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The Flower City: Center of Nurseries and Fruit Orchards

The Flower City: Center of Nurseries and Fruit Orchards

Introduction

By BLAKE MCKELVEY

reprinted with permission** from
The Rochester Historical Society © 1940

Lilac Time - Mid 20th Century

Lilac Time – Mid 20th Century

For at least two weeks each year Rochesterians proudly recall their former glory in the title of Flower City. When the sweet fragrance of four hundred named varieties of lilacs floats down from Highland Park more than 100,000 visitors gather from near and far to join in the city’s far-famed Lilac Festival. And when the apple blossoms have burst into their fullest loveliness in the wide-spreading orchards along the lake and up the valley, Rochesterians drive forth to join their Genesee Country neighbors in the Western New York Apple Blossom Festival. Again at the annual Rose Show, and through similar displays by the numerous garden clubs, as well as by the twenty-eight Flower City establishments, Rochester is reminded of the almost world-wide fame that once redounded to the Flower City.

Blue Pearmain Apple

It is therefore strange indeed that no previous attempt has been made to write the full story of the contribution of the nurseries of Rochester to the horticultural development of Western New York and to the culture of trees and flowers the world over. Stranger still, at least to the skeptical historian, is the evidence that quickly piles up, amply justifying the city’s proud claim to that colorful title during the second half of the nineteenth century. It was a happy combination of circumstances, both of climate and transport facilities, coupled with a vigorous and skilled leadership, notably of George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry, which gained for Rochester an influential position in the expanding horticultural life of America around 1850. But a full view of the city’s contribution can only be seen against the background of earlier horticultural developments.

The rudiments of the science and practice of horticulture had been at least partially elaborated in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and formed a small part of the cultural heritage brought by the colonists to America.  Faltering attempts to establish nurseries were made in the vicinity of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston during the early part of the eighteenth century,  but it was not until William Prince planted his nursery at Flushing on Long Island some time around 1771 that a stable commercial nursery was provided in the New World.  Under four generations of the Prince family the Linnaean Botanic Garden at Flushing not only sold many of the seeds and plants that spread fruits and flowers over the continent,  but issued the first fruit catalogue and continued to perform an outstanding role in the development of horticultural literature.

 Next→: Part I Frontier Fruit Growers

“The Flower City” originally appeared:
The Rochester  Historical Society * Publications * XVIII; Edited by Blake McKelvey; Published by the Society: Rochester , New York; © 1940
Used with Permission ; All Inquiries Regarding Use or Reprint should be directed to The Rochester Historical Society.
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