The Rochester Civic Garden Center (RCGC) is a not-for-profit horticultural education center founded in 1945 and chartered as an educational institution by the New York State Board of Regents in 1950. Over the last 70-plus years RCGC has nourished and preserved the community’s horticultural heritage through their ever-evolving library and innovative educational programs. RCGC continues to “improve the quality of life in the Genesee region of New York State by fostering knowledge, providing information and promoting all aspects of horticulture.”
In 1964 the Center moved to its present home, historic Warner Castle in Highland Park, part of the Monroe County Parks System. The park, one of four in the Parks System designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and dedicated in 1890, is 155 acres of both introduced and native woody plants comprising one of North America’s finest public horticultural collections. Highland Park is a fitting ‘campus’ as RCGC carries forward their community educational mission. Today’s organization is comprised of three areas of expertise.
• Classes & Events – RCGC is dedicated to providing a quality educational experience for all levels of proficiency. A variety of horticulture classes and programs are offered, including certificate classes in landscape design, floral design and botanic art. Local and national experts present classes, tours, soirées, demonstrations, full-day horticultural symposia and special events. The class catalog is available on-line at www.rcgc.org.
• Horticultural Library – From its modest beginnings in 1945, the library has become the largest publicly available collection of horticultural materials in the Rochester region. It contains over 4,600 books on all aspects of horticulture, gardening and related topics. Holdings include the latest in gardening techniques and trends; titles by the best garden writers; and historically significant books, periodicals and seed catalogs from the 19th and 20th centuries, some unique to this region. The online catalog is available through RCGC’s website. The library is a longstanding member of the Rochester Regional Library Council and is affiliated with the Monroe County Library System through a delivery service agreement.
• Historic Warner Castle & Estate Gardens – has been home to RCGC since 1964. Horatio Gates Warner built the Castle in 1854. The 1.8 acre property underwent a renaissance, both inside and out, during the 1912-1936 tenure of Frank and Merry Dennis. They developed a series of ornamental gardens at the rear of the Castle, started around 1920 and presumed to have been strongly influenced by landscape architect Alling DeForest. In 1930 Merry commissioned DeForest to create the Sunken Garden – a distinctive feature in the landscape. RCGC has instituted the long-term goal of revitalizing the once-beautiful gardens, honoring the 1920s and 30s Arts and Crafts style estate design, and in turn, creating beautiful spaces for all to enjoy. The gardens are used for classes, tours and special events and are open to the public during Park hours.
The library’s first collection is the 62 years of Bulletins published by RCGC (originally The Garden Center of Rochester). The Bulletins are a compendium of horticultural information; extensive articles and information from the County Parks horticulturist, taxonomist and other experts; a snapshot of gardening life in our community since 1945. In 2007 the Bulletins were replaced with a quarterly publication of classes and the website (www.rcgc.org) with class schedule, current events and ongoing horticultural news. In addition, RCGC publishes a monthly email newsletter and utilizes social media. The original Bulletins are now housed at the Local History Division of the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County.