After a whirlwind few months (New York, Toronto, Dublin, Florence, Hastings, Santorini, quite a few freelance projects and dealing with pregnancy nausea/exhaustion), my feet are on the ground again in London and things are about to calm down a bit, so it’s back to blogging! I have so many photos still to edit and so much to write about, but I thought I’d pick it up with a post about Buffalo, New York – a city just 20 minutes from where I grew up, but one I’ve never explored in much depth.
The heat and humidity weighed on us as we entered the conservatory, tropical fruit trees reaching up toward the steel supports of the circular 67 foot palm dome ceiling. It smelled of plant life and freshly sprayed leaves. We were at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens, a place I’d never been before – or even knew existed. It was, apparently, modelled on the Victorian conservatory in Kew Gardens, in London.
There were banana plants, mangoes and coffee plants around the edges, doorways all around that would lead us to other areas. In the corner sat a dormant carrion flower – aka the “corpse flower” that smells of death and rotting flesh when it blooms. They called it Morty, appropriately.
The Florida Everglades hallway was next. We passed the seagrapes, the cabbage palm and a honey bee observation hive buzzing with life. There were wetlands exhibitions and fake gators peeking through the vines. Finally, the mangroves that lead us into the next section: the Panama Cloud Forest Room.
Pale yellow orchids dangled next to fuschia flowers. We passed bromeliads and tillandsia, many of which I had never seen before and even my mom (a florist) and Jorge (who works for the Royal Horticulture Society) had to look up.
From there, we rounded a corner toward something a bit different: The Winter Garden. From here, it was into the tropical plants garden which was surrounded on both sides by growing houses that were visible but inaccessible to guests. There was a vine-covered gazebo and a giant checker board in the middle on which I challenged by dad to a match and lost miserably – should have known… And then into a more extensive orchid house.
This looped us back to the palm house, through a small gallery of botanical photography prints and other artwork. And on the other side, a begonia house (which includes one that can be traced back 100 years) that lead us into another long hallway that was home to a huge selection of herbs and medicinal plants, different types of ivy, carnivorous plants and a bonsai garden accented with statues of Buddha. Believe it or not, the Buffalo Botanical Gardens hosts the largest public ivy collection in the world!
Last, but one of my favourite sections – besides the fact that it was also the most unbearably sweltering and humid – the cacti and succulents. Not plants for touching, that’s for sure – some of the spikes were pretty intimidating and others so thin they were like tiny hairs I would not want to find anywhere near my skin.
When it opened in 1900, the conservatory at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens was actually the 3rd biggest public greenhouse in the US and the 9th largest in the world. I’m not sure what it is now, but there’s also an interesting history that involves the design of South Park by the famous Fredrick Law Olmsted who designed Central Park in NYC among may other impressive projects throughout the 1800s.
The Ancient Rainforest Houses – the only part of the gardens we didn’t see – were closed for renovations, but we did also explore the extensive outdoor space that circles that conservatory. We walked through the International Peace Garden and the rose garden.
At the back of the conservatory, we found ourselves in the healing garden where there was an amusing sign with a very American disclaimer: “This display is organized to encourage awareness and spread knowledge about medicinal plants; however it is not meant to substitute for medical guidance. Before taking any new supplements or medications, remember to speak to your health care professional.”
I also loved looking at the memorial stone walkway, some of which were carved with pictures of squirrels or fish or flowers. All in all, a lovely family outing and somewhere so close to home to be discovered.