PRAIRIE GARDENER: Put Buffalo's botanical gardens at the top of your must-see list

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- While it was too early for the 105th annual Chrysanthemum Show, which begins in late October at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, Grand Forks senior citizens were able to take in the Victorian Week and Ivy Show in la...

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- While it was too early for the 105th annual Chrysanthemum Show, which begins in late October at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, Grand Forks senior citizens were able to take in the Victorian Week and Ivy Show in late September.

The exhibit featured an astonishing 400-plus varieties of English ivy, said to be the biggest collection in the world. A special Victorian tea, which we didn't partake, was held in honor of the unique collection that included a luncheon of scones, finger sandwiches, fruits, desserts and teas. The event was sponsored by the Western New York Ivy Society. If ivy wasn't your thing, there were exhibits of tropical plants and cacti, all under glass, as well as outdoor gardens.

Our group consisted of 31, mostly seniors, along with BettyLou Vorland, who was our escort. The East Coast-bound tour included visits at other gardens, perfect for the Prairie Gardener who has never seen a garden he didn't like.

While Buffalo is best known for its horrific lake-effect snowstorms that can maroon the city in winter, the Botanical gardens top any list of attractions for this bustling city near Niagara Falls.

A treasure


A local and national treasure, the Gardens opened to rave reviews in 1900 for the Pan American Exposition. Designed by Lord & Burnham, premier designers of Victorian glass houses, the Gardens is the gateway into the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed South Park. Olmsted is best known as designer of New York City's Central Park.

The conservatory, similar to the one in St. Paul's Como Park, was part of Olmsted's final plan for South Park and was designed to offer a collection of exotic plants from around the world. Olmsted intended South Park to function as an arboretum of arboreal plants tolerant of Buffalo's climate.

The conservatory's unique tri-domed, wood and steel design was based upon the famous Crystal Palace and Kew Gardens Palm House in London. When built (1897-99) it was the third largest public greenhouse in the United States and ninth largest in the world.

Today, this wonderful Victorian conservatory is a showcase for a unique collection of plants and exotic horticulture treasures from around the world. The Gardens is a national historic site, education center, tourist destination and one of only two remaining Lord & Burnham conservatories incorporated into a park designed by Olmsted.

In the conservatory you will visit a palm house filled with a variety of palms and tropical fruit trees. The glassed dome is adjoined by a Florida everglades and fern exhibits. There is a Panama cloud forest, the Victorian ivy and herb house, a begonia house, tropical house, tropical rain forest and a desert house containing just about every cactus found in the world.

Outdoors garden

Once you completed the indoors gardens, check out the outdoor sites if in season. The front entrance garden is seasonal, featuring anything from spring bulbs to tropical plants. The rose garden contains rich and beautiful colors of extra hardy and disease-resistant rose cultivars. There also is a shrub and perennial garden and children's garden. The South Park arboretum was planned to be an arboretum of trees planted together as botanical families between 1894 and 1910. The original plan was changed when a nine-hole golf course was added in 1915.

There are a variety of orchid, holiday and spring flower shows as the season moves along.


Cleveland rocks

Native son Drew Carey said years ago on his comedy series, "Cleveland rocks!" So, it is fitting that it also is home to the nation's rock and roll museum. Like Buffalo, it also has a beautiful public garden, Cleveland Botanical Garden. It has a glass conservatory as does Buffalo, but the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse opened later in 2003. It is an 18,000-square-foot crystalline conservatory -- the only one of its kind. Open year-around, the Glasshouse is home to two of the world's most exotic, fragile and unique ecosystems: the spiny desert of Madagascar and the lush, butterfly-filled cloud forest of Costa Rica.

But there is more to see outdoors with the Cleveland facility boosting some of the finest gardens in the entire Midwest. Here are 10 beautifully landscaped acres of formal and natural gardens -- each one a gem, each with its own distinct personality. They include a rose garden, Japanese garden and a children's garden. There also are other gardens: water lily and lotus collection, herb garden, woodland garden, topiary garden, perennial garden, inspiration gardens, waterfall garden and an urban retreat garden. As you enter, you will view the Campsey-Stauffer garden up close. The two-acre public space features mature plantings of historic Ohio trees and other unique plants.

Garden group

The Grand Forks Horticulture Society has resumed its monthly meetings, which are held the third Saturday of each month at the East Grand Forks Campbell Library, unless otherwise noted. Garden topics will be discussed at 10 a.m. each month. Sessions are free and open to the public. Classes end in March. December will feature a holiday potluck. The group has announced the annual Gardening Saturday event will be April 9 and the garden tour will be July 16-17. Info: Sharon Criswell, 3802 Fairview Drive, Grand Forks N.D. 58201 or call (701) 746-4179.

Great apple

Hopefully, many people were able to taste a SweeTango apple, which recently was featured at Hugo stores. This apple is the latest rage in the Minnesota apple scene, with some even saying it is better than Honeycrisp. While pricey, this hot new apple lived up to its reputation after the Prairie Gardener took his first bite. With more produced in future years, prices will come down and this beauty will be a popular school and home snack.



Birthday greetings to a very special person who will be celebrating the event today on 10-10-10. It will never happen again!

Koehler is the Herald's garden columnist. Send garden questions to him in care of the Grand Forks Herald, Box 6008, Grand Forks, ND 58206-6008.

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