Dr. Graf was born in Nuernberg, Germany, the son of a nurseryman.
He attended junior college in liberal arts; graduate training at
the botanic gardens in Schoenbrunn and Belvedere in Vienna, followed
by college study courses in horticulture, botany, languages and
photography at Vienna, Austria; Hannover, Germany; Los Angeles,
California; and Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey.
After his studies he worked with many horticultural establishments
in Europe and the United States.
In 1931 he became associated with the Julius Roehrs Company and
managed and developed through the years one of the largest and
most comprehensive collections of tropical and subtropical ornamental
plants grown under glass. For more then fifty years, he traveled
to all the tropical and subtropical regions of the world to study
the local flora and collections; and research at Botanical Institution
and Herbaria; to explore for new plants and record their floristic
backgrounds with his camera and notebook.
In 1951 the Julius Roehrs Company found that a key tool in promoting
sales was a pictorial catalogue of the many exotic plants sold
by the nursery. The decision was made to publish a three to four
page loose leaf brochure showing photographs of plants one could
purchase from the greenhouse. As time passed and the nursery prospered,
customers would indicate how valuable they found those advertising
pages which they carefully filed for future reference. Taking the
cue, Dr. Graf published the first bound version of the exotic house
plants in 1953. It was 60 pages long. In time the original 60 pages
grew so that in 1958 the first edition of Exotica, a pictorial
cyclopedia of tropical plants were published. This work included
642 pages with 4000 black and white photos. The book received instant
acclaim and garnered numerous awards from the horticultural establishment.
In 1960 he spent eight months in out-of-the-way, extremely difficult
and primitive areas of the South Pacific, Australia, New Guinea,
Southeast Asia, Especially Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, India
and the Sikkimese Himalayas; also three months in Africa. The result
of these travels allowed him to compile a 2nd edition of Exotica
with 12,000 illustrated photographs. In 1982 it was expanded to
a 2 volume set of books with 6,300 photos. This set of books went
out of print in 1992.
For Dr. Graf, the searching, photographing and identification of
plants to present to horticulturists became a career. It was a
labor of love, he recalls. He continued to work on the volume Tropica,
exploring and documenting the tropical and subtropical plants of
the world. Now in his nineties, he has completed the final book
in this life-long series, Hortica. Hortica begins where Tropica
left off, and it provides pictorial documentation of the plants
of temperate climates. Hortica is the most ambitious work of his
career. With 8,1000 color photos in 1218 pages it represents about
ten years of research and production.
Dr. Graf now lives with his wife in Dusseldforf Germany in her
parential home. He is still president of the Roehrs Company and
chairman of the board of the Julius Roehrs Nursery in Farmingdale,
Amongst the honors received by the author are the award of the
large gold medal of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the
certificate of merit of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society,
the distinguished service award of the Horticultural Society of
New York, a citation award of the american horticultural society,
and the tercentary medallion of the state of New Jersey, presented
1964 at the New York Coliseum.
In 1967 he was invested with the
Sarah Chapman Francis Medal of the Garden Club of America for outstanding
literary achievement during the national convention in Pittsburgh
1972, Alfred Graf was elected to Horticulture’s Hall of Fame,
the highest distinction of the Society of American Floriste, for
his contributions to the advancement of floriculture in America.
He is also a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica.
of his research and published reference works on exotic plants,
Fairleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey conferred on him the
honorary degree of Doctor of Science. In Portland, Oregon, 1979,
he was awarded the treasured medal of his mentor, Dr. Libery Hyde
Bailey of Cornell University, New York, the highest honor of the
American Horticultural Society.