Buell's Greenhouses in Connecticut?

Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)June 13, 2011

Do the Buell's Greenhouses in Eastford, Connecticut still exist? I read that Albert Buell passed away about 2 years ago and saw another reference that spoke of when he used to own the greenhouses. So, I'm wondering if they're still in operation, perhaps under another name?

I have their catalog that dates back 45 years...have drug it around with me wherever I lived, all these years. If gesneriads are still coming out of those greenhouses, I'd love to see today's catalog - printed or web site.

TIA for any info you can share.

Patrick

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irina_co(z5 CO)

As far as I know Mr.Buell went out of business long long ago, probably soon after the time of your catalog. On a Gesneriad Convention in 2009 as far as I remember his son was accepting an award from the Society for his father for his great contribution in founding the American Gloxinia and Gesneriad Society, now The Gesneriad Society.

You own a piece of history!

I would think that these specialized businesses exist on love and enthusiasm of the owner, there is no big money there, and when the owner is getting older and cannot work as hard, the business closes.

Irina

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 9:20PM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

Thanks for the information, Irina. My catalog has been perused many a time, especially in the 1960's when I was young and quite amazed by such exotic plants. It's rather well used, but still in decent shape.

It's fun to look at the prices...African Violets were $1.50 apiece, but discounted to $1.00 if ordering at least 4...and the special: 11 plants for $10. There were no fees for shipping and handling...but it did cost $.50 extra per plant if you wanted Air Mail!

The various other gesneriads were $2.00 apiece, or $1.50 if ordering 4 or more.

The verbiage of the 60's reads so differently from today's text. Nothing like a walk down memory lane!

Patrick

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 10:57PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Patrick -

it is so true - I have several old "Gloxinian" magazines from these times - and enjoy reading them. Probably these $1.50 a piece were more like $30 nowdays. And old members of the club still remember the times when they got their very first awards - it sounded like "Mrs Robert Jones got an award for the best florist gloxinia" - and an award was probably a nice teapot. Now we do not even know the names of the club member husbands.

Irina

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 5:18PM
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davioletman

Patrick, sorry to say Buell's closed down sometime in the 90's. I live in CT and went to see if Mr. Buell's greenhouses were still open. When I was a teen and in my mid twenties I used to go there every weekend to browse thru the 7 greenhouses he had. The violets, gloxinias, Episcias and other gessies he had were fabulous. I used to spend hours talking to him about how to grow, what dreams I had I hybridizing different plants to create an orange violet. ( which I found out he was right, couldn't be done, but when your young and dumb you think you know everything!) I enjoyed those
times immensely! He also used to let me pick from his blueberry plants! That was a rare treat and believe me not many people were
allowed near them, let alone anyone knew he had them. The berries
were the size of dimes!
The biggest reason the business declined was sales. He told me in their
heyday they used to supply many major stores. One of them was S.S.
Kresge's. I used to see his violets there as a kid. Over the years he lost
many accounts due to Canadian suppliers selling plants for as little as 5
cents cheaper. As Mr. Buell explained to me there is a point when you
can't reduce the price any further and still make enough money to cover
your costs. Fortunately their name and quality of plants and their pensions (his wife was a former school teacher) kept them going for quite a few years.
In the mid eighties the state EPA sited him for several environmental violations over the burning of waste oil from what he told me he had a permit issued by the state which allowed him to. Many years he tried to work with the state and finally closed the doors in 1996 from what records I can find. It must have been around that time I went up to pay my last visit. When I arrived the greenhouses were still there but empty. The entrance door was open and people were inside cleaning out what was the sales office and register area. I later found out by Google that the property was put on the Superfund cleanup site for contamination of PCB'S and other heavy metals. In 2007, the Federal government has since ended it's involvement in the property and is now under the state's care for clean up.
I can not confirm any of the allegations the state had against Mr. Buell's operations. However, Mr. Buell was a man an honest man and a man of character. I had the privilege of knowing this man for many years and never was he ever accused of or did I see him ever do anything outside of the law. He operated his business with the utmost integrity and the Lord blessed both Mr. & Mrs. Buell for their efforts. They provided many years of quality plants, were ambassadors for the AV world and were two of the most humblest,friendly people you could meet. Their last few years in business they ran the business at a loss, using their pensions to keep the business afloat.
Hold on to the piece of history you possess. It is a priceless remembrance of these two outstanding individuals and their contributions to the Violet and Gessie world which can never be duplicated again.

