Open Gardens: Hear how one garden helped turn around a neighborhood

front of Loomis house on Open Gardens in Buffalo
Cindy and Peter Loomis have a welcoming, grassless front yard. Their gardening efforts helped turn around the neighborhood. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Cindy and Peter Loomis moved into their Cottage District home 19 years ago without seeing the front of the house. The tiny front yard was filled with a large hedge and two tall pine trees, which hid the house from the street.

It wasn’t a neighborhood where people wanted to sit out front. The area was beginning to turn around, but there were still drug deals and prostitution, Cindy said.

But Cindy likes light, so she and Peter began to clear the yard. She cut down the hedge while Peter took down as many of the pine branches as he could. (They later called a tree company to complete the job.)

It was the first time they had seen the front of the house.

And the neighbors came out and actually applauded.

“It turned the neighborhood around,” Cindy said. “Neighbors started talking to each other, trading plants. I literally knew nothing about gardening. The neighbors trained me.”

Other neighbors started to make improvements to their front yards. Then they worked to get rid of absentee landlords.

“It shows the impact gardening had on community revitalization,” Peter said.

Cindy Loomis has been active with Garden Walk Buffalo and served as president for three years.

You can see the Loomises’ gardens and hear more about their gardening adventures during Open Gardens.

How to visit Open Gardens

detail of colorful arbor on Open Gardens
The Loomises built this arbor as an entranceway to their backyard and painted it in brighter shades of the same colors used on their house. In the background you can see the potting bench in the same colors. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

You can see lots of great gardens and hear riveting stories when you visit Open Gardens. These are selected gardens that you can visit on Thursdays and Fridays at certain times and dates. The gardens are clustered in 12 geographic areas that you can visit over the course of five weeks.

Open Gardens start July 2, so hurry to get your Open Gardens guide. There are three ways to get the guide:

  1. Purchase one online here ($20 donation).
  2. Buy the Open Gardens smartphone app ($4.99). It has GPS, maps, photos and garden descriptions. Purchase it wherever you buy your apps.
  3. Visit one of these partner garden centers ($10 donation).
planters at Loomis home on Open Gardens
Peter Loomis had a wooden racing boat that he hoped to restore. The boat was too damaged, so he used some of the wood to build a box. His wife Cindy decided the box would work well as a planter box in the front yard near the street, so he made more. “I don’t throw anything away,” Peter said. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
boat items on Open Gardens in Buffalo
Peter and Cindy Loomis were competitive sailors on the Finger Lakes before moving to Buffalo, and boating memorabilia adds a touch of whimsy to their backyard. The stern now holds pots. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
back deck on Open Gardens
The deck in the backyard is like an extra room, said Cindy Loomis. The grapevine on the right is 60 years old and provides plenty of fruit for jelly. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

5 Comments on “Open Gardens: Hear how one garden helped turn around a neighborhood

  1. What a beautiful front lawn and yard, Cindy. I love the little personal touches you’ve made to the back yard that really showcase your previous hobbies. Repurposing that wooden racing boat to create planter boxes was also very clever. I may look into ways I can repurpose some old wood we have lying around our garage. Thanks for the inspiration and awesome heart warming story!

  2. If you know Tom Homme, can you please ask him to contact me, Dolores Homme Sheehan at 866-0593. Thanks.

  3. I’m sorry I missed your email to come to our garden last weekend, but reading your article, looks like things worked out for the best. They definitely made a difference in their neighborhood, my applause to them.

  4. I worked with Cindy at the St. Columban Retreat Center in Derby. I love what she and her husband did with their yard! Beautiful!

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