Buffalo Lessons

We aren’t going to make the giant Buffalo garden tour this weekend, but luckily the greater Buffalo area has many weeks of garden festivities, including smaller garden tours each weekend. So we went up this past weekend, saw gardens in two communities and came away inspired. These people did great things in small spaces, created rooms and in some cases filled in their lawns with flowers. (OK, that’s a harder one for us, since we have more land. But we can go bigger on the beds!) When we saw one with just perimeter plantings, it looked, well, boring, neatly kept as it was. No features to draw you in. That was a big lesson.

The bottom line: We need to come out of our comfort zone and if we mess up, we can always change. Nothing is permanent. And we’re lucky to have so much sun, as a neighbor pointed out this evening.

I’m definitely becoming a fan of local tours that are open to all who want to share their garden, rather than those that showcase fancy ones. I want to see something that’s attainable!

Among the ideas we’ve brought back:

– Put in a proper path in the front bed that goes diagonally from the front walkway, so we (and others) can walk through the flowers and have an easier time seeing the garden from both sides. We pretty much know where it will go. We’ll just have to move a few plants (easy!) and get some paving stones to make it work. I’ve thought about whether we also should bump out that part of the bed to make the curve more pronounced and make the path a bit longer, but I’m not sure whether that will happen this fall.

– Expand the bed against the back of the house that includes the air conditioner and is otherwise full of hostas. Prep work will be done this fall (strip the grass on the lowest lawnmower setting, borrow a rototiller if needed and haven’t run out of time, cover with newspaper or cardboard to smother the grass and weeds, cover with compost/mulch and let it all rot down over the winter). It will have a curve and will mix in walkers’s low and black-eyed susans with the hostas, which are pretty crowded. The area is half-sun, and you already see that the hostas there are lighter than the ones in full shade. Amazingly, the deer don’t touch these. Maybe I’ll add another deer-resistant plant to help make sure they stay away. That bed will be one side of the path from the deck to the raised beds. The other half may have to wait a year. Wonder if a berm would work for that one?

bowling balls in the garden
Maybe not quite this many...

– Rather than buying glass gazing balls as ornamental sculpture, we will look for free/cheap bowling balls and bird-bath stands that can serve the same purpose. I’ve just left a post on Freecycle, so we’ll see what happens. If you know of anyone tossing one out, let us know! More broadly, I came away with an appreciation for eye-catching garden sculpture, like a metal dahlia that spins in the wind (though not all who left online reviews were happy). One of the garden tours had a night session, and that got me thinking about decorative lighting. A friend we visited on the way up had Japanese lanterns hanging from a tree, which was another look I liked, even if there are no lights in them.

– We will stop talking and finally finish (or at least do more of) the lavender fencing of the raised beds that we have envisioned. Prep work can be done in the fall (same as with back bed), and we can buy lavender in May (and move some that we have that needs a home). I’m hoping for a tall variety, like the one by the front door. Hopefully that will make the raised beds even more deer-proof. We could add an archway to the entrance of the raised beds, creating a nice transition to the room, but maybe we’ll wait til we see how we like the lavender wall.

A pergola in our yard?– Use old tomato cages, turned upside down and with the parts that go in the ground chopped off, as ways to stake flowers that tend to flop over. Actually, I bet you could use cages right-side up. And we certainly have some that have seen better days.

– I’m still thinking an island bed (on a berm?) in the front would be nice. It could echo the curves of the bed that hugs the front path and could be wide enough for one pass with the mower, and eliminate a lot of lawn. But that is a lower priority. I’d like to have more flowers and pizzazz in the backyard, which is also incredibly sunny. I’m probably more likely to connect two small beds along the driveway first.

– A pergola would be lovely. Imagine one covered with wisteria! The question is where to put it and how to deal with the slope of the yard. That might be one for a few years from now, when we decide how to expand the deck or how to add a patio.

Some other photos from the weekend:

metal dahlia
The metal dahlia (sorry, no video)
white dragon flowers
They called the white flowers dragon flowers
tall artemisia
I want some of this tall artemisia, variety unknown
trellis
Nice pattern on this homemade trellis. Looks easy to copy!
path that crosses at a water feature
a path!
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