Buffalo Wins My Heart

Last week I attended a garden communicators’ conference in Buffalo. Why would we go to a town known more for its epic snow than gardens, you may ask? Well, because quite simply, Buffalo has great gardens. Lots of them.

The city hosts Garden Walk Buffalo one weekend in July, where more than 400 gardeners graciously open their garden gates to more than 65,000 visitors from near and far. It’s all voluntary and free. We arrived after this year’s event, but were welcomed into a number of the gardens in three parts of the city: the Cottage District, Elmwood Village, and Lancaster Avenue.



Can you believe that the gardener who created and maintains this garden is color blind?


These small, urban gardens were a delight, all brimming with gorgeous flowers, foliage, and creativity. The passion, care, and skill each gardener put into their tiny space came through loud and clear. Most were there to greet us and tell us the story of their garden. It all felt wonderfully personal and warm.


However, something even more magical unfolded on the streets. Like most cities, Buffalo has had its share of problems. But as we walked from garden to garden along charming streets, it quickly became apparent that whole communities have embraced gardening, and the result is some astonishingly effective urban renewal.

House after house was graced with lovingly tended small gardens and overflowing window boxes, hanging baskets, and containers. These gardeners even planted the hell strips (space between the sidewalk and street).


Even the hell strips are colorful and fun!

The homes were modest but neat and maintained. Common spaces were clean. Residents had also taken responsibility for planting and maintaining beautiful gardens in the islands between streets. Buffalo is living proof that


gardening can be a powerful force for grassroots urban renewal and community building.

Aside from Garden Walk Buffalo, there are additional open gardens and garden-themed tours, festivals, exhibits, and education events in the Buffalo-Niagara region from June through August. It’s also fun to cruise around the many parks, parkways and traffic circles designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead, the father of U.S. landscape architecture. The Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens is lovely, and Frank Lloyd Wright aficionados can enjoy the Martin House in Buffalo and Graycliff, just 20 minutes south of town. Niagara Falls is just 40 minutes north of Buffalo too. Wherever you go around Buffalo, you are bound to run into great gardens and friendly gardeners.

Chanticleer, Wayne PA

Chanticleer is a jewel among the many estate and public gardens in the U.S. Situated in the suburbs of south Philadelphia, It sits on 48 rolling acres and is aptly billed as a ‘pleasure dscf0229garden.’ It is the gift of Adolf Rosengarten Jr., whose family was in the pharmaceutical business. Rosengarten, who loved trees, made provisions before his death in 1990 to maintain the estate as a public garden.

“Our vision for Chanticleer is to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world while maintaining the feel of a private garden,” says executive director William Thomas. “We want each person to feel like a special guest of the Rosengartens.” He adds, “Chanticleer is about pleasure and beauty, but that doesn’t mean it’s not educational. We are an excellent environment in which to study plants, combinations, containers, garden design, use of structure and furniture within designs, and plant culture.”

Experienced gardeners eagerly visit Chanticleer again and again because they always find new and unusual plants used in interestidscf0193ng designs and combinations that get their creative juices flowing. Even non-gardeners love the experience too, for few public gardens combine art, horticulture, and emotion with such skill.

Plan to spend no less than a half day at Chanticleer—a full day to really see it all and take time to sit in all the wonderful handmade chairs and benches scattered throughout the garden. There is no place to buy food or drinks but you can to bring your own and picnic at one of the several designated picnic areas. More details are at www.chanticleergarden.org, phone: 610-687-4163.