Have you noticed the Buffalo style gardens that have been evolving in western Upstate New York? This type of gardening is considered by some to be an original American contribution to urban landscaping. Although the style pays homage to Romantic English gardens, its unique and distinct local flavor sets it apart from other gardening idioms.
Cultivated in the northern part of the USA, in an unusually temperate micro-climate, its development has come as a surprise to those who wrongly associate Buffalo with severe winters[ not true] and a short growing season [also not true]. That so many of its residents have successfully embraced this style to make it their own is a phenomenon.
For this online, armchair garden tourist, the following four characteristics identify such a garden:-
1] Front yard lawns are replaced, entirely or partially, with dramatic perennial flowerbeds, and the strip of grass that separates the city road form the public sidewalk is similarly and painstakingly landscaped.
2] In older parts of town where Victorian architecture abounds, the exterior of the homes are painted in vivid shades that disregard the colors of nearby houses and flowers.
3] Gardens are defined by very dense and very lush plantings, a Romantic spirit, a liberal use of foliage, and an intense attention to texture, form, and color.
4] Neighbors design their front yard flowerbeds to compete with each other for attention.
Whether they adorn the front of a home or if they are secluded in a side or back yard, the plant compositions represent idealized horticultural visions usually found in the imagination of flower gardeners. We dream about them as goals, one day to be realized. Yet, here they grow on the southern shores of Lake Ontario, where winds sometimes make the occasional winter snowfall feel more severe than it is.
The gardeners of this city have created horticultural beauty of such high quality that their work has captured the attention of the rest of America. Admiring camera-equipped tourists arrive from outside the Niagara-Erie area, national magazines place journalists there to write about it, and other cities send delegations to determine if they can emulate Buffalo’s success.
When local residents realized that their own personal gardens had become tourist attractions, they came together to designate the last weekend of July as an annual summer festival to celebrate their work. Today 350 private Buffalo gardens make up a free-of-charge, self-guided walking tour that is organized by hundreds of gardener-volunteers, underwritten by thirty sponsors, and attracting about 50,000 tourists over its two-day span. It is the largest garden tour in America.
The Atlantic.com’s Daily Dish has described this collection of gardens thusly: “There are Japanese gardens, English gardens, Russian gardens (i.e., barely controlled wildernesses) and what I would call Buffalo gardens - eclectic, funky mixes in which found objects and exotic-looking surrounding rooftops figure prominently".
While not all of the participating gardens are situated on former front lawns, it is exactly those viewed-from-the street flowerbeds that have captured my attention. Readers who have attempted to replace their front lawns with perennial combinations understand that this project is more challenging than it appears; because a front yard converted into one large perennial flowerbed is prone to be messy and scraggly.
This does not appear to happen so much in Buffalo, as one can determine from the uppermost image posted above. Here, a meticulous gardener displays a keen eye for composition and design, a sophisticated understanding how plants perform, and a courageous approach to the use of color.
Once, the city of Buffalo was considered the grungy rust belt of America. Now, a community of avid, amateur gardeners is transforming it into what Martha Stewart Living suggests might become the epicenter of American Horticulture.
The walking tour of Buffalo's gardens is an example of how successful a grass-roots initiative can be, especially one that is completely independent of government assistance or intervention. Some number crunchers believe that this private two-day event pumps over 3 million dollars annually into the local economy.
Readers interested in planning their vacation to coincide with this event can click onto the tour’s website at http:/www.gardenwalkbuffalo.com