Best of Buffalo AAA Garden Tour by motorcoach

I was asked to be the tour guide for a "Best of Buffalo" garden tour organized by AAA of Western New York's Horizon Club Tours two weeks before Garden Walk Buffalo. It was put together by the volunteers of the National Garden Festival (thank you Marlene & Rita!) and the local AAA office. It was an all day tour of about a dozen gardens, lunch included. And the bus? With only 50 seats, it has more legroom than other tour buses, it is VERY comfortable, restrooms for those willing to use a bus restroom, and wifi!

Too many people in this garden with a one-way path!
That was my fault. I'll get better at this with time.
The day for bus driver Lee started bright and early (okay, maybe not bright at 5am) by driving from Buffalo to Rochester to pick up six people (and one of THEM had driven in from Syracuse!). Then he drove back to Buffalo and we made three stops picking up more garden gawkers along the way. The last pick up was in downtown Buffalo and it was a writer from Philadelphia, on assignment, tagging along to get a feel for the gardens of Garden Walk Buffalo. She and her husband were guests of Visit Buffalo Niagara.

Rabine Terrace has many great gardens - and great gardeners!
It was a full bus! 50 people. So full in fact, that tour planners (and master gardeners) Marlene and Rita came along and had to follow the bus in a car. Marlene and Rita came along because I know very little about gardening, truly. Garden tourism and Garden Walk Buffalo? I can speak for hours (just ask my family). But actual horticulture? Not so much. People often ask me garden questions, assuming I'm the "garden guy." I can usually deflect change the conversation to garden tourism.

Park Street's small Victorians
are just ripe for beautiful gardens.
The day started off pretty drizzly with a "soft rain" that dissipated on and off. Lee offered to drive by pretty much anything I wanted to -- so we drove by the square that is a circle -- Niagara Square in front of Buffalo's City Hall. I was able to point out the great plantings and gardens around the Square -- but wish I'd had Marlene and Rita on the bus -- they actually planned and planted these gardens! We also did a drive-by of Buffalo's oldest tree on Franklin Street before heading over to the Rabine Terrace, a pretty little neighborhood in the shadow of City Hall with small cottage-like homes built in the 1970s.

My big mistake was having everyone visit the Banks garden first -- we had 52 people at this point trying to get into a garden that holds ten. Fortunately, one of the Garden Walk Buffalo committee members, Ginny, was at home across the street and opened up her cozy back yard for visitors, impromptu. That's how it is in Buffalo, if you stand around long enough, you'll get invited in to a garden.

We then went on to the Cottage District, which was wonderful, as always. Ellie was there to answer questions and entertain the group, doing some of her gardening stand-up routine. Didn't have access to many back yards on Summer Street, but the front yards are all great gardens and photo worthy. Have to tease people to come back for Garden Walk anyway! We did get over to Sixteenth Street to a VERY impressive garden there, and were joined by next year's Garden Walk Buffalo president, Cindy Loomis, who lives across the street. Next year I'll be "President Emeritus." Which always sounded nicer to me anyway.

A Park Street garden, not on the tour has such a great garden
we spent a good amount of time looking at it from the street.
Also joining us was Sally Cunningham, local garden guru (CNLP, garden book author, columnist, educator and media personality). She's always a crowd pleaser and was able to spend (kill) some time with comments and answers to questions on the bus since we were WAY ahead of schedule -- garden viewing went fast in the rain.

We headed over to Park Street - I hadn't been to the Park Street gardens in a couple years. There are a LOT of gardens on the Walk on this small street of great and beautiful homes. Again, there was only one garden open for our viewing, but a walk up and down the street with Marlene, Rita and Sally (and more than a few of the tour-takers) was like taking a master class in residential horticulture.

 Jim & Annabelle's "Mary's Garden" on Lancaster Avenue
is always up for a bus tour, garden tour or garden reporter or photographer.
After a nice relaxing lunch at La Ti Da in Allentown, we headed off to my street, Lancaster Avenue. We didn't visit my garden -- no time -- but we did slow down as we drove by. We stopped up the street to visit two magazine-worthy gardens - Alec's immaculate garden and Anabelle and Jim's "Mary's Garden. "

Then off to Granger Place to see Carol & Tom's garden. Then on to the Guercio's Victorian Garden on Delavan Avenue. In retrospect, I think we did a great job of building the tour to a nice climax -- going from small and modest to larger and grandiose.

We did end the tour on a relaxing note, visiting a park-like garden on St. Catherine's Circle. The Horrigan garden is a tranquil retreat -- and our first sight of an actual good-sized grass lawn all day. Part of the original Albright estate in a secluded, tony neighborhood, the Horrigan's have created a private, mini arboretum. Sally Cunningham loves this garden for its collection of great and unique trees. The one thing I learned is I would LOVE to have a Katsura tree.

I hope visitors enjoyed the tour - I am no professional tour guide, as I'm sure they were aware (and if they didn't know before, they know now).
"Mary's Garden" is a favorite of anyone that's ever visited it. And by now, that number is in the tens of thousands.
The elephants are listening...
The Granger garden accommodates the crowd. Carol and Tom are excellent hosts.
Tom takes a few visitors to his rooftop vegetable garden.
No garden tour in Buffalo is complete without a visit to the Guercio garden on Delavan Avenue.
A Katsura tree. There were some in the hellstrip of Park Street seen earlier in the day.
This, in the Horrigan's St. Catherine's Court garden was not "limbed up" and had it's lower branches in tact -
weeping to the ground. Their granddaughter plays under it. It is a great tree.
Gardener Betty gives a brief talk on the history of the surrounding area and garden,
with a run-down on the trees in their collection.


  1. Like I have said before, am in awe of this wonderful coming together of gardeners in Buffalo to share their gardens with the public. Kudos to Buffalo.
    Love that Katsura Tree!!

  2. What a wonderful article, you've captured the essence of the day. You were a great host, sharing the best of Buffalo. Kudos to Rita and Marlene for organizing a memorable tour, and to you for sharing your expertise.

  3. There are so many great gardening activities in the Buffalo area. It's great that the rest of the world is finding out about them!

  4. First time I saw your blog. love it. have heard so much about the Buffalo Garden tours. Now I am glad to find your voice.Keep up the good work.


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