“I like to talk to plants, especially trees. People talk to dogs and cats, and they’ve figured it out. Trees have too,” said Peter Rumora.
Talking to plants, especially trees, has been inordinately successful for Peter. The modest city lot behind his 1754 home in Schenectady’s historic Stockade district contains about sixty different specimens of conifers – as well as many other delights. He admitted that gardening is in his blood – “in my soul” — and has been since he was growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania. His gardens (“my peace of mind”) have followed him from two homes in Dutchess County, to the Albany area, and finally to the Stockade in 2011.
The Arboretum has richly benefited from Peter’s horticultural gift. Having heard Arboretum member Margaret Law mention Landis, Peter and his partner took a detour to the Arboretum en route to the opera at Glimmerglass. He met Fred Lape, the Arboretum’s founder, attended his first plant sale – and “got hooked,” in those early days, sometimes volunteering several days a week. “What would I do? Sit home reading comic books?” he quipped. He has served on the Board of Trustees and the Buildings and Grounds Committee. He is a regular at both the spring and fall plant sales, usually bringing unique plants to be offered for sale. Peter has been a dedicated member and a volunteer for over thirty years.
Peter’s work can been viewed in the conifer and wildflower gardens at Academy Park, adjacent to the State Capitol, a product of his work with a committee that celebrated the 300th year of Albany’s founding.
Although he majored in education in college, teaching was not on his long list of careers, a list that includes working for the airlines and for a plumbing supply company in New York City. For most of his life, he worked on the remodeling and building of houses.
Over the years, he’s witnessed many changes at the Arboretum. He recalled Fred Lape’s rather primitive greenhouse carved into the side of a hill – and how the man’s ambition and determination impressed him. He witnessed the development of the plant sale into Landis’ signature fundraiser – it was Peter who coined the phrase “Pick of the Pots” for the popular members-only pre-sale reception. He remembered the construction of the Raymond Greenhouse. He noted the coming and going of many directors. Now, Peter sees a bright future for the Arboretum and credits Executive Director Fred Breglia for moving beyond merely “take a peek at our trees” to embracing a wider sense of mission, including the various arts and educational events.
Changes aside, Peter said that the Arboretum’s setting is constant. “Just that it’s there … ‘un-raped’ countryside”– is reason enough for a visit. Landis, he said, offers a rare opportunity to “escape … and commune with nature.” Besides, he added, there are those plant sales!
And plenty of opportunities to talk to plants.