Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The garden writers are coming! The garden writers are coming!
The GWA | The Association for Garden Communicators will be holding their 2017 Annual conference here in the garden tourism mecca of Buffalo, NY.

Weather Channel reporter Maria LaRosa
was a Keynote speaker.
We're expecting between 300 and 400 garden journalists, columnists, bloggers, photographers, book authors, educators, professional speakers, historians, landscapers, nursery professionals, garden center professionals, advertising and PR pros, filmmakers, and more – from across the world! Generally it's any folks that have experience crafting messages that support gardening and landscaping to their audiences.

They'll be here the week after Garden Walk Buffalo, August 4-7, 2017 for educational sessions that range from round-table topics, keynote speakers, panels, professional development topics, and of course, sessions concerning current and upcoming areas of interest to the profession (and public).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

My Ever-raining Rain Chain

My winter project for the garden is an Ever-raining Rain Chain made for the Harry Potting Shed. I've seen Pinterest rain chains with these small terracotta pots, but they were spaced much farther apart, and the pots tended to tip to one side or another. I didn't like any samples I saw.

Only 50¢ each. What a bargain!
I wanted to set it up on the potting shed with a buried bucket hidden underground (under a checkerboard garden square), with maybe broken terracotta pots on a grate over the bucket.

A variable speed fountain pump would send water up a tube through the walls of the shed and secretly come out into a gutter on the shed. Gutters are not there yet. Have to wait for warmer weather for that to happen.

The little pots were 50¢ each at Michael's crafts store. The copper wire is just copper wire from some left over electrical wire from other projects that I stripped and shaped - no cost! I shaped the wire, after much experimentation, into a swirl – that I could expand a bit within the pot – so that the pot would not lean and stay pretty much upright.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Gardening on Instagram

I'm having fun with gardening on Instagram. I post pretty much a photo a day. Rather looking at ugly hard drives sitting on my desk and never looking through the photos, now I get to look through them – and share them online.

Some photos are of my own garden, but the vast majority are from trips to gardens seen on my travels – around the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Europe. And with nearly 40,000 garden photos in my collection, I think I can keep to a photo a day for the next 109 years.

What you see in the image were my top nine posts for 2016. Follow me on Instagram at

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Icing on the potting shed...

It doesn't look like this currently – we're experiencing a 50º day here in late January in Buffalo. This was the shed during our first snow storm of the year, back in December. Looks like a coating of icong on a gingerbread house! Or something out of Dr. Zhivago.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Dunhaven garden in Atlanta

This past fall I was fortunate enough to attend the GWA | The Association of Garden Communicators Conference in Atlanta. Part of the long weekend is touring gardens. This garden, a private residential garden named Dunhaven, was the very first one our bus hit up. It set quite a high bar for the rest!

It was in a wooded setting, with no neighbors visible.  My favorite feature was the stone arbor, above, that led to a forest path. Below are other great features in their garden.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Curating the Taj-ma-shed

Okay, so most people don't have to worry about curating the contents of their garden shed. But this is no ordinary shed. I think we can all agree on that. In the coming year the shed will be seen in a national magazine (fingers crossed), a local magazine (fingers crossed), an ad campaign, and a tourism video. It's already been in the Buffalo News. To my knowledge, it's the only garden shed with its own press agent.

New artwork for the shed. Thanks Mike.
I visited a store in Portland, Oregon a few years ago named Boys Fort (Furnish your fort!). It was the closest thing I've every seen to a men's gardening store. The merchandise was garden and home accessories, all with a handcrafted/repurposed materials/nostalgia bent.

I've tried to do the same with the interior of my shed. Most of the items I've had laying around the attic, basement or garage over the years, collecting dust. Others were from my family's summer cottage, on Thunder Lake, just outside Binghamton, NY. The cottage is being sold, so last spring, I took items that otherwise might have been dumpster-bound.

Here's some detail on some of these items. This post is mainly for me. Or, in the off-chance, that my daughter, in the far off distant future, ever wonders where some of the crap in the shed came from.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Pilgim's Garden

 NOTE: This is a repost from 2011...

Back in August, we visited Plimouth Plantation, a recreated village representing how the Pilgrims lived when they first came over on the Mayflower. I posted a while back about the gardens of the local Wampanoag Nation. Here's the Pilgrim garden post.

