandiflora

Butterfly Garden, Mark W. Potter Education Center and The Great Outdoors Gardens


Black-eyed Susan - Rudbeckia sp. Pincushion Flower - Scabiosa sp.
Garden Phlox - Phlox paniculataBee Balm - Monarda didyma
Allium - Allium sp.Purple Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea
Liatris - Liatris sp.Spiderwort
Parsley and Nasturtium (annuals)Sandstone Yarrow - Achillea millefolium
Joe-Pye Weed - Eupatorium maculatumMeadow Sage - Salvia superba


Cotoneaster - Cotoneaster sp.Vernal Witch Hazel - Hamamelis vernalis
Summersweet Clethra - Clethra alnifoliaBlue Rug Juniper - Juniperus horizontalis 'Wiltoni'
Juniper - Juniperus chinensisRed Osier Dogwood - Cornus alba siberica
Peegee Hydrangea - Hydrangea paniculata

Marion River Carry Pavilion Garden


Interupted Fern - Osmunda claytoniaFalse Solomons Seal - Smilacina racemosa
Ostrich Fern - Matteucia stuthiopteris Canadian Mayflower - Maianthemum canadense
Mountain Wood Fern - Dryopteris spinulosaHay-scented Fern - Dennistaedtia Punctiloba


Higbush Cranberry - Viburnum trilobumLowbush Blueberry - Vaccinium sp.


White Spruce - Picea glaucaMountain Ash - Sorbus americana
Colorado Blue Spruce - Picea pungens Eastern Hemlock - Tsuga canadensis

Hillside Garden


Bearded Iris - IrisSpurge - Euphorbia sp.
Campanula - Campanula carpatica sp.Hollyhocks - Alcea sp.
Crocosmia 'Lucifer'Hosta
Beardtongue - Penstemon sp.Purple Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea
Japanese Iris - Iris EnsataGlobe Thistle - Echinops ritro
White Coneflower - Echinacea purpurea 'white swan'

Merwin Hill and Bull Cottage Gardens


Black-eyed Susan - Rudbeckia sp.Purple Trillium - Trillium erectum
Solomons Seal - PolygonatumWhite Baneberry - Actae pachypoda
Indian Poke - Varatrum vivideJack-n-the pulpit - Arisaema triphyllum
Columbine - AquilegiaTall Meadow rue - Thalictrum pubescens
Toadshade - Trillium sessilePink Lady's Slipper - cypripedium acaule
Hosta - Hosta sp.Blue Cohosh - caulophyllum thalictroides
Myrtle - Vinca minorColts Foot - Tussilago farfara
Comfrey - Symphytum sp.Purple Threeawn - Aristida purpurea
Astilbe - Astilbe sp. Round-lobed Hepatica - Anemone Americana
Day Lilies - Hemerocallis sp.Spotted touch-me-not - Impatiens capensis
Round Leaf Orchid - Amerorchis rotundifolia


Maiden Hair Fern - Adiaritum pedatumLong Beech Fern - Thelopteris phegopteris
Christmas Fern - Polystichum acrostichoides


Amur Honeysuckle - Lonicera maackiiRed Twig Dogwood - Cornus alba siberica

Pondside, Roadside and Wetland Gardens


Astilbe - Astilbe sp.Variegated Japanese Iris - Iris ensta 'variegatum'
Siberian Iris - Iris SibericaBugleweed - Ajuga sp.
Day Lilies - Hemerocallis sp.Bergenia - Bergenia cordifolia
Ligularia - 'The Rocket'Sensitive Fern - Onoclea sensibilis
Marsh Marigold - Caltha palustrisHay-scented Fern - Dennstaedtia punctiloba
White Trillium - Trillium grandiflorumLady's Mantle - Alchemilla mollis
Anemone - Anemone sp.Fireweed - Chamerion angustifolium
Milkweed - Ascepias syriacaBlue Flag - Iris versicolor
Royal Fern - Osmunda regalisWhite Baneberry - Actae pachypoda
Siberian Bugloss - Brunnera macrophyllaCinnamon Fern - Osmunda cinnamomea
Cancer root - Orobanche uniflorumBiennial Foxglove - Digitalis purpureum