Friday, August 14, 2015

Buffalo Dazzles and Charms with 400+ Great Gardens and their Fabulous Gardeners

How on earth do you choose what gardens to see when a city offers you over 400 open gardens?   Even though some are just wee front gardens, there's no way on earth you could do them all over the two days.  So, Kevin took a quick look at the map and said, "No do-overs - let's just find neighbourhoods we haven't visited over the last two years and begin from there."  So, we started in Elmwood Village - gorgeous old homes, apartments, shopping, churches, synagogues, chapels, restaurants, schools, community centres - pretty much everything you might want.

*A's been a couple of weeks between my visit and this post.  Some gardeners are credited, others aren't - if you see something that belongs to you or your gardening friend and want me to say so - let me know in the comment section and I'll be delighted to add you in!

Buffalo gardeners are devoid of Annual-snobbery.  I remember when a Canadian-gardening legend said, that the best gardeners gravitated toward leaves rather than flowers.  Texture and shape rather than colour - so glad that memo got lost crossing the border.  I adore the little splotches of colour, and I'm sure the pollinators do too.

Not only were private gardens on display, there were a number of Grassroots Gardens you could visit.    These gardens are put together by the community, greening the neighbourhood and making it more pleasant for everyone.  In open lots I saw vegetables, fruits and herbs grown, as well as flowers and shrubs, giving life to a deserted lot in the middle of a street.

I thought this garden was amazing.  Horrid little location - pure enchantment when you're walking through now.

Look at what they had to work with - parking garage, deep shade, long narrow lot that was completely uninviting:

Echinacea was the hallmark flower of the tour.  Theirs doing so much better than mine as far as damage from sunflower moth larva.  Don't know if it's the variety they're growing or there just aren't as many of the offending creatures.  You can see one or two buds below that have the pest toward the bottom left of the photo.  The centre of the buds become misshapen when the eggs hatch and the larva start to munch away.

Always a pretty combination Echinaca and Perovskia.

When you're not looking at gardens, you're looking up at the decorated homes.

This section of town has lots of large trees and really pretty shade gardens.

Not only were there friendly gardeners to speak to there were many friendly dogs.

More hardscaping here than in other gardens, but what a lovely place to sit and entertain.

And, if it isn't enough that the gardens are open to the public for free, the kind gardeners often offered visitors refreshments.

Oh to be a little girl again and have such a wonderful house to play in.

On to Jim Charlier's garden of Art of Gardening!  Last year I had come within steps of his home when I visited Penzey's spices.  So after spending time with him on the Toronto Islands during the Bloggers Fling 2015, I was determined not to miss his beautiful home and garden this year!  Here it is:

Jim is in the centre with his visitors.  And, I can assure you his home and garden are even more lovely in person.

Along the street was this gorgeous back-yard shade garden - their Crocosmia doing much better than mine and I really like the effect of mixing different Heuchera:

As I was wandering through the gardens and saying hello to the gardeners, it struck me just how relaxed the homeowners were.  Here in Oakville, we are having a difficult time getting people to be on a garden tour.  There are security concerns:  "Someone will case the joint and come back a week later with their ladders and break-in equipment."  There are "My garden isn't perfect." concerns. There are "I don't want my privacy invaded." concerns.  Or, "my garden is going to be in a magazine, so it isn't necessary." concerns.  And, the old standby, "I couldn't possibly." Which may be a combination of all of the above.

I spent time talking with the gardeners about being on the tour and asked them if they might have their picture taken in their gardens showing just how relaxed they were.  I'm calling them Worldwide Garden Tour Ambassadors and hope that they might encourage more people to open their gardens.

Here is a prime example of Buffalo cool - Allen Yasgur.  I told him about our problem about getting gardens on our tour and remarked at how calm he was.  He said it was easy, because Helen did all the weeding.  We asked if the Dahlia in the hell-strip was a dinner plate variety - he didn't know, but suspected it was because I was the second person to ask.  He directed us to his Hydrangea in the back garden and off we went.

Who cares what the variety is, it's gorgeous.

Allen said, "All you have to do is treat the soil and you too can have blue Hydrangea - it's not rocket science."  Next year, I too will have a selection of blue Hydrangea.

