I want that: How to apply what you see on garden walks to your own yard

red windows and trellis at DiMino in Lockport
Hardscapes and artwork abound in the landscape of Barbara and Anthony DiMino, whose gardens were seen on Lockport in Bloom. A large trellis with curtains forms a seating area on the patio. Found objects– old windows– are hung as artwork. The statue on the table has hair made of live plants. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
baby stroller as container in Williamsville NY
Look closely to see that the container for this coleus is actually a wicker baby stroller. This was seen at the home of Linda and Jaime Klubek on the Williamsville Garden Walk. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

What is this garden showing me?

That’s what gardening expert Sally Cunningham will help you learn in one of four talks she will present during the WNY Home & Garden Expo at the Fairgrounds, 5820 South Park Ave., Hamburg.

The expo will be held 2 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb 19; noon to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22.

I’ll have a booth there, so stop by and say hello.

Cunningham’s talks, aimed at the beginning gardener, are part of a stronger emphasis on gardening this year at the Home & Garden Expo.

“I will focus on the basics,” Cunningham said. “I want to encourage beginning gardeners, take the fear out and save them some mistakes. You can do this!”

Her talks are:

  • 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20: “Growing Better Flowers” Tips for success with perennials and annuals in the garden or containers.
  • 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21: “Great Plants, Great Gardens” New and proven perennials and shrubs for 2015.
  • 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21: “I Want What They Have: Lessons from Other People’s Gardens.”
  • 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22: “Your Home Landscape” What every homeowner should know about trees, shrubs, and landscape maintenance.

In “I Want What They Have,” Cunningham will show you lots of photos she has taken on garden walks and at the Open Gardens of the National Garden Festival. You’ll do more than ooh and aah over the pretty gardens; you’ll learn to pick out the elements that make those gardens successful so that you can use those elements in your own landscape.

One aspect she will discuss is artwork. Where is it placed? Does it draw you straight back to the garden? Does it peek around a corner? Is it near a bench where you can sit and meditate?

She suggested chatting with the gardener to find out how and why they chose a particular art piece to display in their garden, even if their taste is very different from your own. You won’t replicate that art piece, but you can repeat the process they used to find something that is meaningful to yourself.

Garden art isn’t just statues and gazing balls and cast iron garden gates that were intended to be displayed in a garden. You’ll see many found objects, such as straw hats, and repurposed items, such as chairs with no bottoms made into planters. Look at what other gardeners do and how they make it work.

bike wheel trellis in Buffalo NY
Vines twine around the spokes of bike wheels on this trellis in the backyard of Elaine and Don Clutterbuck, who shared their garden during the Parkside Garden Tour and Open Gardens. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko


One of the best things about garden walks is that you can get ideas on how to use the space you have. You don’t have to have a three-foot hedge around your yard and a garden pushed up along the fence, Cunningham said. Notice that many of the great gardens on garden walks have a wide, sweeping garden or an island garden.

Hardscapes are important, too, she said. Hardscapes are the built-in structures such as gazebos, archways, pergolas and swings.

“A garden without any structure is not a ‘wow’ garden,” Cunningham said. “What a difference one hardscape choice can make.”

The style and the feeling of the garden and how it relates to the house is also important. If you have a Victorian or Cape Cod house, don’t choose angular yucca and grasses for your garden. Those plants don’t relate historically or stylistically to the architecture.

Simple things such as color can tie your landscape to the house. Purple liatris could complement your shutters, or the blue of a r­­­hododendron can pick up the color of a door and window box.

Tickets to the WNY Home & Garden Expo are $7 at the door or $6 online.

Cunningham, CNLP, is the tour director for Great Garden Travel, a division of Horizon Club Tours. She is also a TV garden expert, author of Great Garden Companions (Rodale Books) and consultant at Lockwood’s Greenhouses of Hamburg.

5 Comments on “I want that: How to apply what you see on garden walks to your own yard

  1. Thanks so much for including a link to this show. I definitely want to go one of the days and hear Sally’s talk. Do you happen to know when Plantasia will be?

  2. Sue, Plantasia will kick off with a Preview Night from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18 and continues from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 19-21 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 22. See more here.

  3. I am always looking for the unusual idea, and the picture you show was a combination of two garden walk ideas. One was a fence decorated with a collection of windows painted in different colors that a gardener had collected from the road side and hung on a plain fence in Canada. The other was a head planter I saw in a garden walk and fell in love with. I am always looking for the unusual and the garden walks are a great source of ideas. I come away with more ideas than I can fit into my garden, purchasing the lot next to us has opened a wonderful opportunity for me to do more of what I see in other gardens. You put a ray of sunshine into our day when I opened this today and saw the picture. Thanks. Anthony & Barb

  4. Nice ideas and garden decorating. As a garden walk attendee and organizer, I too have seen great garden ornament, many hand crafted.

  5. Anthony and Barb, I think it’s great that people can go on a garden walk and see ideas in your yard that you got from other garden walks. I came away from my visit with more photos than I could use in the first story. I think the views of your yard and these other great gardens put a ray of sunshine into everybody’s day!

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