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).

There are parties too. You can't expect a bunch
of gardeners together without a party.
I attended the conference (I'm a member! I'm a writer!) last year in Atlanta, and the sessions I attended ranged from producing live-streaming videos, usefulness of gardening apps, applying garden imagery to sell-able products, beyond the basics of social media, foodscaping, creating world-class displays, co-authoring, enticing future gardeners, and new plant introductions.

In addition to all these, the national-league keynote speakers included Maria LaRosa from the Weather Channel talking about climate change, and end-of-conference keynote speakers Michael Dirr, PhD (author of multiple books, and renowned expert on on trees and woody plants) and Coach Vince Dooley (one of the winningest coaches in the history of college football and a superhero in the south).

And awards. There's awards.
Coach Dooley may seem like an odd choice for a garden communicator's conference, but he was extremely knowledgeable about trees – and was very entertaining. There are tours that happen after the official days of the conference and one was to the Coach's home and garden where he's been collecting trees for decades. I'm told it was a highlight of the conference.

Along with all the classes, there is a Monday evening Awards & Honors Dinner, where members' work is recognized for communications excellence and service to the green communications industry.

On the left is Visit Buffalo Niagara's VP of Marketing,
Ed Healy. Obviously he's learning something.
What I went for, mostly, was the tours of gardens that happen for half days on Saturday through Monday called "Story Tours." These are intended to be inspiration and fodder for the assembled to create articles, books, blog posts, photographs, and more. We had the chance to visit the garden of the co-founder of Home Depot, Dr. Michael Dirr's garden, Coach Dooley's garden, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, the Atlanta History Center, he Gibbs Garden, and many private residential gardens in the region.

What I wasn't ready for, and enjoyed tremendously was the Expo Hall exhibitor and sponsor exhibition. Vendors of seeds, plants, planters, publishers, garden tools, nurseries, fertilizers, and much more are there with their new products, unique offerings, and new plants for the next year. And nearly all are giving out samples! (Worth the price of the conference cost alone!) Dozens of exhibitors want the attendees to cover their products.

On the left, Sally Cunningham.
Are you a potential exhibitor? Find out more here.

So we're bringing all this to Buffalo. Actually, Sally Cunningham, (The Buffalo News and Buffalo Spree Magazine garden columnist, Channel 4 TV garden personality, AAA garden tour host and coordinator, and book author) Buffalo's energizer bunny, is the chair of the local aspects of the conference. And she's got a large team of ever-generous Buffalo volunteers (including me). A couple dozen volunteers are needed to pull of the local portion of the conference, getting people in and out of gardens, and off and on buses (there could be six-plus buses of 50 seats each!).

A Proven Winners rep promoting new
plant introductions for 2017 and beyond.
Visit Buffalo Niagara has been a great partner in making this event happen. They attended the Atlanta conference, personned a booth at the Expo, have hosted volunteer meetings, are assisting with beautification projects in the area of downtown the attendees will stay (The Hyatt Hotel and the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center). They even chipped in some funds with Gardens Buffalo Niagara to produce a garden tourism video that premiered at the Atlanta conference which we'll broadcast broadly this spring.

Then there's a few meals that may need serving. Most meals and receptions are covered in the attendees' conference fees, a few snacks and meals we'd like to offer to our 300+ guests. If you'd like to be a sponsor, visit here, or give me a call (716) 884-3274.

The closest we've ever come to hosting this many garden writers was 2010 when's Elizabeth Licata and I planned and hosted tours for around 75 garden bloggers here in Buffalo Niagara. It was a blast. The promotion of Buffalo as a garden tourist destination got a big shot in the arm back then.

Imagine how much a group of nearly 400 garden communicators here can changed perceptions of Buffalo. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! There is no doubt that Gardens Buffalo Niagara, Garden Walk Buffalo, Visit Buffalo Niagara, the Buffalo Botanical Gardens, Olmsted Parks, the Wright sites, the great and generous tour gardens, and the ever-ready garden tourism volunteers can't carry these conference tours off. We've been training for it for more than 20 years!

We're even attempting to create a small new event that will be open to the Buffalo public, taking advantage of all these authors and photographer's visits (tours, sessions, and awards dinner are closed to all but paid attendees). Stay tuned for that!

But the biggest part of the visit, and the reason Buffalo was chosen for the conference – is our gardening heritage and culture. We've got action-packed tours of creative and colorful residential Garden Walk Buffalo gardens (mine!), tours of some of our gardening heritage sites (Botanical Garden! Marina Trial Garden!Wright! Olmsted!). And some of our great south towns gardens (Shadrack's Smug Creek! the Sully Hosta Garden!). Connie Oswald Stofko
from right here in Buffalo is a GWA member
and attended the Atlanta conference.
We'll also be trying to get some of the members to come for Garden Walk Buffalo the week before and staying through to the conference. It would give attendees the chance to take advantage of sites we'll not necessarily be able to get to – the Albright-Knox Art Museum,  Frank Lloyd Wright's Graycliff, Canalside, and that little water feature we call Niagara Falls.

The biggest deal? The conference is estimated to have an economic impact of $1.2 million. Garden tourism at it's most fruitful!

(All photos (save two) were taken by the GWA photographer. The last two photos at the end of this post are mine.)

Michael and Becky Fox, publisher and editor-in-chief of Ontario's Garden Making
magazine receive an award from GWA president Kirk Brown.
On the left is long-time Garden Walk Buffalo sponsor, Tracy Blevins of
The group can fill a room. A large room.
Expo Hall and exhibitors.
Connie Oswald Stofko of
won an award for her online magazine.
Left is Ontario's Ken Brown. In blue is Washington resident (and Buffalo-raised)
John Boggan of the blog, DCTropics.
Me. In deep thought.

Awards dinner master of ceremonies, author Allan Armitige.
Garden blogger, book author and freelance garden writer Kaylee Baumle of Our Little Acre.
One garden visit was to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.
Another garden we visited was to the co-founder of Home Depot (and owner of the Atlanta Falcons!).

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.

Took some experimentation, but I found this
round pole that was about the same circumference
as the bottom of the little pots. I put it in my
vice to wrap the copper wire around it.
For the height I need for the space, it will take almost all 30 pots I bought to extend the nearly 90" of the space.

Each pot has a hook on the top and a loop on the bottom. I have not pinched the hooks yet, as I may want to put the "better executed" copper and pots at about eye-level. And I'm not sure exactly how many pots will end up on the rain chain until it's installed outside.

It makes a great tinkling sound as water runs through it. I can't wait for the weather to break to start the install!

Bottoms have a loop - one too large to fit back through the hole in the pot.

And the top side has a hook. The swirl of copper inside the pot keeps it upright on the chain.

It could take all 30 pots I bought to get the 90" height I have in the space it's going to be.

I "dummied-up" (in Photoshop) where the chain will go on the shed. I may have it end in a larger terracotta pot, with the buried bucket underground where you see that hosta where the rain chain ends - in the Harry Potter Garden. I can easily find another spot for that hosta!

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.


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