Look at all the ideas here.....and what sweet little bird houses below:

Even though the front yard was under construction, the owners were kind enough to let us come visit their back garden....

with it's carefully chosen shade plants,

shrubs, flowers,

water feature, and

other sweet little treats.  It was wonderful.

Even folks who weren't on the tour gussied things up:

As we were walking down the street, visitors told us - "You have to go to the basset hound's garden!"  So while James and Annabelle, may do all the work, Cornelius seems quite content to take all the credit.

This garden has expanded over the years to include the neighbouring lot.

Great combinations of tropicals, perennials, annuals and shrubs:

Monarda teaming with bees.

Tucked in the back was a Hemerocallis collection.

Home of the hound!  And, look at all those magnificent containers, especially the lovely Cleome that Cornelius has chosen for his entry.

Annabelle is obviously the Queen of the container and preserving tubers, corms and bulbs year-to-year.  I was able to ask her how she got her Pineapple lily to bloom every year - turns out there is no trick, but sometimes they re-bloom and sometimes they don't.  Good to know.  Also, something else I didn't know, about Colocasia and Alocasia - apparently size of tuber isn't always an indicator of leaf size.  She has some wee ones she's saved and they have the most spectacular large leaves.  Other great big bulky ones have much smaller leaves.

This lovely home has been passed on from parents to son who is an avid gardener.  Great idea to have the Box hedge to hold up the 'Incrediball' Hydrangea.

Post-blog scribble, I'm taking this outside to show the two I've got growing to show them what they're supposed to look like.

On the other side of the house he had this wonderful collection of perennials.

He has come to appreciate a quieter style of gardening and his back/side garden had a very peaceful feel.

One of them-there re-blooming Eucomis - Pineapple Lily.  (Yet another photograph that will be shown to my non-blooming variety.)

Pretty not-on-the-tour Anemone.

We were getting pretty close to the 4:00 p.m. Saturday deadline when we were invited up for a Buffalo Porch Experience by Tom and Louise Yots.  They spend their summer out here - dining on this side and just relaxing on the other side where I'm standing.  They cleverly raised the hedge ever so slightly so they can dine in privacy while still enjoying breezes and everything the street has to offer.

Another porch garden and nice conversation with Susan Kellogg - she too encouraged anyone who wants to be on a tour, to just do it.

And my last lovely porch of Saturday!

On Sunday morning we started with Elizabeth and Dennis Horrigan's garden.  Their three grandchildren were having a sleep-over and I think her granddaughter has definitely picked up the gardening gene.  She spoke about all sorts of things she's had success with from seed.  Kudos to both her grandma and mum for encouraging the next generation of fine gardeners.    Elizabeth said that her son was on the tour this year for the first time showing his front garden - nice that you can start with opening a porch, a front garden and then graduate, or not, to a side and back garden.  Makes it seem a little easier to participate doesn't it?

Elizabeth has a beautiful home and garden on the old Albright Estate.  He was penniless when he died so his land was divided and new homes were built many years ago.

Elizabeth like many other gardeners were kind enough to leave tags identifying the plants.

Here she is, early Sunday morning - yet another relaxed Buffalo Garden Walk participant!

And then it was on to West Delavan - woooohooo!   May I draw your attention not only to the lovely pink flamingos, but look at the hanging pots on the upper level:

Kevin with Sunny - the ultimate relaxed Buffalo gardener:

I like this combination:

So many cool architectural bits and pieces:

Beautiful Lilium - and not a dreadful little orange lily-beetle in sight!

Now here was a wonderful garden to get lost in belonging to Jennifer & Jim Guercio.  Lots of flowers, ideas and so many things to see.

After enjoying so many porches the day before, thought, I'd climb up to see what Jennifer and Jim see when they're sitting (not that they could possibly sit for very long with this garden!).

The back garden was shaded, trellis'd, paved and full of eye-candy.

And, look at how beautifully the owners were presented - and I must say in spite of all the work that went into everything, they too looked very relaxed.

We took a quick break dashing in for coffee.  I used to have Danes, and can't help myself when I see one, just have to say hello.  This fellow is named Blue, age 5 and was from the Humane Society.

