#TBT Fifteen years on Garden Walk

#TBT Fifteen years on Garden Walk

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My GWB poster collection hangs in the kitchen, around the laundry room door.

Note that I don’t say “Fifteen years OF Garden Walk:” the event celebrated its twentieth anniversary last year. But it was in 2001 that I first joined the Walk, which at that point had about 100 gardens total, scattered through Buffalo’s West Side. This year, over 400 gardeners have put their properties on the free tour, which takes place this weekend. So in this unconventional TBT post, I’m taking a little tour of my years with GWB. Though I didn’t start blogging until 2005 (with Gardening While Intoxicated), so the 2001-2004 memories are sketchy. From the blogging years, I have excerpts from  GWB-related posts, and links.

Here’s an early photo, though I didn’t go digital until 2004. That enclosure is now stone.

After convincing the GWB organizers that my Allentown neighborhood should be added to the tour, I got enormous buy-in from my immediate neighbors, and a bunch of us signed up. It was amazing to welcome a stream of visitors over the two days, but unfortunately my husband was out of town. He was kind of horrified that I was doing this and on the phone was unable to understand how it could be enjoyable. However, the next year, 2002, he was at my side, welcoming walkers and said to me with conviction: “This is great. I love this.”


After we cut him off the railing

That was the year of the smoking cowboy:
The next day, after we’d been open a couple hours, and I’m beginning to perk up from coffee, my husband comes around the corner and asks, “What’s that black thing chained to our front railing?” I hasten to look and, much to my horror, someone has padlocked a wooden silhouette of a smoking cowboy to our front porch (really stoop) railing.

I wrote the text for a lavishly illustrated book about Garden Walk and published these musings about public and private gardening as part of a GWI post.
As gardeners and property owners, we always have to ask ourselves: how public do we want our gardens to be? Even if you’re not allowing thousands of people to walk through your garden, as I do, installing a bright flower garden in front of your house rather than a discreet lawn invites attention. And some people don’t want that kind of attention. The former owners of the GWI property commented that they’d never wanted to draw notice to the house in the way they felt we did when we had a mural painted on the garage door.

This was also the year all the (then) Ranters were in Buffalo for Garden Walk, which was a lovely blur. I can’t really find a coherent post from that experience, just snippets. I guess we were having too much fun. Amy did, however, publish an awesome article in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007. And this was the year I finally got a pond. Ponds are big on the Walk, especially with kids, who love the fish.

The cottage district is one of the more popular areas.

In my letter from the editor in the magazine, I posed the question:
Is it possible that Buffalo and Western New York could one day become more famous for gardens than for snow?

GWB expands into a five-week-long garden festival, with open gardens, sixteen other walks, and more. But even more exciting (for me), 70plus garden bloggers descend upon Buffalo a few weeks before the walk (no room in hotels during the walk), and write dozens of posts raving about a city some of them never thought they’d visit.

I haven’t had these ferns for a while. I remember I used to have “what is it” labels propped against my neighbor’s windows.

I wrote a post listing all the benefits of a free, uncurated garden tour. My favorite was this one:
This lack of competition and the fact that very few of the gardeners work with professional designers gives non-gardener visitors the idea that “if they can do it, I can do it.”

Over the years, as GWB has grown, national recognition has increased; journalists from a diverse range of publications now visit every year. The GWB bureaucracy is much bigger now and there is a separate book of open gardens and other regional walks. Overall though, GWB still has a friendly, grassroots feel. Everyone is smiling. People take their time; they know they’ll never get to all 400 gardens and they’re fine with that.

Try a garden walk in your community. You’ll never regret it.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on July 28, 2016 at 10:11 am, in the category Garden Walk Buffalo.

    • Carol
    • 16th September 2016

    I did indeed enjoy my visit to Buffalo in 2010 with the garden bloggers and am still envious of all the gardening going on there. Snow? What snow? I look forward to returning with GWA in 2017. Thanks for the look back.

    • Elizabeth Licata
    • 24th October 2016

    You’ll have some surprises in 2017, Carol. We focused on the city in 2010; I think GWA will have a more expansive reach.

    • admin
    • 14th November 2016

    I want to know if any of your friends ever owned up to placing the smoking cowboy on the railing! I’m still chuckling …

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