Travel Stories: Buffalo’s Garden Walk

Garden WalkIn early August, I traveled to Buffalo, NY, for the annual conference of the Association for Garden Communicators (formerly Garden Writers Association). In addition to attending workshops and networking with my colleagues, we were all treated to visits of private gardens that were a part of this year’s Garden Walk. It has been billed as “America’s largest garden tour.”

If you love gardening but have never heard of Garden Walk, this is a destination you should put on your bucket list! 

For the past 24 years, Buffalo and its many gardeners have been hosting a two-day tour of gardens on the last weekend of July. This year, there were over 400 gardens (that’s not a typo) in seven different communities throughout the city.

What’s really amazing is that the self-guided tour is free. There are shuttle buses to help folks get to the various communities, and the tour features many different styles of gardens.

Since the writers conference was held the first weekend of August, we missed the official Garden Walk. However, kind gardeners from many of those featured in the tour opened their garden gates to us so we could share in the experience. The gardens were wonderful!

Here is a slideshow of some of the delightful gardens we toured:

(slideshow here)

I couldn’t get over how many eye-catching gardens were in each neighborhood — all on tiny city lots — and each was unique. Some had a cottage garden feel while others were more reflective. There was a lot of beautiful and fun garden art and each of us took away new ideas to incorporate into our own gardens.

Some gardeners got really creative — building platforms on their garages for a beehive or to grow veggies — with the latter accessed by either a library ladder in front of the garage or an attic staircase inside. Some used curving pathways, to add interest and to maximize the space in their small yards.

As I spoke with the homeowners/gardeners, I kept hearing similar comments about how the gardens throughout Buffalo’s neighborhoods had done so much for its inhabitants. Each community’s neighborhoods of gardens brought people together, whether it was a passerby stopping to admire them or neighbors connecting and relaxing together on a summer evening.

One gardener told me how the gardening neighborhoods had the positive effect of increasing their property value and how there were waiting lists of people wanting to purchase a home in those neighborhoods. Wow.

But what struck me each time we toured a garden was their willingness to share something that brings them a great deal of joy and pride, and the lasting tie they share with their neighbors.

I would LOVE to see this idea spread like wildfire throughout our country. A garden is an ideal setting to bring people together. What can we do to get this started in our own regions and neighborhoods?

And before I sign off, if you’re already thinking ahead to your summer 2018 vacation, consider visiting Buffalo during the last weekend in July. My husband and I also spent time in nearby Toronto, Niagara Falls (Ontario), and Niagara-on-the-Lake, so there is plenty to see and do in the region.