Why should Buffalo, NY be the best garden destination in the nation?

This is the (unedited) version of my editorial that appeared in the Buffalo News this morning.

More people visit gardens each year than visit Disney World and Disney Land. Combined. More than 40 million. This is the teaser for the forthcoming book by Richard Benfield, the man that wrote the book on garden tourism. That book being, Garden Tourism.

With little research and data on U.S. horticultural tourism, I contacted Mr. Benfield to find out what he might share. He proclaimed himself to be the nation’s leading expert on garden tourism -- because there is no one else. And, since I had good questions, he offered that I was the nation’s second leading expert on garden tourism.

Garden tourism is an untapped segment of the travel industry. Few U.S. cities have considered promoting their garden assets to out-of-town audiences. And by few, I mean Philadelphia.
Buffalo has an abundance of tourist-worthy garden destinations and events -- and a thriving gardening community. We have an historic botanical garden, Olmsted Parks, and the nation’s largest garden tour. Our 17 area garden tours feature more than 900 gardens! We have serious garden cred in authors Sally Cunningham; Mike Shadrack; and blogger Elizabeth Licata. As most communities see newspaper garden columns and reporting cut back or eliminated, The Buffalo News has moved its garden column to the FRONT page of its section. Even Artvoice has added a garden column.

The ArtsMarket report “Buffalo as an International Center for Architecture, Design and the Arts” to the Buffalo/Niagara CVB was focused on art & architecture attractions -- but gardens and gardening activities emerged as an opportunity to increase a  visitor’s length of stay. In fact, the report stated, “interest in botanical gardens may be the key link among all the visitor groups.”

As how to enhance our image and grow tourism market share, ArtsMarket offered: “Garden tours, neighborhood walking tours… give visitors the opportunity to soak in the city’s beauty, and to take home ideas to apply to their own historic homes and gardens. Workshops and festivals add to the opportunity to learn and take ideas home.”

The report recommended: “Buffalo should respond to visitor curiosity by creating and offering:
• Gardens and garden tours, the Olmsted Parks and the Botanical Gardens
• Scheduled symposia or events, including annual events that attract national attention”

Any boost in tourism, with new or extended-stay visitors, has a direct, traceable, positive economic impact.

This summer, area culturals & garden groups are working together to launch the National Buffalo Garden Festival, leveraging our existing assets and adding events -- a Front Yard Garden Competition; garden-themed motorcoach tours; weekday Open Gardens; exhibitions; speakers; seminars and more. In July, we’re hosting 70 garden writers & bloggers, from 23 states and Canada, providing an unprecedented amount of publicity and Internet chatter.

And now, by having read this to the end, you may now consider yourself to be the country’s third leading garden tourism expert.

Jim Charlier is advertising and marketing professional, president of Garden Walk Buffalo (GardenWalkBuffalo.com), and on the planning committee for the National Buffalo Garden Festival (NationalGardenFestival.com).


  1. Thanks, I will now declare myself No. 3 expert. I will also tell you that we never travel without looking first for gardens on the route and at our destination. Not really surprising for serious gardeners but this is still a big deal for us. We have added hotel stays and rented cars and upgraded camera equipment all in the name of visiting gardens.

  2. When you get here, I'm gonna' have you fill out the garden questionnaire I've been working on with the Convention & Visitors Bureau. It's really supposed to be for visitors during the Garden Walk, but you'll skew it more towards the answers I want!

    And I just met with a university professor (he just left) doing a study on how gardening and the gardening culture of a community can effect change within the community. He's interviewing garden tour leaders, community leaders and gardeners. I can't wait to read his final report. Have to maintain my knowledge edge to keep my #2 spot in garden tourism.

  3. Hi Jim,

    Nice picture Jim, but I'm actually leaving a comment to ask about the columnar apple tree in a much older post "the garden of eatin." Can you give me an email address where I can send you the specifics? susan@celandscapedesign.com



  4. I think with our economic situation, garden tourism will only get bigger! Down in the Hudson Valley, we too, have tons of garden destinations, including some beautiful restored historic ones.
    We also just had an "open garden" weekend, where gardeners open up their private residences to visitors once a year. I think its statewide, but I'm not sure -- do you have a program like that in Buffalo?

  5. Kate,
    We invented our own Open Gardens event. During our Festival (June 18 -July 25) about 60 gardens will be open for viewing on Mondays and Thursdays. Not only does it allow for visitors to visit great gardens during the week -- when they may have more time and not have to face crowds -- but it provides an opportunity for out-of-town visitors to perhaps extend their stay to accommodate more gardens at a more leisurely pace.

  6. What a great photo! Tropical paradise in Buffalo? Yes!

    -Fougères at VerdantSanctuary.blogspot.com

  7. Jim - I've been excited about coming to NY for this year's gathering since we talked in Chicago last spring. As I've devoured all the info you're sending bloggers about Buffa10, and Buffalo in general, I'm astounded by all you have to offer gardeners and how well you promote it. I told my husband I feel like I'm going to Mecca next week -- can't wait!

  8. Diana,
    Mecca?! We may have to manage your expectations a bit before you get here. I'm now nervous that I've been over-selling Buffalo!

  9. Jim - Nah - we're just all so excited to be going somewhere to see a few plants and visit with friends - Buffa10 will be all icing - no worries!


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