Plantasia preview: Plants that look good & taste good, too

Black chokeberry in the yard of Gordon Ballard in Buffalo. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
serviceberry flower
Flower of Allegheny serviceberry or Amelanchier laevis. Image courtesy Rob Routledge, Sault College,

by Connie Oswald Stofko

We buy plants with our eyes, said Ken Parker, CNLP, native plant expert and consultant. But when we choose plants that are edible as well as beautiful, we make our garden functional.

“Plants are not just for aesthetics,” Parker said. And the edible plants that he recommends also attract pollinators, “so it’s win, win, win.”

In this article, he shares some recommendations for trees and plants that that not only look attractive in our landscape, they provide us with food. He will have even more information when he presents “Edible Wild Plants” at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 25 at Plantasia, the premier garden and landscape show for Western New York, at the Fairgrounds, 5820 South Park Ave., Hamburg.

Plantasia kicks off with a Preview Night from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 22. See the details here.

Plantasia continues from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, March 23 – 25, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 26. See ticket information here and get a coupon here.

Plantasia includes great gardens right inside the building, vendors, a flower show, activities for children and talks & demonstrations.

You can see a list of the talks– and there are a bunch of them– at the end of this article. I’ll present the very first talk,  “Don’t Just Gawk—Learn on Garden Walks” at 11 a.m. Thursday. Garden walks are fun, but if all you do is look at the yards as if you’re a tourist, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to learn how to make your own landscape better. I will show you how to make sure you come home from garden walks with great ideas you can use in your own landscape, and I’ll share gardening tips I learned on garden walks.

Edible plants for your yard

Sweetfern. Photo courtesy Manfred Mielke, USDA Forest Service,

Note: To find out which garden centers have a particular plant in stock, it’s best to contact them directly. See contact information for some local businesses in our Gardening Directory.

Black chokeberry

Parker’s first suggestion is a shrub that is native to our area, the black chokeberry or Aronia melanocarpa. I’ve seen local gardeners already using this in their landscape– See the photo at the beginning of the article.

The fruit is dry and tart, but it’s high in antioxidants, Parker said. Many people use it in jams. A cultivar called “Viking” is a good, steady producer of fruit.

The shrub doesn’t get too big, perhaps six feet tall, but there is a small cultivar called “Iroquois Beauty” that gets only three to four feet tall.

“That’s nice for a city garden or an informal hedge,” Parker said.

Another nice feature is the foliage, which turns yellow, orange and red in the autumn.

Black chokeberry does best in full sun, he said. While it will grow in clay, if you want a lot of fruit, give it good soil.


You can eat the fruit of the serviceberry tree raw, and the flavor is compared to blueberries. They’re sometimes called juneberries because the trees produce fruit in June.

Mayapple with flower. Photo courtesy Wendy VanDyk Evans,

“It’s a great plant for birds– You are going to have to fight the birds,” Parker said.

Allegheny serviceberry or Amelanchier laevis is a local species of serviceberry, which gets about 15-18 feet tall, Parker said.

Western serviceberry or Amelanchier alnifolia isn’t indigenous to our area, but it gets a larger berry, he noted. It’s also nice if you don’t want a large tree; it’s under eight feet tall.

Sweet fern

Sweet fern or Comptonia peregrina is a shrub that has fragrant foliage that can be used in making tea.

Sweet fern can be used in problem areas such as parking islands because it likes sunny, hot and dry areas, Parker said. If you have a sunny spot where your hose won’t reach, or if you don’t like watering and want a low-maintenance plant, consider sweet fern.

Sweet fern grows about three feet tall.


For shade, try mayapple. It’s a forest plant and grows as a groundcover, reaching about a foot in height. The fruit is like a small plum and tastes very sweet, Parker said.


Another shade plant is wintergreen or Gaultheria procumbens. This is the plant that gives chewing gum its flavor. The dried leaves can be used to make tea, Parker said.

Not only does it grow in shade, it grows well in acidic soil, so it will do well under a pine or hemlock.

It’s low-growing, getting only about six inches high.