The deeply religious Pilgrims did not show skin and thought of the Wampanoags as ignorant and child-like in their skin-exposing clothing. Can you imagine gardening in the hot sun dressed like this?

Men planted fields of wheat, barley, peas -- all from seeds brought over from Europe. They also planted new plants the Wampanoags introduced to them -- corn, beans squash and pumpkins. Fields were outside the village and where men would go and spend their days. The Wampanoags also helped show the pilgrims when to plant and how to plant seeds in poor soil by burying seeds with fish to decompose & nourish the soil.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Chihuly at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

In September I attended the GWA | The Association of Garden Communicators Conference in Atlanta. One of the many gardens we toured over the four days was the beautiful Atlanta Botanical Garden. It being my first year of attending, and always taking chances to sleep in, I didn't go on the photographer's early morning tour of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I won't make that mistake in the future!

There was a Dale Chihuly exhibit, and it was a 15 on a scale of 10. It's not an immense botanical gardens - but I still missed some sculptures.

Here's just some of what was there...

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


It's the peak of Fall here on the spread. We've been away many weekends in September and October and have just gotten around to prepping the garden for winter. Even though it's now November, the garden is finally starting to look Fall-iscious.

Patio furniture is put away. Houseplants are back in the house. Canna tubers are sleeping in the basement. Coleus are rooting in the basement. A few plants were moved to new sites. Hosta containers are ready to go in the shed. Garage is cleaned out so we can fit a car in there. The marble and granite scrap "carpet" is covered. Leaves are regularly being chopped up and being composted or spread on garden beds. Fountains are un-fountained.

I have 100 tulip bulbs to plant. But I think I can easily get that done this weekend.

The last thing I have left to do is purchase some canvas to cover the hanging framed succulent garden. Last year it was covered with landscape fabric, but I think that was too thin. I lost about a third of them over the winter.

And then for the winter? I have to come up with some garden projects I can make in the basement over the winter. I'm thinking a hand-made rain chain recirculating fountain for the shed, a collection of homemade bird houses made from all the scrap wood, paint, and pieces of odd bits from other projects, and planter boxes to go around the front porch railing. Oh, and I've had a kick-ass great idea to redo the lights on my front porch (they're currently colonial style and all but falling off teh house. I've hated them since we moved in). Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Home Depot garden

Co-founder of Home Depot, and owner of the Atlanta Falcons, Arthur Blank, has a very nice garden, as you might guess. A couple weeks ago, while at the GWA | Association of Garden Writers Conference in Atlanta, he opened it up for attendees as part of our garden tour expeditions.

The only stipulation was that he requested no one photograph the actual home and other buildings. He was gracious enough to let us tour, so I obliged. It killed me though. Imagine a French chateau. With dozens of security cameras. It's a truly beautiful home. But anyone with a net worth of $3.2 billion should have nice digs.

And the gardens? Mr. Blank obvious has good taste and was able to give a virtual "blank" check to some landscape designers. It encompasses a large lot in a very nice suburb of Atlanta. The garden was divided into sections that ranged from expansive, estate-like, to intimate sitting areas for two – to a golf putting green.

The lead photo evokes (in my mind anyway) Monet's Giverny pond garden. Other parts were more mini-Versailles-like. All gardens were impressive.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Gardening on the border

Here's where the blocks taken from the wall went, separating
my planted hellstrip from the grassy neighbor's part of it.
To the left is what the border looked like originally.

Above, what it looks like as of mid-summer.

The initial purpose of this low "wall" was to keep the invasives in my front yard from sneaking into my neighbor's yard. See my original post for what I refer to as my "zipper" wall, because it looks kinda' like a zipper.

I have thugs like chameleon plant (Houttuynia cordata), gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) and Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi). They're all invasives, that being the polite term. Left to its own devices, the chameleon plant alone would take over the neighborhood. Together, they're like a gang of hoodlums, scoping the neighborhood for gardens to invade, plantings to plunder.

