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.

I'm a brand-spankin' new member of the GWA | Association of Garden Writers. This conference was my first. I met lots of new folks in the garden world – writers, photographers, growers, bloggers, book authors, publishers, columnists, landscape designers, TV and radio personalities, consultants, videographers, magazine scouts, educators, and many more. The number of disciplines represented was staggering. The one thing in common? Each communicators to the general public in some way.

I also got to see some of my blogging friends and acquaintances I've met over the years from attending blogger meet-ups in Asheville, Toronto, Chicago – and we brought them all here to Buffalo in 2010.

Next year, we're bringing the GWA to Buffalo for their annual conference August 4-7. That will be 300-400 garden writers and influences all visiting Buffalo at the same time. Thank god we have a year to get ready!
For as formal as other sections of the gardens were, the intimate fire pit area was a feature looked like it was "lived in."
A "river" ran through one side of the garden, ending in this naturalistic pond.

The statues throughout the garden there were maybe four or five that I saw, all seemed to interact somewhat with each other. This one looked longingly toward another.

Garden author Felder Rushing.
The greenhouse was used mostly as an alternate dining room.
The back yard's central fountain overlooking the expansive grass yard (mowed impeccably in a cross pattern I might add).
Path alongside the house from front to back.
The circular driveway at the front of the house. This fountain mirrors the fountain from the back yard.
The street entrance to the driveway. I wonder if he shops for plants at the Home Depot?
Behind the garage was a large putting green, not seen from the house or driveway.

Magazine and newspaper garden columnist, TV garden personality, and horticulturalist Sally Cunningham toured the gardens with me. It helps to have someone along that knows the plants!

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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A make-your-own garden totem fountain

I bought myself a make-your-own totem of hand-thrown pottery pieces and made it into a fountain. I help organize a Buffalo-style Garden Art Sale and their booth was next to the booth at which I sat for two days for Garden Walk Buffalo at the Sale.

The vendor was Peter Goergen of JPG Pottery (3385 Maple Avenue, Allegheny, NY 14706 716-951-0172

I watched other folks decide on their height first - an unseen interior metal pole screws into a fitting set in a concrete base. The fitting in the base is an "L" shaped pipe that can accommodate tubing to make it a fountain, although Peter hadn't seen any of his totems made into fountains.

You buy the concrete base and pipe for a base price of $25. Then you can add elements - hand thrown clay dishes, columns, balls, finials and more. And you pay individually for each piece. Price is determined by size, design, and complexity (ranging from $9 to $125 for mine). The total for mine was just a hair over $300.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A new favorite garden

I consider myself fairly well-versed when it comes to the region's gardens. Every once in a while, I find a garden that is a real surprise – that I didn't know existed – and this is this year's. This is the garden of Carole and John Hajnosz, in Hamburg, NY. It actually backs up to the Wanakah Country Club's golf course, very near Lake Erie. 

It is on Garden Buffalo Niagara's Tours of Open Gardens. I'm vice president of Gardens Buffalo Niagara, and I help, tangentially, with putting on this tour of 70+ gardens open for select hours on Thursdays and Fridays throughout Eire and Niagara Counties in the month of July.

Carole and John have been working on this one-acre property for 25 years. He described it to me as looking like a football field when they moved in. Brick, grass, stone, and slate paths meander throughout the space, alternating open spaces with densely planted narrow paths.

His original plan was to build an arboretum, but didn't think he had enough room. It is a small-scale arboretum no matter what he says! There are ornamental trees, fruit trees, and mini, dwarf  and standard conifers. He's got an ever-increasing collection of azaleas, rhododendrons, and hydrangeas – and dozens of other flowering shrubs.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Boxes, baskets, pots, planters, walls, and grates...

This year's window boxes and cone baskets, wall hanging, grate-climbing vines, pots, planters and vertical succulent gardens came out great. They're ready for the big show in two weeks, the big show being Garden Walk Buffalo.

Figuring out what annuals go best where for each is a years-long learning process. I've forgone most flowering annuals because they need constant watering, fertilizing and deadheading. All things at which I do not excel. For most window boxes and baskets, I use coleus for color. They come in such varied colors and texture, and I don't have to worry about deadheading. And their color is constant.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A tour inside the Taj-ma-Shed...

The inside of the 'Taj-ma-Shed" is complete! I built the shed - pounded every single nail, laid every single shingle, cut every board. My wife and daughter did help with extreior painting, as well as held the ladder for me plenty of times, but other than that, I did it all myself. Well, okay, my friend Roger helped me put the counter top on the potting bench - that was HEAVY!

It's complete just in time too – a magazine is sending a photographer tomorrow to photograph it! And another local magazine is coming later in the week to shoot it. Both are for issues to be published next year.

Can't mention names, because I know that sometimes these things don't happen. Once, Martha Stewart Living magazine photographed my garden and the photos were never published. There's some great shots of my garden taken by a Toronto photographer, I've never seen, sitting on a hard drive somewhere in New York City. But I'm not bitter.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Happy as hellstrip

I finally, after many years, finished my hellstrip - the area between sidewalk and road. The spring hasn't been all about the shed!

Hellstrip with dead tree gone,
but stump remaining.
It was like this for three years.
It started off a grass strip with a dying horse chestnut tree. After watching the horse chestnut tree die for a few years, the city (who has the rights to the hellstrip property) came by and cut down the tree.

Then, after three years of asking the city when they were going to grind down the stump, they finally did. They planted a young tree to replace the dead tree. That was my cue to start planting there, since it seems the city was done doing what they were going to do.

The "grass" that was there was mostly crab grass, clover, and various weeds. They were all green, so it gave the appearance of grass. For a few years, this strip is the only reason I had a lawnmower, since the rest of the front yard is a grassless jungle of a garden.

Monday, June 13, 2016

10 of Buffalo's "Can't Miss" Gardens...

In no particular order, here are 10 extraordinary gardens you can't miss during Garden Walk Buffalo. There are 406 gardens on the tour this year, not a bad one among them. In my mind, these are some standouts - out of dozens and dozens of standouts. If you go on the tour, make sure you hit up gardens NOT in the densely populated areas of the map. Good gardens are all over.

1. (Above) Baynes Street Eight Paths Garden You'll have to pick up the Garden Walk Buffalo map to find out the exact address of this garden. Mike, the gardener, is a Garden Walk Buffalo volunteer and a great advocate of the Walk. You can also see this garden on Gardens Buffalo Niagara's Tours of Open Gardens - select hours on Thursdays and Fridays throughout July. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Spring around the spread

Last weekend I got done the bulk of the spring clean up. This weekend will be more concentrated projects, eating and drinking with friends, and perhaps the first kayak ride of the season.

Here's a round up of the activity around the spread...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Well kiss my tulips hello!

This was a great year for my tulips. During the Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto last year, each participant was given a certificate for 100 free bulbs from Colorblends Wholesale FlowerBulbs (seen above). I have to say - they are the tallest, most sturdy, longlasting bulbs I've ever had.

I'm no bulb collector or tulip hound, but from my little expereince with them, these have been the best performers I've ever had. The tulips I've had for years come back each year, maybe a few less each time. Many of them came from Holland - my wife was in Amsterdam and picked up a few bags with exotic colors – reds, oranges, yellows, purples, blues – and they all came up yellow. Buyer beware.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Before and After garden bench

I made this garden bench from a bed frame we had sitting in the basement for 15 years. It was my wife's grandmother's bed. At least this way we'll be able to appreciate it in the garden - rather than the basement.


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