With not a lot of time to spend on Sunday, we picked out Putnam, Livingston and Auburn Streets because there were so many gardens open in such a small geographical area.

We saw another community garden - and were encouraged to taste the fruit!

More friendly people offered us water and biscuits:

We had a lovely conversation with Kate Willoughby, an educator, who with her husband had moved concrete and earth to create her wonderful garden.

Tucked away in the shade at the front of the garden:

And voila - no more concrete pad!

Nothing prettier than a good yellow and purple/blue at Rich and Paulette's house:

Note the sign.....grass is meant to be walked on.

More excellent combinations:

And, to all of those people in Buffalo who refuse to be beige!  I salute you:

Which brings us to our last stops on Windsor Street.  We did two of the three gardens - both lovely - sadly no gardeners about.

Now, I know it's not nice to compare to other places,  but I'm thinking if we all might borrow some Buffalo calm, some enthusiasm, some "well, I'm not sure where that plant's going to go, so I'm going to plunk it down here still in its Proven Winners pot until I figure it out and not be bothered that it hasn't found its permanent home" and open my garden to the masses, I'm thinking we'd have more garden tours, more fun and meet a lot more people.

And until we can get more cities to sign their lives over to garden fun, I hope you'll consider visiting Buffalo next year on the last weekend of July to see how it's done.


Jim/ said...

Barbara - what a great post! I've already shared it on the Garden Walk Buffalo Facebook page. Lovely coverage and photos. Well, except the photo of me. I wish I had a good side.

I'm so sorry we didn't have more time to visit when I saw you - but you can see how it was - dozens of visitors at any given time and half of them wanting questions answered. And that doesn't even take into account the friends that stop by and expect a visit too.

Glad you had a good time. Next year come back - we'll have more new neighbo(u)rhoods for you to visit!

Kathy said...

That was a lovely tour. Were you at the Buffalo Fling? I was . . .

Barbarapc said...

Jim, thanks. Knew it wasn't going to be more than a quick hello. That is half the fun for the people who visit - talking to the gardeners - I can well imagine that at 4:00 p.m. you were well and truly ready to put your feet up and have a nice cool drink. Should you be back up visiting your Oakville friends, let us know and we can have a longer visit. We're definitely planning our return trip for next year. (and, thanks for that Canadian 'u'!) B.
Kathy, no Toronto was my first Fling - and I hope just the first of many! B.

Pat Webster said...

Barbara, your love for gardens and flowers -- and people! -- comes through loud and clear. This was a lovely post. I can't think I will get to Buffalo for a garden walk, but reading this certainly made me want to.

Beth @ PlantPostings said...

Thanks for sharing these wonderful gardens with us. I can see, just from this sampling, that it would be impossible to spend quality time in them if you tried to visit them all. Sounds like your strategy worked well.

CanadianGardenJoy said...

Barb girl I am so glad you took so many pictures!
I feel like I did a mini tour right from my computer ... it must have been fantastic with such diversity with the gardens and plants and of course the people too.
I get what you were saying about the difference between the gardeners attitudes with opening their gardens to people.
Canadians are a little shy really ... they want to have their gardens look perfect at the time a tour would happen but it is such a gamble between the ability to get it in pristine order and of course the weather.
I wish I was more relaxed about it too ... I have been asked a few times and I just can't seem to be able to do it .. maybe some day?
In any case .. this was superb !
Thank you !
Joy : )

Barbarapc said...

Thanks Pat, Beth, Joy - it is such a wonderful event - and so much fun for gardeners or just people who like to wander about on a summer day and enjoy being part of the party. While you may not be able to go, I'd be tempted if I were you to put a note about it in the calendar the last week of July next year - and if you're in NY or around this part of Ontario, just make it part of your holiday - promise you won't be disappointed.
Now Joy - if you are asked -again just say yes, you'll go a little crazy, but you won't believe how rewarding it is - found that visitors are so appreciative and kind - just think of the folks you'll inspire!

NC Sue said...

Super shots!!
I appreciate you linking up at

Helen said...

Wow, you saw a lot! I love GardenWalk Buffalo, and you're just that much closer to it, Barbara. A must for any gardener in our area.