I had the zipper wall built by a landscaper. No way was I going to transport, dig, backfill with gravel and sand, and lift each granite block a dozen times, to get them placed just right. It's now been there a few years. It seems to be holding the invasives at bay. For now.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Buffalo gardens are the best

For Garden Walk Buffalo this year, I was able to get out and see a few gardens a few days before the walk, as well as for a couple hours on the Sunday of the Walk.

This Highland Avenue garden is
more like an art gallery with plants.
I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany John Paget, a film-maker around as he shot gardens around the area for a garden tourism video being made by Gardens Buffalo Niagara and the area's visitors bureau, Visit Buffalo Niagara. John's shot some great videos for Visit Buffalo Niagara, including This Place Matters; Buffalo, America's Best Designed City; and Buffalo for Real; among many others.

You can be sure when the video is complete, I'll be showing it here!

On the Sunday of Garden Walk I got out to a couple neighborhoods I hadn't visited in years, or had never been. As always, Garden Walk is surprising in its gardener's creativity. Even having been involved with the group for 20 years, some gardens are still a revelation. I love still being surprised and amazed.

Above is the alcove between two garages on Prospect Avenue at Vermont Street, near Buffalo's Armory. It's an amazing hidden space - and what you see here is ALL of their back yard. They made the most of it!

Here's a bit of some of the gardens I visited. I've got lots of photos for each garden, so some of these may get their own posts in the future.

Make plans o visit the more than 400 gardens of Garden Walk Buffalo - in 2017 it will be held, Saturday and Sunday, July 29 and 30. And make hotel reservations now - downtown hotels fill up!

Friday, September 2, 2016

An oasis in the city. Really.

The description of this garden on the Garden Walk Buffalo maps reads:

                              Small cottage garden of raised beds and containers.
                              Large variety of oriental lilies and 11 Japanese maples.

You'd be hard pressed to remember the description once you enter the garden – more like entering the "world" of Jim Ecker's Johnson Park garden. Goes to show the limitations of requiring 25 words (or thereabouts) to describe your garden.
It is in one of Buffalo's oldest neighborhoods, dating back before 1837, when Ebenezer Johnson donated the land in front of Jim's house, as a city park. Jim's house itself dates back to 1831.

It was a very hot day when I visited during the Walk. But entering his densely planted garden shady garden entrance there was a discernible temperature change. It also got very quiet - with walls of trees negating any background city noise. And it even smelled different.

You'd never believe that Buffalo's city hall is just four blocks away, or that Lake Erie/Niagara River is just a quarter mile from here. Or even that it's smack dab in the middle of a dense neighborhood with houses looking like they all nestle into one another.

Jim's a member of the WNY Hosta Society and is a tireless advocate for, and gardener in, Johnson Park, the park in front of his home. As a matter of fact, Jim accepted, on behalf of Johnson Park, a Garden Walk Buffalo Marvin Lunenfeld Beautification Grant for projects in the park. In the past, Jim has been spending his own money for park projects.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Numbers on Garden Tourism

This article originally appeared in Buffalo's weekly arts and culture newsprint publication, The PUBLIC on June 15, 2016.

Did you know that, in the U.S., more people visit botanical gardens, botanical parks, garden tours, and garden events than visit Disneyworld. And Disneyland. Combined. That’s more than visit Las Vegas each year.

Smug creek Gardens in Hamburg.
So I called up the guy who wrote the book Garden Tourism, Richard Benfield, the guy who published the factoid above, and started asking him questions about regional garden tours, attendance numbers, ZIP code research, economic impacts, and more. He tells me he is the nation’s leading expert on garden tourism, basically, because, there is no one else. And, since I was asking such good questions, I could be number two.

It turns out his book was the first ever published on garden tourism, and to date it’s the only book written on garden tourism. And Buffalo has two and a half pages in it.

At the time, I was a few years into my seven years as a leader of Garden Walk Buffalo, which has turned into America’s largest garden tour. I was trying to figure out, through Benfield, where Buffalo stood as far as the size, scale, and impact of our tour. It turns out, there’s really nothing quite like it.

Garden Walk Buffalo, at 23 years old, attracts an estimated 65,000-70,000 visitors to more than 400 participating gardens; 20-23% of those visitors come from more than 50 miles outside of the city, and the two-day event has an estimated $4.5 million economic impact to the region. And that’s each year, for the past eight years. You do that math.


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