September 23, 2013 was our last day in Buffalo and we had a few more hours to explore Western New York State’s metropolis. We started our explorations in the southern suburb of Lackawanna and visited the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens in South Park. The gardens were designed by famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted; the Victorian green-house was built by Lord & Burnham Architects; and John F. Cowell was the botanist behind this renowned institution. South Park, which surrounds the greenhouse was created from farmland between 1894 and 1900, and the greenhouse was modelled after London’s famous Crystal Palace and the Kew Gardens Palm House. Built between 1897 and 1899, the conservatory at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens is one of the largest public greenhouses in the entire United States.
For our tour of the Buffalo Botanical Gardens, we were greeted by expert guide Erin Grajek. We started our tour in the Palm Dome which houses a variety of palms, coffee plants, a chocolate tree, a banana tree and sea grapes. The Palm Dome has a distinctly tropical atmosphere and the glass structure stands an astounding 67 feet tall. There are several varieties of palms here in the Palm Dome, including a Silver Bismarkia palm and the Teddy Bear Palm with its felt-like touch.
We continued our tour of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens through the Ancient Rainforest area. This section features the Fern Collection, topiary, papyrus, banana and bamboo trees. A Koi pond delights with its brightly coloured fish collection.
The Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Garden is home to an amazing array of tropical plants. In Houses 2 and 3 there is a 30 foot waterfall that is surrounded by banana trees. Especially during the winter, this is a great place to come and catch a bit of colourful tropical relief.
The next section that we visited in the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens focussed on cacti and succulents. Many of the plants here hail from American deserts, such as various agave and cactus varieties. African deserts are represented as well. Succulents include plants such as the Carrion Flower or giant Toad Plant whose unpleasant odour attracts flies which it needs for pollination. Many of the plants here have amazing geometrical shapes.
Next on our tour of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens was House 5 which features the Wegmans Family Gardens, an ivy collection, as well as a collection of Bonsai trees and a selection of carnivorous plants such as Venus Fly Traps, Butterworts and Pitcher Plants, all of which love to eat insects, spiders and even small rodents and birds.
The Medicinal Garden & Begonias Collection at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens is another interesting area in this long-established institution. It was developed in collaboration with D’Youville School of Pharmacy and Mercy Hospital of Buffalo and provides education about the importance of medicinal plants and their role in our everyday lives. Many of the plants in here have interesting variegated and textured leaves.
One of the most popular sections at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens is the Orchid Collection which is home to a wide variety of colourful and interestingly shaped orchids that come from places such as the Caribbean and Asia. These exotic plants include common and very rare varieties of orchids.
In House 10 of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens there is a rental space that can be booked for weddings, cocktail parties and other special events. This space features beautifully draped ivy and a variety of tropical plants.
The Buffalo Botanical Gardens also feature a collection of bromeliads, exotic orchids and tillandsia varities inside House 11, the Panama Cloud Forest & Epiphyte Pavilion. Visitors can admire epiphytes up close that normally would be living 200 feet (or almost 70 meters) above the rainforest floor. This section is followed by House 12 which focuses on the Florida Everglades and houses a self-sustaining vivarium and various Florida plants and animal species.
After this colourful spectrum of plants and flowers we were ready to explore another close-by landmark: the impressive Our Lady of Victory Basilica.