How to make your region as garden-crazed as Buffalo

How Garden Walk took over WNY


May is the month designated for extra gardening coverage in Spree, so I’m in the middle of preparing that right now. This year I decided to focus on classes, workshops, and reliable online learning (giving a nod to Susan Harris’s gardening video site). I’m almost done, and it’s really surprising how much there is, locally. An extensive horticulture class is held from January through June at the local botanical gardens, the extension holds (less intensive) Communities in Bloom days as well as Master Gardener training, and several independent garden centers offer regular half-day and full-day seminars on pruning, seed-starting, vegetable growing, roses, water gardening, and much more throughout the season. I shouldn’t leave out the garden clubs and plant societies, which host experts at most of their meetings. We have a lot of them too. The Federated Garden Clubs of New York State, which meets in Buffalo yearly, lists thirty Western New York garden clubs that belong to it. I don’t know how many plant societies there are, but I know we have rose, bonsai, orchid, daylily, pond/koi, and hosta groups. They’re active, too, most with Facebook pages. And then there are the neighborhood clubs that are not affiliated with state or national organizations. I was thinking about these when Alan posted about the decline of such groups.


That’s a good number (over 100?) of small garden-related organizations in a roughly four-county area. Why is this? Why is the Buffalo area so crazy about gardening? Many of you have heard about Garden Walk, which is the big urban tour with probably 400 gardens this year, but there are also seventeen smaller walks in suburbs and small towns throughout the region. An open garden program features seventy gardens  that can be visited weekly during July. So maybe close to 1,000 gardeners here are expecting visitors this summer. That would require planning, which does include classes, workshops, committees, and clubs. I guess that might be one reason why gardening clubs survive here.


But before Garden Walk, back in the eighties or before, there was a Buffalo in Bloom competition that awarded 3 prizes in each councilmanic district. I wonder if Garden Walk was in some ways a reaction to this, as it is not juried, and anyone within the area can participate. I believe this open admission is largely the case with the regional walks as well. Most of them are free, too.


Judging from my region alone, I’d have to offer this three-pronged solution to the decline of garden organizations. First, be show-offs. Encourage people to participate in walks and tours. Second, don’t be judgy; there’s always at least one interesting element in even the most unkempt garden space. Third, make sure everybody knows about your fun garden events. It took us a few years to convince the local media that Garden Walk was a thing, but now it’s used as a tourist draw and is surely one of the reasons the Garden Writers Association meets in Buffalo this summer. I hope to see many of you there!


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