Wintergreen. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Plantasia seminars and demonstrations

Thursday, March 23

The following seminars will be held in the large conference room

11 a.m. Don’t Just Gawk-Learn on Garden WalksConnie Oswald Stofko, Publisher of
Noon  Pruning 101Steve Sypniewski, CNLP, ISA Certified Arborist; Buffalo State College

1 p.m.  How to Care for Your LawnWalt Nelson, Cooperative Extension Monroe County      

2 p.m.  Container GardeningLyn Chimera, Lessons from Nature

3 p.m.  Ornamental GrassSharon Webber, CNLP; Horticulture Instructor, Niagara County Community College; Earthlines

4 p.m.  Helping the HoneybeesErin Masterson, Masterson’s Garden Center, Inc. & Aquatic Nursery

5 p.m.  Drought:  The Killer of Trees –  Brian Sayers, Tree Doctor

6 p.m.  Making Your Landscape Come Alive with a Splash of ColorDan RobillardHorticulture Instructor, McKinley High School


The following seminars will be held in the small conference room (next to the concession stand)

1 p.m.  How to Safely Use a Chain SawNate Buckley, For the Love of Trees Company

2 p.m. Demonstration:  How to Make a TerrariumKristy Schmitt, Erie County Botanical Gardens


Friday, March 24

The following seminars will be held in the large conference room

11 a.m. Shade Gardening with Tips, Tricks and Suggestions of What to UseTim Zimmerman, CNLP, Robert Baker Company

Noon: Garden for the CaterpillarsDave O’Donnell, Eastern Monarch Butterfly Farm

1 p.m. Perennials for WNY Gardens, Best Choices & Best CareSally Cunningham, CNLP, Author; Lockwood’s Greenhouses

2 p.m. Design Your Own LandscapeRichard Tedeschi, Jacrist Gardening Services, Inc.

3 p.m. Ken Brown Hour – Horticulture Questions Answered

4 p.m. Picture Tour of the “Drave’s Arboretum”Tom Draves, Draves Tree & Landscape

5 p.m.  How to Identify Emerald Ash Borer and What You Should Do – Tandy Lewis,  U.S. Department of Agriculture – APHIS Division

6 p.m. Victorian Language of FlowersKristy Schmitt, Erie County Botanical Gardens


Saturday, March 25

The following seminars will be held in the large conference room

11 a.m. Succulents: Small and MightyJackie Albarella, Albarella Media, Channel 2

Noon Gardening Through the AgesDawn Hummel, BeeDazzled Media

1 p.m. The Useful and the Beautiful in the LandscapeNellie Gardener, Flower Fields; Darwin Martin House

2 p.m. The Ancient Art of Moss Ball Gardening – David Clark, Instructor, Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens

3 p.m.  Your Yard (and the Birds and the Bees) Needs Native Plants: How to Choose and Use ThemSally Cunningham, CNLP, Author; Lockwood’s Greenhouse

4 p.m. Edible Wild  PlantsKen Parker, CNLP

5 p.m. Manipulate Your Landscape to Attract WildlifeRuss Lis, Aquatic Ecology Instructor, McKinley High School

6 p.m. How to Design a Japanese GardenMatt Smith, CNLP


The following seminar will be held in the small conference room (next to the concession stand)

Noon A Moment in Time Floral DesignsDorothy Julius, Along Gardens Path


Sunday, March 26

The following seminars will be held in the large conference room

10 a.m. Which Hostas Where – Hostas in the LandscapeMike Shadrack, Smug Creek Gardens

11 a.m. Feng Shui Your Garden – Applying Ancient Formulas & Symbols to Modern Gardens David Clark, Instructor, Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens

Noon Making More Plants (Propagation for the Home GardenerCarol Harlos, Master Gardener

1 p.m.  What’s that Bug?  In Your Garden and in Your HouseTom Mitchell, Horticulture Instructor, Niagara County Community College; Mitchell Landscaping

2 p.m.  Container Gardening – Beyond Thriller, Filler, & SpillerCarolyn Stanko, CNLP, Horticulture Instructor, Niagara County Community College

3 p.m. New Shrubs and Perennials for 2017Tim Zimmerman, CNLP, Robert Baker Company


The following seminar will be held in the small conference room (next to the concession stand)

Noon Demonstration – Insects, Diseases & Weeds, Oh My!  Household Products Used for Home RemediesMichael Klepp, CNLP, The Plant Man






















4 Comments on “Plantasia preview: Plants that look good & taste good, too

  1. George, Buffalo is indeed a great place for gardening. I hope someday you’ll be able to get here during our garden walk season. We have garden walks and Open Gardens. Garden Walk Buffalo is the largest garden walk in the nation with 400 gardens. And it’s free!

  2. Buffalo seems a great place for gardeners– I wish we had something of the sort in Sutton Coldfield, UK.

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