Sunny field has evolved to shady haven in Amherst

overview-Leising-yard-in-Amherst-NY
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
pond in Amherst NY
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

“Gardens are never done,” said Gary Leising of 2695 Sweet Home Road, Amherst. “You always come up with new ideas. There are always things you want to do and things you want to change.”

When Leising and his wife Linda moved into their newly built home in 1984, the landscape was just a field. That mostly sunny landscape has turned into a mostly shady landscape with two dozen trees, established garden beds and a large koi pond. When I visited last week, he was putting the finishing touches on a new path.

“It’s a work in progress, always,” Leising said.

You can see his yard in person during the Amherst Garden Walk from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 11.

path in garden around tree in Amherst NY
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

There will be more than 20 yards shown on the walk, including a few new ones. Paper maps will be available after July 8 at Arbordale Nurseries, 480 Dodge Rd., Getzville, and Menne Nursery, 3100 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst. You can pick up maps on the day of the walk at 111 Campus Drive West, Snyder. You can also download the map soon from the Town of Amherst website. Get updates on the Amherst Garden Walk Facebook page.

“It didn’t start out like this,” Leising said, looking over his yard.

The first feature we discussed was his pond. This is the third version and it’s larger than before. The depth ranges from 12 inches at the edge to 42 inches in the middle. He has two koi and many goldfish and shubunkin, a fancy goldfish.

Leising lost some koi during a few cold winters. You need to keep the water in a fish pond from completely freezing over, and the heater he had wasn’t strong enough. Now he has a bubbler to keep ice from forming, and that has worked well.

small hostas in pots in Amherst NY
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

To keep leaves out of the pond, Leising uses a net. The net is held off of the surface of the pond by a curve of PVC pipe, and the pipe is held in place by a couple of large, nine-inch nails. The net was in place Memorial Day weekend when a heron boldly landed at the pond and stood looking at the fish– despite the noise from the nearby patio where music was playing and four people were talking.

Now Leising has removed the net and has strung fishing line around the pond, preventing the heron from landing. The birds aren’t able to walk over the fishing line, so the fish should be safe. The fishing line is less noticeable than the net, too.

A brand new path wanders through the garden beneath a dawn redwood. The bed is very large, and “without the path, you couldn’t see what’s in here,” Leising said. Now the path “beckons you to come and see.”

To create the path, Leising dug the area and laid down landscape fabric. He set down what is called patio base, a mixture of sand and gravel.

“I liked using it because not all the (stepping) stones are the same thickness,” he said. “It locks the stones into place enough so you don’t trip.” More of the mixture is swept between the stones to fill in the spaces.

When I visited, he was preparing to plant miniature hostas in the garden beneath the tree. Tip: With metal plant tags, the lettering can fade when you use a marker, but Leising said grease pencil is supposed to hold up longer. It is, however, more difficult to write neatly with a thick grease pencil.

Leising likes to edge his beds with four-inch high steel edging rather than plastic edging. The steel edging is more difficult to install, “but once it’s there, it’s there,” he said. Some of the edging in his yard has been in place for 20 years.

Leising has worked in garden centers and other aspects of horticulture since he was 17 and now works for a manufacturer of agricultural machinery.

While you can do some things by trial and error, when it comes to trees, it’s better to find the right spot for them on the first try, he said. It’s difficult to move a tree unless it’s still small, and it can be costly to move or cut down a tree place in the wrong spot.

“Everything can be changed except for the trees,” Leising said.

 

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