We are so lucky to live, work, and play in the Finger Lakes.  We have abundant water resources, greenery that goes on for miles and miles, and four seasons of varied, but equally beautiful, weather.  So this Earth Day, we’d like to celebrate that abundance of natural beauty by publishing a week’s worth of blogs on all things that celebrate the Earth in the Finger Lakes!

Finger Lakes GardenApril showers bring May flowers! And, as the sun rises higher in the sky and stays up longer, the days get warmer. Inevitably, my thoughts turn to the outdoors and to getting dirt under my fingernails. I know that sounds strange, but there is something deeply satisfying about working in my garden and flower beds all day and coming in to the house to find I’ve carried that rich soil in with me under my fingernails. Earth Day is a great time to kick off those plans for spring planting, and I’m fortunate to have a perfect place to do it.

My husband, Jim, and I own 33 acres of beautiful, open property on one of the rolling hills above Canandaigua Lake. When we bought the property in 2002, the first thing we did was dig up tiny saplings that were growing in the wrong places in our small yard in Connecticut and brought them here, to their new home in Gorham. Not all of them survived, but it’s been great fun to watch the ones that are thriving grow into actual shade trees. We didn’t move here until 2011, so for most of those years I had to be satisfied with small planting projects.

Now that we’re here permanently, I get to plan and plant several gardens and do landscaping around our house. For inspiration, I love to visit Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandaigua. There are nine formal gardens on the mansion grounds, and each one has a unique theme. These gardens date back to the beginning of the 20th century when philanthropist Mary Clark Thompson, a world traveler, brought in hundreds of workers to redesign the gardens, including two gardens that were inspired by visits to Italy and Japan. With notepad in hand, I stroll through the gardens and write down the names and details of the different flora I find visually appealing. I imagine gardens as grand as these surrounding my home. Of course, I know that’s not realistic, but I always leave there with an exciting idea for a new garden layout – or two.

I also can’t discount the inspiration I get just driving down Main Street, Canandaigua. Several years ago, Jim read on a restaurant placemat that touted local trivia, that Canandaigua’s Main Street is the widest in the U.S. I can’t verify that, but I can tell you, the median and the lamp posts are bursting with colorful blooms from a variety of flowers and trees that certainly make it one of the prettiest in the Finger Lakes, if not all of America.

With my mind veering back to my own future gardens, one of my stops on the way home from Sonnenberg Gardens has to be Miller’s Nursery on County Road 16 in Canandaigua. While the new ideas are fresh in my mind, I like to purchase some starter plants – those that will be the basis for my own garden design. The brighter the flowers, the more likely I am to buy them. (Of course, I do consider hardiness, as well.) If they attract butterflies and hummingbirds, well, that’s all the better.

Back home, I lay out a plethora of tools, mulch, peat moss, trays of flowers and plants and start digging. With the first Finger Lakes Gardenslice of the shovel blade into the soil I feel a sense of accomplishment. The earthy smells kick start my adrenaline and I have the energy to spend hours digging and planting. I don’t need an iPod or any other source of music to entertain me because the birds singing in the trees, the breeze whispering through the trees and the far away hum of tractors as farmers work their land is enough to help me feel connected to nature and the beauty of the Finger Lakes.

Dirt under my fingernails? You bet, and I’m proud of it! It means I’m doing my part to keep our corner of the world eco-friendly and a great place to live or visit.