Treasure in Buffalo
All Photos Courtesy of The Buffalo Botanical Gardens
Photography By Richard Gronostajski
TEXT AND PHOTOS, NOT FOR REPRODUCTION WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION
One of the best ivy collections in the United States is in Buffalo, New York, housed in one of three dramatic Victorian onion-domed glass buildings at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. The collection has over 400 different cultivars, more than any other public garden in the world.
These plants are all cared for by volunteers headed by Ronnie Dapp. In 2002 Ronnie with John Rogers (now deceased) began caring for the collection that was propagated by layering so that two pots of each cultivar would be available at all times. They were labeled and arranged alphabetically for easy access.
In 2005/6, Betsy Moll, Pat Klucznski, Lee Schreiner, Richard Graf and Ruth Kaman joined the original ivy volunteers. Together they weed the ivy, repot when necessary, check for insects, plant topiaries, give classes on topiaries, propagate cuttings for sale in the gift shop and deliver a Power Point presentation to Garden Clubs and others interested in ivy. The ivies are watered by the volunteers two or three times a week depending on the weather. They fertilize and spray insecticide (Malathion) when necessary. Occasionally they use alcohol on the leaves of the Adult ivies for mealy bugs.
On October 3, 2006, members of the Toronto Chapter of the American Ivy Society chartered a bus to come from Canada to visit the Buffalo Botanical Gardens and to see this unusual collection placed in alphabetical order and artistically displayed in several greenhouses. Members of the Western New York AIS Chapter were there to welcome them and serve a buffet luncheon. Two of the volunteers, Lee Schreiner and Pat Kluczynski, made a variety of unusual ivy table centerpieces and also displayed topiaries in various stages of growth.
History of the Conservatory
In 1868 Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of modern landscape architecture was hired by the City of Buffalo to design a park for which it purchased 156 acres with 11.4 acres becoming the site of the Botanical Gardens with its distinctive Conservatory buildings.
Built by Lord and Burnham at a cost of $130,000 the Conservatory was opened in 1900. At opening, it was the third largest public greenhouse complex in the country and ninth largest in the world. The tri-domed profile of the BBG rises like a diamond crown set upon a green velvet cushion – a prime example of Victorian architecture.
Both the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens and the American Ivy Society were fortunate that Dr. David Headley became the Executive Director of the Gardens in the late 1990’s. He was particularly expert in ivy as it had been the subject of his dissertation and it was through his efforts that the collection grew to 400 cultivars.
A visit to Buffalo in western New York State to see the ivy collection at the Botanical Gardens can become a great vacation. Add in other local attractions plus the world famous Chautauqua Institute: Niagara Falls and the Botanical Gardens operated with the Niagara Parks (Ontario) School of Horticulture and/or the Royal Botanical Gardens near Hamilton, ON, all within an hour or two of Buffalo by car.