Dave
In CT

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 6:00AM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Wow - what a tribute to this wonderful man!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 2:48PM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

Isn't that some wonderful information to know about a man who contributed so much to the AV and Gesneriad world? What memories for Dave to treasure.

And Dave, "never say never" re the orange AV's! If people keep trying, you never know what might happen. In Brugmansia, the goal is to achieve purple or blue blooms. It's expected to happen one day.

Patrick

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 6:52PM
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ima_digger

Awesome story. I just stumbled on this forum. I'm frequently on the African Violet and Hoya forums. I just got some episcia and sinningia starter plants in a RR and now another addiction is in the works. LOL. I will be lurking here, trying to read all the old posts.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 4:17PM
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davioletman

Irina, you are absolutely correct. I did a little research and Mr. Buell's son did accept the award in 2009 on behalf of his father. Mr. Buell died in April of that year. He was 91 when he passed away, living for quite a few years in a nursing home in Danielson prior to his passing. His wife Diantha, passed 10 years earlier in 1999.

Here's an exerpt from his obituary,

Albert owned and operated Buell's Greenhouses in Eastford for over 60 years and was a charter member of the American Gloxinia and Gesneriad Society. He had his own strain of Hybrid Gloxinias he developed. He was a member of the African Violet Society of America and held the office of Commercial Chairman for over 25 years. Albert traveled and lectured across the United States and Canada and wrote several publications on growing gloxinias.

The list goes on about his commitment to his serve his community as well. He and his wife will not be forgotten anytime soon in the Eastford area nor with the many lives he touched beyond, including mine.

This was just one of many awards this man truly deserved. May the others be presented to him before God for all the wonderful service he has done over the years to touch other people's lives.

Dave

    Bookmark   September 29, 2011 at 10:02PM
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bronxfigs

I'm a new poster on this forum, and when I saw the topic, I read all the older posting with great interest.

The first time that I decided to grow houseplants, and specifically Gloxinias, was because I saw a beautifully grown plant of Emperor Frederick in a nursery. I went to the library and took out a book by Peggy Schultz and learned that better Gloxinias existed, and to make a long story short, I discovered the Buell's. I was probably no more than 15-16 years old at the time.

I saved some money and sent for tubers for a slipper Glox. named, I think....Mont Royal. It was pure white with a blood red throat. I grew this plant on top of my bedroom radiator, under a cheap set of Gro-Lux fluorescent lamps. Steaming heat, in full sun, and misting when ever I thought about it. The plant grew poorly, but produced tons of perfect flowers, and thousands of fungus gnats. I joined the Gesneriad Society, and marveled at all the beautiful hybrids developed by others, and especially by a lady named Iris August who introduced "August Snow" a pure white florist Glox. But that was then, and this is now.

I really enjoyed my innocent, early days of plant growing successes, and failures. I'm now 61, and have been growing plants ever since. I owe all my botanical pleasures to the Buell's.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 7:08AM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

I remember the name 'Mont Blanc' and looked in my old catalog. I found it listed and even found a piece of paper I put in the catalog with that slipper gloxinia's name on it...a cultivar I wanted, but never ordered. Looks like we've shared this interest for nearly the same number of years.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2011 at 7:16PM
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john30083

I remember Mr. and Mrs Buell as kind and generous people. They certainly were dedicated to what they were doing. I worked part time at the greenhouses in Eastford for a little while. They grew the most beautiful violets and other gessies. It was something special to see the show plants they would grow. I remember that we would laugh when we would try to guess what it was that Albert was burning in his boilers. I can still remember walking though the houses. Good memories. I think they had 3 or 4 houses in Putnam. I was there once. They grew most of their glox there.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 10:19AM
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davioletman

An update on Buell's greenhouses. I recently met over this forum a relative of Albert Buell. When I started talking to him about the greenhouses, he told me there was a fire about 25 yrs ago. So I looked it up on google and sure enough, there was a fire in November 1994 that destroyed the furnace room and all but two greenhouses! Many of the plants were lost in the fire and Albert had 2nd degree burns on his hands as a result. After the fire, Albert never restarted the business.

