by Connie Oswald Stofko
“We’re going to be the Buffalo of the south,” said Kim Halyak of Memphis, Tennesee. “That’s my goal.”
Got that, folks? Gardeners in other parts of the country want to be compared to us!
I met Halyak this summer during the conference of GWA: The Association of Garden Communicators, which was held in Buffalo. Halyak was one of the few attendees who had been to Buffalo before. Originally from Pittsburgh, she drove up with her sister to visit Garden Walk Buffalo.
She was impressed with what she saw in Buffalo. And she was disappointed that there was no garden walk in Memphis. That’s right, a big city with not even one garden walk.
Inspired by what she saw here, Halyak decided two years ago to start a garden walk in Memphis with members of her garden club, the Cooper Young Garden Club. They started with 24 gardens, grew to 84 gardens this past summer, and hope for 100 gardens next year.
She was happy to have the opportunity to come back to Buffalo yet again this summer.
“As we grow our own garden walk, we want to learn from the best,” Halyak said.
They got help from the organizers of Garden Walk Buffalo.
“We picked their brains,” she said. “They were so gracious.”
Halyak’s garden walk follows Garden Walk Buffalo’s example and doesn’t vet gardens. Anyone who wants to share their garden on the walk is allowed to do so.
Though their garden walk is only two years old, the club members are seeing the kind of results enjoyed by Garden Walk Buffalo– and by many of our local other garden walks. One gardener fixes up their front yard, then another, and soon all the neighbors are motivated to take action.
“This is how you change a place,” Halyak said. “I can only imagine what it will be like in 10 years.”
Halyak was one of only a few people at the GWA conference who had been to Buffalo before. Most of the attendees weren’t familiar with the wealth of beautiful gardens that we enjoy here. In fact, when they heard that the conference was going to be held in Buffalo, many admitted that they wondered why the group would come here.
But after touring just a sampling of the 400 gardens that we can visit every year during Garden Walk Buffalo, they had a better idea of the amazing gardening community we have here in Western New York. And when I proudly told them that Garden Walk Buffalo isn’t the only garden walk we have in the area, they were more surprised. And when I let them know that we can also visit gardens on Thursdays and Fridays through Open Gardens, they were even more astonished.
Let’s not take our spectacular gardening community for granted. Buffalo and Western New York is envied by gardeners all over this country– and in Canada and other parts of the world!
Let’s recognize and be thankful for what we have here.
Take a look at just a few of the articles and blog posts that were written by GWA members about what they saw here this summer.
- From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: #GWA2017 Buffalo “We’re not gonna lie: We had our doubts about Buffalo. And boy, were we wrong!”
- From Spokane, Washington: Travel Stories: Buffalo’s Garden Walk “If you love gardening but have never heard of Garden Walk, this is a destination you should put on your bucket list!”
- From Calgary, Alberta: Secrets of city transformation through private gardens “When I arrived at the first of many private gardens in the city of Buffalo last week, I saw first-hand how small individual effort changes a city, its outlook and its optimism.”
- From Washington, D.C. area: Gardens Bring Buffalo Back to Life: A Story of Urban Renewal “But it’s the backstory that makes this event so astonishing. Over two decades ago it started with just 29 gardeners touring each other’s gardens. …They ended up changing a city.”
- From Indianapolis, Indiana: Indy is a prime place to hold multi-neighborhood garden tours “When I first heard about Garden Walk Buffalo several years ago, I wondered if Indianapolis could ever do anything like this. After visiting Buffalo earlier this month, I’m more curious than ever.”
- From Central Texas: Beautiful Ideas I Brought Back from Buffalo “My jaw dropped over color combos with plants beloved by folks in my home town.”
- From Australia: Small but Mighty-The (not so) Private Gardens of Buffalo “There is something very special about the people who open their private garden spaces so that others may share first hand the very personal interpretations and manipulation of nature, particularly in an urban setting.”
You can see an even larger list of articles, blog posts and podcasts about Buffalo’s gardens on The Art of Gardening, the blog by Jim Charlier. He is past president of Garden Walk Buffalo and is active in bringing garden tourism to Buffalo.