In the beginning, Kevin Walek, who became the editor of The Hosta Journal, and then the President of AHS, came to East Aurora to talk about and to show slides of Hosta, emphasizing his "Hosta Waterfall" to be dedicated in many WNY gardens. Bill Nash from Guelph. Ontario, Canada offered everyone streaky seedlings from his hybridizing program. Eagle Bay Hosta Garden’s Ran Lydell enthusiastically encouraged the audience to form a new Society. Peter Brandt-Sorheim of Mt. Morris stepped up to agree to arrange an organizing meeting in November 1996.
Some forty five gardeners who are the charter members of WNYHS, met and selected a temporary board, with Rachael Martin as the Newsletter editor and Dolores Galbo as treasurer, and agreed to meet in June for the now-annual picnic meeting at Eagle Bay Hosta Gardens. We’d approve bylaws and elect permanent officers, including Carolyn Schaffner as President, Peter Adragna as Vice President, Joanne Pyszczek as Secretary, and Dolores Galbo as Secretary. Board of Directors were Kathy Guest, Wes Hyde, Ran Lydell, and Rachael Martin. Since that time, Rachael, Lori Johnson, Kent Terpening, and Kathy Guest Shadrack have been our newsletter editors.
Right away we began, continue to be a Hosta Happening – reaching out for new members and local gardeners at the Niagara Falls Flower Show and through Hem & Hosta Garden Tours with the Buffalo Area Daylily Society, and with a now-annual joint meeting with the Pittsburgh hosta folks, where we heard first from Bill Zumbar, who talked about Miniature Hosta. Members were, and still are, encouraged to attend Hosta College. We began an acquisition program, spring and summer hosta sales, and we continue our fund raising efforts.
Our very first public meeting was a talk by Ran Lydell on New Hosta, Hybridizers’ Goals, and Using Hosta in the Landscape. Seventy-five people paid $6.00 each to get our fledging group going.
Our first Hosta Exhibit was held in July of 1997, at Johnson’s Nursery in East Aurora, in the first of many collaborations with another plant group, this time the WNY Iris Society’s Japanese Iris Exhibit. In 1999, WNYHS held the first ever Hosta Blooms and Cut Leaf Show at the Museum of Science, and established the Ran Lydell Best Bloom of Show Award in 2001 to commemorate Ran’s widely known hybridizing efforts that have introduced the world to hosta blooms as a new and unusual way to appreciate hosta.
Hostas donated by WNYHS were established in public gardens at the Science Museum, the Buffalo Zoo, and on Buffalo’s Linwood Avenue.
Joanne Pyszczek established our first website, which Lori Johnson continued as a place to find dates for activities, pictures and reports of events and sources of hosta and gardening links.
Clarence Falstad was a guest speaker in ’97, and we have since hosted, either at WNYHS meetings or at Fall Hosta Forum, speakers of local renown, such as Rochelle Smith, Sally Cummingham, Kent Terpening, our own members Paulette Combs, John Walczak, George Donsky, along with Kevin Plumley and Paul Zammit from Ontario, Canada. Movers and shakers from the national scene Bob Solberg, Mary Chastain, Kevin Walek, Peter Ruh, Mike Shadrack (who Kathy Guest captured from the British Society to eventually become our current President), Charlie Seaver, Jim Hawes, Charlie Tuttle, and former AHS President, Jim Wilkins and Hosta College founder, Sandy Wilkins.
Good goin’ WNYHS!