by Connie Oswald Stofko
It’s an Irish pub. It’s an outdoor living room. And it has gardens.
That’s what you encounter when you visit Michael Ryan’s backyard on Englewood Ave., Tonawanda. It’s the party place for his family and friends.
Visitors are amazed and assume he must spend lots of time maintaining his landscape, but he insists that he’s a lazy gardener who uses lots of short cuts.
“It’s two weeks of work at the beginning of the season, then it’s just watering,” Ryan said.
He shared his garden on the Ken-Ton Garden Tour from July 22-24, which included a nighttime tour on both Friday and Saturday evenings.
Hardscapes are important elements in Ryan’s landscape. Fences and trellises create the walls of the outdoor rooms.
A fence separates the backyard from the driveway so you don’t feel as if you are sitting in the driveway, Ryan explained. The fence is topped with a lattice that is open enough that he can still chat with his neighbor.
As you enter the backyard from the driveway, you see the outdoor living room. The focal point is a large curved sofa, which looks as if it is made of wicker but is made of resin. The cushions come inside for the winter, but the furniture stays outside.
Framed family photos adorn the fence behind the sofa– the pictures are laminated. They stay outside all year long.
Beyond the seating area, at the back of the yard, is an Irish-themed pub. It’s like a covered patio. Half of the roof is made of corrugated metal while the other half is clear plastic to let in some light. The “walls” of the pub are Ryan’s garage on the left, a mirrored fence at the back and a trellis on the right.
A bar is built into the garage. People can sit at the bar while a bartender inside the garage hands out drinks. Guests can also serve themselves using taps on the outside of the garage/bar that are connected to the refrigerator.
While hardscapes are important, plants are still an integral part of the landscape. While it looks as if Ryan must spend hours on maintenance, he insists he doesn’t.
“I’m really lazy,” Ryan told me. “My theory is, do it once and don’t do it again. Except for a few random annuals, everything comes back again.”
He uses hydrangeas, which he finds need a lot of watering, along with lots of hostas. There are many vines, including wisteria, honeysuckle, Boston ivy, clematis, Virginia creeper and chocolate vine.
Trumpet vine grows in three spots where Ryan wants it to grow, but it spreads where he doesn’t want it, too. He’s constantly mowing over pieces of trumpet vine that pop up in his lawn.
“If it could,” Ryan said of the trumpet vine, “it would be in the house ordering movies on HBO because it’s so intrusive.”
Other than that, he doesn’t have to do a lot of weeding because, around his perennials, he lays down weed block or landscape fabric, then covers that with mulch. That keeps down the weeds.
In addition to easy, Ryan also likes things that are cheap. He got many of his plants from friends– Hostas and other perennials spread and need to be divided every few years to keep them in control, and gardeners like to find good homes for them. He also noted that this is a good time of year to buy perennials because you can get large specimens and they are on sale.
In future issues, I’ll bring you views from the West Seneca Garden Tour and the Garden Walk of Niagara Falls, USA, which were also held this past weekend.
Coming up next week:
Garden Walk Buffalo will be held from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, July 30 and Sunday, July 31.
Maps for the tour can be picked up at the Richmond Summer Senior Center, 337 Summer St., and the Buffalo Seminary, 205 Bidwell Pkwy. (There will be only two headquarters this year due to construction at Evergreen Health Services, which had served as a third headquarters in the past.)
The tour is free and self-guided. There will be a free shuttle service available throughout the walk.
This is America’s largest garden tour with more than 400 residential gardens as well as many community and public gardens.