John Lincklaen's original garden layout for Lorenzo was done according to Dutch tradition with eight squares called parterres in a grid surrounded by paths. Beds were planted with vegetables in the center bordered by flowers. It wasn't long, though, before this plan was found to be impractical, and the vegetables were moved to an area behind Church Cottage (that today houses the gift shop).
When Ledyard Lincklaen inherited Lorenzo, he envisioned a new garden. In 1856 he installed his own design based on a central path with a sundial as the focal point. This plan allowed the garden to become an extension of the mansion’s main hall. To this day, when the front and back doors are open, the unbroken view extends from the garden to the lake, “inviting the outdoors in.” Ledyard Lincklaen also planted the double hedge of white pine, hemlock and Norway spruce today known as the Dark Aisle, maintained since 1976 by the Syracuse Garden Club.
The garden today retains much of Ledyard Lincklaen's design, although photographs from the late 1800s portray a lush garden with rose arbors. In 1914 Helen Lincklaen Fairchild hired renowned garden designer Ellen Biddle Shipman to enhance her father's layout with formal perennial beds. Shipman was a woman pioneer in landscape design and an avid horticulturist from Cornish, New Hampshire.
In 1983, Friends of Lorenzo hired Janine Golub, Master Gardener, who referenced the original Shipman design for plant varieties and placement.
The central path remains, broken only by a mounded circle with a granite boulder holding a sundial. A stone water trough was added and graces the south end of the garden. A winter storm felled a large honey locust tree that stood just west of the garden. Sun-loving plants replaced ferms that had flourished in its shade.
As any gardener knows, the uncertainty of nature plays a starring role in even the best-laid garden plans. One thing, though, is certain. Treescapes, informal plantings and the formal flower garden — enhanced by their spring-to-fall color — always will be integral to the beauty of Lorenzo.
Plants included in Lorenzo's formal garden: (spring) Bergenia, Dicentra Eximia, Alyssum, Trollius, Lupines, Aconitum, Peony, Anchusa; (early summer) Japanese Iris, Bearded Iris, Yellow Flag Iris, Baptisia, Dianthus, Dictamnus; (summer) Anthemis, Eryngium, Hollyhocks, Delphinium, Echinops, Hosta, Sweet William, Oenothera, Foxglove, Campanula, Astilbe, Gypsophila, Phlox; (fall) Japanese Anemone, Boltonia, Asters, Autumn Joy Sedum, Rosy Glow Barberry.