Dave

    Bookmark   July 26, 2012 at 10:54PM
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Patrick888(z8 SeaTac WA)

Great update, Dave. Thanks so much for that. Remember Paul Harvey on the radio? I feel like this is the point where we'd hear him say "And now you know....the REST of the story!"

I joined the Gesneriad Society effective June 1rst and the annual convention was held here in Seattle during the week of July 4th. I attended most of the presentations by guest speakers and was especially interested in one about Tissue Culture. Everyone attending was presented with a plastic vial containing tissue culture material from 1 of 4 Kohlerias. I didn't know them by name, but ended up choosing one named 'An's Nagging Macaws'. When I checked it out later on the computer, I was quite happy with the choice. It looks like there is a mass of minute plantlets in there & some have started to grow nicely. In a few more weeks, I'll be able to pot some up.

Of course, one can't attend a convention with a plant show & sale without buying some plants! I bought 4 small plants, some cuttings & some seeds...I focused mostly on Mini Sinningias and Kohlerias, but my purchases also encompassed Episcias, Columneas, X Achimenantha, Smithiantha & Microchirita. Just 2 days ago, I planted 9 batches of seeds. I have some rhizomes to get planted and I should be set until it's time to transplant seedlings. I've been shopping for glass containers suitable for terrariums to grow & display some of the tinier plants in. I can see at least 1 more lighted plant stand in my future!

Patrick

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 12:53AM
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davioletman

Irina and anyone else here on the forum, I am in the process of collecting any information anyone may have on Buell's Greenhouses. Pictures, newspaper articles, magazine articles, etc. My intention is to create a website tribute to the Buell's and their contributions to the Gessie and AV world. We are coming up to Mr. Buell's 5 yr. anniversary, he passed away in 2009. I am also going to contact his son to see if he can help me with information. Rick, if you have anything you can share please contact me! I believe this is fitting way to remember all the Buell's and others have done for the AV world and for the Gessie world in general.

If this goes well, I will be including others like Frank Tinari, etc.

If anyone can send pics of old catalogs, etc. please email them to:

4davioletman@gmail.com

Thank you for your help,
Dave

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 1:14PM
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Rosie1949(4a to 5b/SE Mi)

Oh thank everyone for all of the information about Buell's Greenhouses. I won't bore you with all of my growing (and ignorance about growing!) escapades. But somewhere in the 1960's I was bitten by that "I want to grow everything I see" bug.

Eventually I developed a love for violets and other gesneriads. AND I haunted the ads so I could send for catalogs to let me see all of the beautiful things they had to offer.

Buells, Lyon, Tinari and a few other catalogs are the ones I still have. To this very day.

I remember going to S.S. Kresge, Woolworth's, and many other "dime stores" and buying beautiful african violets. I spent all of my allowance on them.

There was no internet or Amazon.com in those days. You either bought locally or,,,,,,,,,. well, guess you bought locally!!!!

To this day I have my magazines from the African Violet Society still in their original wrappers! And my Buell's and other catalogs. I have a copy of a now defunct "House Plants & Porch Gardens." This copy was devoted to everything violet. I have kept it all of these years and still enjoy reading it.

Guess you could say I am a violetAholic. And proud of it. Thanks to everyone who posted a piece of history about Albert Buell and his greenhouses.~~Rosie

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 5:58PM
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terrilou

Rosie, Thank you for jarring my memory and recalling my early violet & gesneriad growing days. I so enjoyed House Plants & Porch Gardens magazine. What a beautiful production is was! I still have two well worn copies, one on Hoyas, the other on species violets. The other issues plus years of Plants Alive, GSN, violet & gesneriad lists went by the wayside when we moved a few years ago. Can't keep everything! Even though the magazines are gone, I can still bring to mind certain articles & pictures. Life during the great houseplant boom was truly memorable!

Terri

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 3:24PM
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davioletman

Rosie, did you know the violets they sold at S.S. Kresge and Woolworth's were from Buell's? I chatted frequently with Mr. Buell and he told me back in the 60's he supplied all of these stores with African Violets. He eventually lost their business as a Canadian supplier sold plants for .05 a plant less. It was a shame. I remember as a child going with my mom to Woolworth's and seeing violets there. Little did I know later I would meet the man who grew them and become very good friend's with!

Dave

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 11:01PM
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