Good Question: Who designs the pansy beds at Highland Park?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Lilac Festival begins May 12 but this good question is about another kind of flower at Highland Park: The pansies.

The design for the Highland Park pansy bed changes every year and every year it is a star of the show at the Lilac Festival. This year, the pansies are planted in the shape of an actual star. One of you wanted to know, who decides on these beautiful designs?

Every spring, at the corner of South Goodman Street and Highland Avenue, you’ll see a beautiful display of colorful pansies.

A viewer says: “I have often wondered who decides what the design for the pansy bed will be. And is there a submission of designs that they choose from? It is always so lovely. Must be artists have something to do with it?”

Mark Quinn, the superintendent of horticulture with the Monroe County Parks Department, explains.

“The designer is describing it as a shooting star. It was designed by one of our retired horticultural people, Kent Millam,” said Mark Quinn.

Designing the pansy beds is typically a one-person job and Millam has been doing it for over two decades.

“The person gets his pencil and paper and designs stuff out and says, this is cool, and he usually doesn’t even show it to anybody. We don’t even see it until it’s out in the flowers,” Quinn said.

There are eight different varieties of pansies in the bed this year and about 17,000 total blooms.

“This year, it’s particularly good because the pansies were good when they went in. Sometimes if they’re a little small and they’re not blooming really well yet it’s a little harder to see but this one’s quite good,” Quinn said.

The seeds are typically planted in a greenhouse in January. Then, they’re transferred to Highland Park in mid-April, where they thrive in cool and sunny weather.

The pansies are in peak bloom right now, but by early June, they begin to fade away. After the pansies are gone, the parks department will replace them with a summer annual display.

If you want to check out the pansy bed for yourself, the Lilac Festival is the perfect time to do it and it runs from May 12 to May 21. If you have a good question, send it to us at