Make it look like a garden & not just a collection of plants, plus how to avoid digging new beds

path in backyard near trellis in Parkside area Buffalo NY
Paths add interest and unity to the many garden beds. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

“Before, it just looked like a collection of plants,” said Elaine Clutterbuck of 728 Crescent Ave., Buffalo. “Now it looks like a garden.”

What did the trick? Pathways.

“I think the pathways are what made the garden,” she said, looking around her attractive backyard. “Before, it didn’t look like it had any unity.”

I visited the gardens of Elaine and her husband Don during the Parkside Garden Tour on June 29 and learned so much. You might have missed their garden because it was on the periphery of the map and had only one other garden nearby.

Tip: When you go on garden walks, don’t just visit the gardens that are all clustered together. You can see some spectacular gardens when you take the time to stop at the outliers.

If you overlooked this garden, you’re in luck. You can also see this garden on Open Gardens from 2 to 6 p.m. Thursdays through July 31.

brick path border in Buffalo NY garden
Bricks act as a border along the garden in the backyard. Although it’s narrow, Don Clutterbuck noted that in wet weather it can be used as a path. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The paths become patio areas. You can see one of the two backyard seating areas in the photo below. The Clutterbucks bought the  cobblestones at a garage sale; the stones had been part of a street in Buffalo. They scavenged the flagstones for another seating area. Elaine has even found rocks that people have set out for the trash. The bricks were purchased from Buffalo Reuse.

“Our biggest investment is in vegetation, not structures,” Elaine said.

recycled cobblestone patio in Buffalo NY
Recycled cobblestones form this patio. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Lush gardens– and seating areas–  can be found in front as well. The seating area below is under a corkscrew willow in front of the house. Isn’t it a great place to relax? Most people wouldn’t think to construct an area like this in the front yard, but who says you can’t?

front garden on Parkside Garden Walk in Buffalo NY
You can have garden seating in the front yard, too. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

The Clutterbucks plan to continue extending the front garden beds bit by bit until they curve around and meet the small planting at the center sidewalk., which you can see below.

Clutterbuck front gardens in Buffalo NY
The plan is to keep extending the gardens until they curve around to the sidewalk that leads to the front door. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Now here’s the tip that will save you a lot of digging when you want to convert a patch of grass into a garden bed.

Rather than spend a lot of time and energy digging up grass and weeds, here’s how Elaine creates new sections of garden beds.

First, set down several layers of newspaper. Then cover the newspaper with black fabric cloth. Finally, cover it all with mulch to make it look nice.

Next choose the perennials that you want eventually to plant in that bed. Plant the perennials in large decorative containers and place the pots on the mulch. You’ll have flowers during the summer.

In the autumn, grass and weeds will be dead and your garden bed will be ready. Go ahead and plant the perennials from the pots. Autumn is a great time to plant perennials.

You can get a sneak peek at the garden bed in progress below.

Elaine Clutterbuck showing no-dig garden in Buffalo NY
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

More on the Parkside Garden Tour

The Parkside Garden Tour also featured a guided architecture and history walking tour. All proceeds from the garden walk and architecture tour help support programming of the Parkside Community Association, a non profit organization.

The Darwin Martin House conservatory was also open for tours and the National Garden Festival held its third annual Buffalo-Style Garden Art Sale in Delaware Park.

See other articles about the Parkside Garden Tour:

2013: Pesticide-free yard in Parkside is kid-friendly & pretty, too

2012: 100-year-old house features large perennial border in long side yard

2011: Parkside garden has evolved from play area to outdoor living room

2010: Victorian gardens accent Buffalo house from 1896

Upcoming Garden Walks

Amherst Garden Walk 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 12

Samuel P. Capen Garden Walk, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday July 12

Buzz Around Hamburg,  10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13

Lockport in Bloom Garden Tour 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.  Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13, with an evening garden walk 6:30 – 9 p.m. Saturday, July 13

Snyder-CleveHill Garden View 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, July 13

Ken-Ton Garden Tour daytime walk from  10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday & Sunday, July 19 & 20 and night lights tour from 8:30-11 p.m.  Friday & Saturday, July 18 & 19

Lancaster Garden Walk  night lights from 8:45 to 11 p.m. Friday, July 18 and daytime walk 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 19 and 20

Williamsville Garden Walk 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, July 19

West Seneca Tour of Gardens 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 19 and 20

South Buffalo Alive 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, July 20

Garden Walk Buffalo 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 26 and 27

Black Rock & Riverside Tour of Gardens on Saturday, August 2 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. for the daytime walk and  8-10 p.m. for the Starry Night Garden Tour

4 Comments on “Make it look like a garden & not just a collection of plants, plus how to avoid digging new beds

  1. Connie – it was nice to see you in Elaine’s garden. Now I know what you do! I just built a Buffalo Miksang Web site today. We are going to feature photographing garden walk. 408 Franklin is a short walk from many Garden Walk open gardens. (Maybe you’s like to join us?)

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