Serenity of a forest found in City of Buffalo backyard

forest-like backyard in Buffalo NYby Connie Oswald Stofko

Many people struggle with shady yards, wishing they could grow the plants they see in sunnier gardens.

wood chips in forest-like backyard in Buffalo NYJeff Lokken is different. He embraces his canopy of trees. The result is a forest-like retreat from the noise of the city.

We visited Lokken last year during Garden Walk Buffalo at the home he shares with Rebecca Bish at 170 Prospect Ave., Buffalo. This year Garden Walk Buffalo will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 27 and 28.

“This was all grass 15 years ago,” he said as we looked around the yard. “It’s becoming more and more grassless.”butterfly on butterfly bush on West Side of Buffalo NY

Many people have grassless yards, but the yards are generally filled with perennial flowers.

As you can see in the photos above, Lokken’s yard is filled mainly with trees and bushes. The ground is covered with wood chips and mulch to give it the feeling of a forest floor. This greatly decreases street noise and lends a feeling of calm to the yard.

The trees keep the house cool in the summer, as you would expect, but Lokken said that because they act as a wind break, they keep the house warmer in the winter, too.

Despite the many trees, there’s enough sun in one part of the yard to keep a huge butterfly bush happy. Above right you can see a butterfly visitor.

Lokken is growing figs, which you can see below left. You can do that in Western New York, but you’re supposed to bring the plants inside in the winter.fig plants outside  in Buffalo NY

“I had them in a container, but I lacked the alacrity, constitution and room to put them inside,” Lokken said.

He has the fig plants in a garden bed that is next to the foundation of the house and near the house’s boiler. That helps to protect this marginal plant.

His worry-free attitude extends to the entire garden.

“We have two hunting dogs, so our backyard is very Darwinian,” he said. “Things have a 50 percent chance they’ll survive.”

The yard also features a lovely pond filled with 40 large fish. While some homeowners invest hundreds of dollars to buy koi,  Lokken stocked his pond much more cheaply. Fourteen years ago, he bought a dozen feeder goldish for 10 cents each. He also got some neat crayfish at a bait pond in backyard on Buffalo NY West Side

Tip: To overwinter the fish, make sure you have a bubbler to keep a hole open in the ice, he said. Decaying vegetation in the pond gives off gas that can create toxic buildup. A hole in the ice allows the gas to escape.

A bubbler will work well to keep the ice open– you don’t need a heater, he said. A heater costs $15 a month to run and a bubbler costs only 50 cents a month to run.

2 Comments on “Serenity of a forest found in City of Buffalo backyard

  1. I have a friend that grows figs right outside her front door. They are planted in the garden and survive our winters. She picks figs each year. I was surprised too that they lived and grew well.

  2. A lovely refuge in the city.
    My grandfather had fig trees. We called them trees because they were very tall. He used to bend them over and bury them, covered with tarps over winter. Grandpa’s house was very near where Jeff lives.

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