It was early in the morning when the bus pulled alongside the curb. People were waiting to embark, and thoughts of “I’ve seen it all already,” “What will I learn?,” and “I don’t know anyone,” coursed through my brain. I was craving another cup of coffee; however, as the door started to close, I decided to jump on the bus. What the heck, I would be back in a few hours.
“Good morning,” said the bus captain. “Welcome, the gardens of Buffalo await you.”
I had joined a tour organized by the Garden Writers Association to see for myself why anyone would want to walk neighborhoods in Buffalo, NY, trying to find a garden or two on a Saturday morning. I was using my Jimmy Olsen cub reporter skills to investigate what Buffalo had to offer the horticulture industry. I have been to the great gardens of the world and met award-winning gardeners. I have visited towns where horticulture enhances businesses, so what was I going to learn in Buffalo? Obviously, I had few expectations.
To make a long story short, at the end of the morning I felt like a rag doll that had just been tumbled dry. On street after street, small gardens greeted me. In neighborhood after neighborhood, the houses were cheek to jowl; the gardens were often small and the plants were always colorful. It was as if I had landed in Cornwall, England, but even Cornwall’s magnificent gardens could not hold a candle to what I was experiencing.
Gardening Pride — Buffalo Style
My friends, what I experienced were not spectacular gardens. I was not seeing manicured estates, nor was any one garden the greatest thing I had ever wandered into. No, what I was seeing was pride of neighborhood, pride of ownership, and pride of a city. Homes were cared for, porches lived on, and the gardens were handsome. No garden was particularly large, none was meant to impress, but all oozed with pride and pleasure. It was as if a large welcome mat was spread from street to street, inviting me for cheese and crackers on the porch. Needless to say, I was impressed.
I had a lot to learn that day, such as discovering that such pride has resulted in Garden Walk Buffalo, one of the premier events of the city. What started as a few gardens on tour in 1995 now includes more than 400 gardens in 2017, drawing more than 65,000 people.
What does a three-hour roam around Buffalo mean to our industry? It should provide all of us with a richer understanding that we can make a difference in neighborhoods, in cities, and certainly in people’s lives. We sometimes need to be reminded that plants, gardens, and gardening are important to people. Not just to a few people, but to hundreds of thousands who enjoy the creativity and therapy of working in the dirt. Thank you Buffalo for providing us with that reminder.
As for me, I am a born-again Buffalonian!