But in winter, there’s no better respite from cold, snowy weather than to step into a steamy rainforest housed in a magnificent Victorian-style greenhouse. In the central Palm Dome, walkways meander around plantings of rare and special species, punctuated with tropical flowers that blaze red and pink against the green. Additional greenhouses—12 in all—re-create a Panama Cloud Forest and the mangroves of the Florida Everglades and house orchids, begonias, ivy, bonsai, carnivorous plants, medicinal plants and a cactus and succulent collection. Visitors can follow self-guided tours through the collections while listening to audio descriptions and information.
The origin of the Botanical Gardens goes all the way back to the 1860s. Judge David Day, a passionate advocate of zoological and botanical collections for the city, was instrumental in establishing Buffalo’s Parks Commission, which hired renowned architect Frederick Law Olmsted in 1868 to design the city’s parks. Buffalonians so loved the three original parks and connecting parkways and circles Olmsted designed that they asked Olmsted to expand the system over several decades.
South Park was built in the late 1800s on farmland south of the city. Olmsted’s design called for a conservatory with surrounding formal gardens on 11 acres of the park site. Lord & Burnham Co., the foremost designer of greenhouses of the day, designed the conservatory. The company envisioned it as a three-domed structure and based the design on the Crystal Palace, a cast-iron and glass structure built in London to house The Great Exhibition of 1851. One of the largest public greenhouses in the world, the Buffalo conservatory opened in 1900.
John F. Cowell, a professor of botany at the University of Buffalo, was the first director of the conservatory and oversaw plantings of the gardens. Cowell introduced plants from all over the world into the conservatory and gardens. Tens of thousands of people visited the beautiful greenhouse during the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. Six more greenhouses were added in the early years of the 20th century.
Buffalo almost lost this gem in 1929, when it came close to being demolished because of low attendance and disrepair. But the federal government kicked in money for repairs, and the structure was completely renovated.
The blizzard of 1977 damaged the conservatory, but a passionate group of Buffalonians stepped in a couple of years later to safeguard it. The members of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens Society dedicated themselves to tending and developing the Botanical Gardens and growing public interest in what they knew to be a jewel of the community. The goal of the Botanical Gardens Society is to advance appreciation and knowledge of plant life and its connection to people.
Renovations to restore two of the original greenhouses in one wing of the conservatory began in April 2015 and are expected to be complete late this year. New exhibits will open early in 2017, including new features in the Aquatic Garden and Asian Rainforest.
For the holidays, the gardens are sponsoring a series of workshops where patrons can create holiday decorations such as fragrant conifer wreaths, decorated boxwood trees and lovely centerpiece arrangements. For information about this and other upcoming events, visit the Botanical Gardens’ Web site.
The Botanical Gardens is a legacy from Buffalo’s past that continues to delight and enthrall today. Combining a respect for the traditional with innovation is the Buffalo way, and Canterbury Woods Gates Circle fits right into that model. Canterbury Woods Gates Circle offers the same elegant, gracious, active retirement living and compassionate care that’s garnered our flagship community, Canterbury Woods Williamsville, an impeccable reputation as one of the best in Western New York, along with state-of-the-art amenities and health care.
To learn more about how you can create your perfect urban retirement life, visit Canterbury Woods Gates Circle or call 716-929-5811. For more information about retirement living at Canterbury Woods Williamsville, please contact us or call 716-929-5817.