New book called Buffalo-Style Gardens shows the world how we do it in WNY

Jim Charlier garden and shed in Buffalo
One of the quirky gardens you’ll see in the new book Buffalo-Style Gardens is that of co-author Jim Charlier. His shed, in the back at left, replicates the style of his house. Hand-me-down chairs and a bench he made are painted in the same vibrant colors as the trim on his shed and house. Photo courtesy Jim Charlier

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Here is what I like most about the new book Buffalo-Style Gardens: Not only does it inspire you with photos of beautiful gardens, it also offers you great guidelines on how to use those ideas in your own landscape.

If you have ever wondered how to make your yard look like those you see on garden walks, this book is for you!

Buffalo-Style Gardens was written by Sally Cunningham, CNLP, a gardening celebrity who is a writer, speaker and tour guide, and Jim Charlier, former president of Garden Walk Buffalo who also writes the Art of Gardening blog. Cunningham and Charlier are two of the co-founders of what is now called Gardens Buffalo Niagara, the umbrella organization of the garden walks, Open Gardens and other events.

treehouse with planter boxes in Buffalo
A treehouse that incorporates planter boxes is a focal point in the yard of Sue Hough and Miro Sako in Buffalo. Photo courtesy Jim Charlier

Charlier and Cunningham originally approached their publisher with an idea for a book about funky garden design. Since the book was going to be sold nationwide, Charlier planned to use photos of gardens he shot in his travels (his wife is a flight attendant) and from friends across the country, along with some local shots.

But when the publisher toured gardens here as part of a garden communicators group, he realized that Buffalo had its own style with quirky, one-of-a-kind private gardens, Charlier said. The publisher recommended the book concentrate on our area and be called Buffalo-Style Gardens. It’s a style that people everywhere can enjoy.

“This is gardening advice for everyone,” Charlier said.

The book is available at the authors’ website and you can buy copies signed by the authors. For a discount, you can place an order of 20 or more.

You can also pick up the book at the gift shop at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens and at many local stores, and it’s available on the Gardens Buffalo Niagara website.

Cunningham and Charlier can speak to your group, too.

ponds and fences in Buffalo
If you have a fence or wall, choose some plants that are taller than the fence to break the horizontal line. The plants should be the focus, not the fence or wall. This photo is from Eight Paths Garden in Buffalo. Photo courtesy Jim Charlier

Tips from Buffalo-Style Gardens

People sometimes look at the gardens in the book or on garden walks and think, “Oh, I could never do that. I don’t have a green thumb.”

“That’s nonsense,” Cunningham said. “A green thumb is really about learning, trying and experimenting.”

To help you learn, Buffalo-Style Gardens is filled with beautiful examples of well designed gardens. Cunningham explains what makes the gardens in the photos attractive so that you can apply the design rules to your own space.

And because no two people are alike, Cunningham helps you decide what kind of landscape would work for you. There’s an even a quiz (no right or wrong anwers) to help you sort through what you want. The best question: How many hours per week can you typically dedicate to the garden? You’re not going to be happy if you try to create a landscape that is too labor intensive for your liking. Be honest with yourself.

When I asked Cunningham what her best tip from the book was, she didn’t hesitate. She pointed me to the page with the sub-heading: What’s the job description?

So many gardeners see a pretty plant and then try to find spot for it, but Cunningham encourages you to think first about what job needs to be done in your landscape. Do you want a frame? Something to create a background? Or do you want some bold color? After you have decided on the job description, you can go out and find a plant or plants that will do that job for you. Most of the book talks about elements of design; Cunningham intentionally left the section on plant selection for the end of the book. That’s the last thing you should decide.

mixed hedge in Lakeview, NY
You don’t have to use just one single kind of shrub to create a hedge. Several different deciduous and evergreen shrubs are grouped beautifully in the Hajnosz garden in Lakeview. Photo courtesy Jim Charlier

Take pride in Buffalo-Style Gardens

I loved browsing through Buffalo-Style Gardens to see how many of the gardens I recognized from garden walks and Open Gardens. I have visited a lot of wonderful local gardens over the years, but there are still many in this book that I have never seen! So that’s another fun way I’ll use the book— as a reference for gardens I want to visit this year.

Cunningham said this book is a reflection of our gardening community in Western New York.

It started with Garden Walk Buffalo 25 years ago. Now with the other garden walks and Open Gardens, there are 1,000 gardens to tour in Western New York. People from other areas are surprised that so many Western New Yorkers let strangers walk around in their yards for free, she said.

“It’s about all of us and what garden tourism has done for our region,” Cunningham said. Gardening — especially our style of gardening — “has done a lot for the image of our whole region.”

Buffalo-style gardens are bold. Huge Elephant Ears are just one the many plants in this window box on Little Summer Street in Buffalo. Photo by Jim Charlier

8 Comments on “New book called Buffalo-Style Gardens shows the world how we do it in WNY

  1. My son and family bought this book for my birthday, and I love it! Thank you for putting it together. Great inspiration and whimsical intrigue!!

  2. Books will be available from GardenWalkBuffalo at the booth during Plantasia, directly from Sally or Jim immediately after talks, from Lockwoods or Mastersons, Barnes & Noble, The Bookworm, Talking Leaves, and several cultural institution bookstores including the Botanical Garden. Thanks for asking!

  3. In Answer to Kathleen’s question, and Connie may have answered already….
    “Buffalo-Style” applies to creative, quirky, intense, art-filled gardens anywhere. This book shows gardens from Lockport and Tonawanda to Holland, Hamburg, with most of them in Buffalo where our Garden Wallk fame expanded this vision. (A few gardens are out of state also, to illustrate how people create unique gardens.) the title explanation in the book shows how Garden Bloggers from 24 states toured here and someone said “There are Japanese, Italian, and other style gardens–and there’s a Buffalo Style!”
    My only regret: We couldn’t get everybody’s garden in there, so many that are special, but we did include about 70 regional gardeners. Thanks for commenting!

  4. If that’s “Buffalo-style Gardening”, then I’m a fan! I’m bringing these ideas to my garden here in Northern West Virginia!

    The Northern West Virginia Gardener (on Facebook)

  5. How can you say WNY when the gardens are Buffalo-Style gardens??
    Maybe I missed something??
    WNY & Buffalo are definitely 2 different things.
    Truly love the unique gardens of BUFFALO but that is not WNY.
    Are there gardens outside of Bflo. also in the book?
    If so, WNY does work. But based upon all at this point, present descriptor is misleading.
    Thanks, KB

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