One project each year turns ‘wasteland’ into vacation spot

overall view of stream and swing in pergola in Snyder NY backyard

One project every year has turned a fixer-upper house with no garden into a relaxing getaway at 389 Berryman Dr., Snyder.

I visited during the 11th annual Snyder-Cleve Hill Garden View, held Sunday, July 14.

When Debbie Hanny moved in 13 years ago, “There was no garden. It was a wasteland.”

The project in the first year was to install the fence in the front yard. This past fall, she and her partner Jerry Schultze put in the raised bed along the driveway. In the years in between, they put in the upper and lower deck, the pergola with a swing and a stream with waterfalls at each end.

“It’s a work in progress,” Schultze said. “All I know is my to-do list has never gone down to nothing.”

two tiered deck in Snyder NY

Schultze designed and built the pergola and swing, which you can see above, according to Hanny’s specifications. The swing had to be wide enough so she could stretch out and take a nap or that all of her little grandchildren could sit on it at one time. The pergola has a light in the ceiling that can be dimmed. A wisteria winds around the pergola, making it a cool and shady spot on a hot afternoon.

He also built the upper and lower deck, which you will notice wraps around the tree.

waterfall in corner of yard near hammock in Snyder NY

There are many seating areas in the yard, and they use them all. Each area offers its own view of the stream that twists diagonally from one corner of the yard to the other, flowing under the bridge.

“This is our vacation spot,” Schultze said.

The stream, which they had a company install, has a waterfall at each end. One waterfall is tucked into the corner next to the hammock. That spot, between the tree and the fence, was a place where Hanny couldn’t get anything to grow. Now it’s lovely to relax on the hammock with a good book  listening to the gentle splash of the water. The falls are intentionally small so that they wouldn’t be too loud.

The waterfall at the other end, which you can see below, is located in the corner to the right of the pergola. There are five large koi, protected by a net from blue heron.

second waterfall in Snyder NY backyard

Hanny and Schultze installed an amazingly long garden bed along the driveway  last fall.

“Then I thought, ‘What have I done?'”  Hanny said. “I had all this empty space. I put out an SOS. I went to my gardening friends and they helped me out. I like to call it my friendship garden because it was built with the help of friends.”

Plants were installed quickly and not labelled fastidiously, but Hanny isn’t concerned.

“There are things in here that I don’t know what they are, but I’m thrilled to death,” she said. “I still don’t know what those big tall ones are going to be.”

The garden, as you can see below, is nicely filled out, especially for such a new space. Tomato plants find a home among the flowers.

border garden  in Snyder NY

While you can get overwhelmed by trying to build a garden bed that’s too big, Hanny cautioned gardeners against building one that’s too small as well. That’s a mistake she made in the front yard, which you can see below.

front garden with fence in Snyder NY

After the bed was dug along the fence, she realized it was too narrow. To create interest in the garden, she likes to use plants of different heights in one spot, but the garden was wide enough to accommodate only one plant. To extend the bed out from the fence, she needed to dig up more grass and bring in more topsoil to finish the project properly.

When you’re thinking of height, don’t think just tall and short. Instead, think tall, medium and short. Having that additional layer adds a lot of interest to your garden. Tip: Hanny points out that large pots of annuals can be used in your medium layer. The pots can be used wherever you need to fill in or to add a bit of color.

Here’s another tip: Roses can look spectacular along a fence, but the plant may be drab when it has finished blooming, so Hanny planted a phlox plant in front of her rose. The phlox is still short when the rose is blooming, then comes into its own after the rose has lost its showy blooms. Add a short plant and that section of your garden is taken care of.

While the house and landscape look great in the summer, they’re special in the winter, too. Drive by and you’ll see that it’s turned into a gingerbread house at Christmastime.


See articles from previous years on the Snyder-Cleve Hill Garden View:

Objects picked from trash add beauty to Amherst garden

Cheektowaga man shares his love of gardening with inmates

Once-overgrown gardens now flourish at Snyder home


There are six garden walks coming up this weekend. Get all the details on our Upcoming Events page.

Saturday and Sunday, July 20 and 21

Lancaster Garden Walk

10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

You can see the listing of gardens here. Event programs are also available in the Lancaster/Depew Bee and you can pick up programs starting July 18 at Two Chicks and a Rooster, 732 Aurora Street, Town of Lancaster, and at Petals to Please, corner of Central Avenue and Pleasant, in the village, Village of Lancaster.

Saturday & Sunday, July 20 & July 21

Ken-Ton Garden Tour

This self-guided tour will take place on Saturday & Sunday, July 20-21, from 10am-4pm. The night tour, “Saturday Night Lights,” will be held on Saturday, July 20, from 8:30-10:30 p.m. A map and garden descriptions will be available online at

Saturday, July 20

Town of Amherst Garden Walk

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pick up maps at the Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main Street, Amherst NY 14221, and Menne Nursery, 3100 Niagara Falls Boulevard, Amherst, NY. Maps are available from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, July 20

Williamsville Garden Tour

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pick up maps at Williamsville Village Hall, 5565 Main Street, Williamsville, NY 14221.

Saturday, July 20

West Seneca Garden Walk

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Pick up maps at the Charles E. Burchfield Nature & Art Center, corner of Union Road & Clinton Street, West Seneca.

Sunday, July 21

South Buffalo Alive

9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The donation is $2 and the tour is self-guided. Pick up maps at Tim Russert’s Children’s Garden, 2002 South Park Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14220, next to Dudley Library.

Photos by Connie Oswald Stofko

1 Comment on “One project each year turns ‘wasteland’ into vacation spot

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *