by Connie Oswald Stofko
Rosemary Lyons has an ingenious way to squeeze plants into the flagstone patio that takes up all of her tiny yard.
One place where there aren’t any pavers is where the wrought iron fence is set into the ground. Lyons set some bricks on each side of the fence, then filled the area around the fence with fresh soil and lots of compost. There was enough room to plant purple pole beans, and the fence was a ready-made trellis for the beans to climb up. The effort was worth it.
“They are the best I’ve eaten in my entire life,” Lyons said.
You can get lots of tips like that when you visit Lyons at 187 Fargo Ave., Buffalo on Garden Walk Buffalo this weekend.
But if you’re one of those people who go only to the gardens that are right next door to each other, you’ll miss out because this garden isn’t in one of those cozy clusters.
I know, I know. Garden Walk Buffalo is the largest garden walk in the entire United States, with more than 400 gardens to visit, so you want to cram in as many as you can. But you have two days to do it, so I recommend that you take a little bit of time to visit some of the outlying gardens, especially if you are a repeat visitor. The outlying gardens won’t be as crowded, the gardeners will be delighted to see you and you may uncover some surprises.
I’ll share more of Lyons’ great tips below.
Details on Garden Walk Buffalo
Garden Walk Buffalo will be held from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 29 & 30.
If you want to plan out your route, you can get a map ahead of time at select sponsor locations. See the list of businesses under FAQ here. You can also download the map online, but that version doesn’t include garden descriptions.
During the event, you can pick up a map at one of the headquarters:
- Buffalo Seminary – 205 Bidwell Parkway
- Richmond Summer Senior Center – Richmond Ave & Summer St.
- Evergreen Health – 206 S. Elmwood Ave.
- 1st Presbyterian Church – 1 Symphony Circle
- West Side Community Center – 161 Vermont St.
There will be five free shuttle buses that will take you from one section of the walk to another. You can see the route on the map. The ride itself will be fun because this year docents from Explore Buffalo will offer commentary on historic sites and architectural landmarks along the route.
Also look for signage along the tour that invites you to get extra information about some of the properties by scanning QR codes (those black and white squares that can be read with a smartphone using an app). Through the Building Stories Program, you’ll be able to read a Building Story or Garden Story and see photos, giving you an insider’s perspective to some amazing and unique spaces. This is the second year of collaboration between the Buffalo Architecture Foundation and Garden Walk Buffalo. The stories collected from Garden Walk Buffalo are available on the Buffalo Architecture Foundation website. Buildings Stories is a multi-media personal history project documenting and sharing profound individual experiences with architecture, construction, landscape and planning. You can see a story about Rosemary Lyons’ yard here.
More great gardening tips
Keep shed doors from rotting
When you visit the yard of Rosemary Lyons, make sure you look up. You’ll see containers of plants on the roof of the shed. This gives her more room for growing, but more important, it keeps the shed doors from rotting.
There are no gutters on the shed, she explained, so rain water would drip down, hit the flagstones and splash up onto the wooden doors, which could eventually rot the bottoms of the doors. The containers of plants greatly decrease the amount of water that drips down. A large rock is enough to hold each container in place and keep it from sliding down.
Keep your eggplant safe from squirrels.
Because the yard is paved with flagstones, most of Lyons’ plants are in pots, including her eggplant. To keep squirrels from bothering it, she created a tall cage of chicken wire and set it inside the pot.
Make a composter out of stacked bricks
Lyons made a simple compost bin using bricks and chicken wire. Poles help keep the chicken wire rigid. An old grate from a refrigerator forms the floor of composter. The vegetable matter breaks down and when it gets small enough, it falls through the grate and can be scooped up through the opening in the bricks.
In most years, Lyons does all of her watering from her rain barrel. When the weather is rainy, she fills up old milk jugs from the rain barrel to keep on hand for periods when the weather is drier. She can pick up a jug and water plants. In the winter, she uses the water in the milk jugs to water her house plants.
Last year Western New York was in a state of drought. My rain barrels were empty for weeks and so were hers.
“I had to buy a hose,” Lyons said. “It just killed me to have to do that.”