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Buffalo: A City of Gardeners

I was recently invited as part of the Association of Garden Communicators to the city of Buffalo to witness the impact gardens have made on the revitalization of the city. I met passionate people eager to better their beloved city and toured neighborhood gardens, urban farms and city parks. Here’s what I learned:

  • Buffalonians may be the friendliest people in the country;
  • Individuals can make an enormous difference;
  • Small actions create considerable momentum; and
  • Gardens can save a city.

The first Garden Walk Buffalo was held in July, 1995 after two Buffalonians attended a garden tour in Chicago and thought it could work in their city. This year, eighteen different garden walks began in the Buffalo area on June 17 and concluded on August 5. Garden Walk Buffalo was the 17th garden walk – America’s largest – and more than 400 residents opened their gardens to tens of thousands of visitors from all across the country.

And then, as if they hadn’t had enough people traipsing through their gardens, these generous gardeners invited about 350 garden writers to ramble about their landscapes, most making themselves available for our questions and sharing their passion for their gardens. Here are just a few snapshots of the gardens. I’ll share more about the gardens in upcoming weeks.

It was an amazing range of small front yard and back yard gardens – some formal, some not; some elegant, some quirky; some soothing, some stimulating; some drenched in sunshine, some dappled with shade; and all the pride and joy of their owners.

These folks planted all available spaces. Some gardened on the second floor…

…and some on the third floor…

…and one even planted a vegetable garden on the roof of the garage!

We toured the Darwin Martin House by Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo’s Parkside Community designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The original plans were found for the floricycle (a circular garden) that once surrounded the covered porch on the opposite side of the house. It is scheduled to be restored with all the original plants later this year.

As I walked across the street from the house to get a photo, two women on bicycles passed by. They asked if I was a garden writer and then thanked me for coming to Buffalo. Like I said earlier, Buffalonians are friendly.

We also toured a number of public gardens and parks.

We explored The Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens one evening. The Victorian conservatory opened in 1900 and is home to many different plant collections.

It was beautiful indoors and out.

We visited Delaware Park, also designed by Olmsted.

The Rose Garden was one of the main attractions of Delaware Park.

The Delaware Park Japanese Garden was a gift in 1974 from Kanazawa, Japan – Buffalo’s sister city.

Mutual Riverfront Park was created on an unused piece of land overlooking Elevator Alley.

It is just one of the parks and other projects spear-headed by Peg Overdorf that is rejuvenating this part of the city.

Rainwater is captured in several rain gardens in the park.

Wilkeson Pointe is a 12-acre natural park on Lake Erie. It was developed on a fenced-off brownfield site.

These wind sculptures reigned over the area featuring a boat launch, ball fields, a playground and picnic tables.

Buffalonian Dave Majewski worked with developers to coordinate this eco-friendly parking lot – the Buffalo Niagra Medical Campus Bio-Retention Cell.

Four million gallons of storm water running off this parking is directed into a biofilter…

…and rain gardens planted for wildlife and pollinators.

Majewski was also in charge of another nature-friendly parking lot built to save a 125-year-old maple tree, support native pollinators, and manage storm water runoff.

The Wilson St. Farm was started by the Stevens family nine years ago on the East Side of Buffalo – an area yet to benefit from revitalization.

The two-acre farm makes fresh produce available for low-income families.

Community gardens have had a positive effect on many Buffalo neighborhoods.

Before we said good-bye to Buffalo, we stopped for lunch at the Canalside development. Buffalo is masterful at celebrating their roots while redeveloping the area.

I will never forget the people and spirit of Buffalo. Individuals have worked together with common goals – to build community pride by making neighborhoods beautiful, to continue revitalizing the economy with garden tourism, and to make Buffalo a better place to live. I have no doubt the resurgence will continue. Thanks, Buffal0 – it was a blast!

If you are not already gardening, come on – garden with me!










8 thoughts on “Buffalo: A City of Gardeners

    1. I loved it, Dee! I am still feeling inspired! I would love to go back during the garden walk and to see the gardens once they are restored at the Darwin Martin House.

  1. I went to the Buffalo Garden Walk a few years ago and loved it. What a great way to put a fresh face on a city and bring in visitors! We’re in the early stages of plans to attend next year.

  2. When they ask in wonder, and THEY frequently do these days…WHY are you moving BACK to Buffalo, N.Y.???!!…Which I am about to do, after WAY-too long in crowded-hot-sticky, Florida! I’m going to send them this article! I just cannot wait to get back HOME to beautiful/gritty Buffalo, N.Y.

    1. *When I lived in Buffalo ’77-’95 there were stories of people/families who moved away to Florida, and then moved 1/2 way back to the Carolina’s. “Halfbacks” they were called…Well, I guess I’m about to become a Fullback because as just bought a home south of Eden and I’ll be back soon!

    2. I had never been to Buffalo before this trip, Gary, and I was BLOWN AWAY at the city’s beauty and the friendliness of the people. Enjoy your homecoming!

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