Couple expresses differing gardening styles in West Seneca

formal beds in front yard in West Seneca NYCarl and Doris Swan bought a house with three acres of land on Center Road in West Seneca as an investment property. After 43 years, they’re still there.

“I figured we weren’t going to stay long,” Carl said, “but we did.”

Over the last 10 or 15 years, areas that formerly were used by the children and grandchildren for playing ball are becoming gardens, and the Swans have developed different gardening styles.

The Swans blue spruce in garden in West Seneca NYshowed their gardens during the first West Seneca Garden Walk held July 21 and 22.

Carl’s style is neat, rectangular and orderly, as you can see in the first photo, a spacious area that is just part of their front yard.

“I try not to plant things in rows, but that’s just the way I am,” he said. He even lines up his beds parallel and perpendicular to each other.cottage garden in West Seneca NY

“Everything has its place,” he said. “I like to think about it before I plant.”

Carl starts with one plant that serves as a centerpiece for the bed, then plants around it. Above left, a blue spruce is the centerpiece for this bed in the backyard.

Doris tends to the area around the front door, and as you can see in the photo above right, there aren’t any straight lines there. She favors a cottage-style garden, with rounded clumps of colorful flowers.gardens around pool in West Seneca NY

More colorful flowers and hanging baskets decorate the area around the pool in the backyard.

There are deer in the area, but the Swans don’t have any problem with them.

“I have a dog,” Carl said. (Her name is Hayley and she’s a shepherd.) “The fence keeps the dog in, and the dog keeps the deer out.”

He likes to propagate plants to fill his beds and share with others. Hostas are easy and although he knows there are thousands of varieties, “after 20 or 30 varieties, they all look alike,” he said. potting area in West Seneca NY

Carl has a very long potting area, which you can see at right, where he can work and keep his potted specimens organized.

When creating a new garden bed, Carl starts with a compost pile. He builds a compost pile where he wants the new bed to be. By the time the compost is ready, the grass in that spot is dead. He rototills the compost into the soil and he’s ready to plant.

compost pile in West Seneca NYAt left, you can see part of the huge compost pile that he maintains. He uses that compost to refresh beds that start to get low.

He tops off his beds with mulch from the Town of West Seneca. Mulch is available for free to residents of West Seneca with ID.

“It’s nice to come out here,” he said. “It gives you peace of mind, and quiet.”


Garden walk next week:

Garden Walk Buffalo

Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Garden Walk Buffalo is the largest garden tour in America! Find a list of locations where you can pick up a paper map of the garden locations. Get a pdf of the map right here.


Photos by Connie Oswald Stofko

2 Comments on “Couple expresses differing gardening styles in West Seneca

  1. Hi Connie,
    Does Carl use kitchen scraps in his compost? Does his dog keep pests away from it? Composting in place is intriguing but seems tricky.

  2. I do remember seeing a lot of grass clippings and the like in Carl’s compost pile, but I don’t know how much kitchen scraps he adds.

    However, the area is almost rural, and I don’t think adding kitchen scraps is as big a deal there as it would be in a more suburban or urban setting. There is a lot of land, and the compost pile is surrounded by wide swaths of mown grass. My guess is that mice and other pests would feel more comfortable sticking to the wooded areas, rather than trying to cover large areas of open space to get to the compost pile, especially with a dog on patrol. Plus, the compost pile is very far from the house.

    For people living in suburban or urban areas, I would definitely recommend composting your kitchen scraps in a garbage can or other container with a lid.

    Currently, I’m putting most of my yard clippings in an open composting bin outdoors (I’ll show you photos in a future issue), but I compost items that might be food for rats in a garbage can in the garage and add layers of yard clippings or shredded newspaper. I know it’s better to mix the kitchen scraps and yard clippings together, but we have had rats in our neighborhood, and I don’t want to add to the problem. It’s not ideal, but I figure everything decomposes eventually.

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