Buffalo’s Front Yard Garden Contest off to a great start

Back in December, it was a dozen of us sitting in a room. We’re brainstorming ways to leave a permanent legacy of the National Garden Festival. Permanent over-sized planters for all the host sites for events? Killer baskets of annuals for Bidwell Parkway (like you’d see in Niagara-on-the-Lake)? An awesome community garden in a very public spot? The idea was to keep in the spirit of what Garden Walk Buffalo has done with their Beautification Grants by improving a neighborhood or common area.

The thoughtful guy with the funny accent (Mike Shadrack, author of The New Encyclopedia of Hostas) says something along the lines of, “Hey, why don’t we do a garden competition, like they do in England?” He always sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, because he’s got that English accent. After some snickers and silence, it dawned on us the great spirit of community that ABC TV’s Extreme Makeover, Home Edition: Buffalo fostered when they were here last Fall. But even though Garden Walk is on Buffalo’s Westside, if we were to do this, it was decided that Buffalo’s Eastside could really use the morale boost of renovating front yard gardens.
Mary Ann Kresse, Chairperson of the board of the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, suggested something over by the Science Museum. Neil Stern, President of the WNY Nursery & Landscape Association, says he thinks he could get a few of his member landscapers involved. Thomas Herrera-Mishler, CEO of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, says that the homes along North Parade, adjacent to Olmsted’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Park would be a great street, and being almost part of the park, the conservancy could easily be a major contributor to getting this done. Sometimes getting things done is a matter of who’s in the room. And boy, did we have the room unknowingly primed for big ideas and big actions. 
After the meeting, I think Ed Healy, of the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau, Sally Cunningham, coordinator of the National Garden Festival,  and I were stunned and starting to realize the enormity of the task — and the enormity of the results. Ed, Sally, and I can’t take credit for any of the work that’s going on to get this done (it’s all in the hands of the able landscapers), but we certainly filled the room with the right people.
And in only one week, we’ll see those results.

This is the view the homes have out their front door, Frederic Law Olmsted-designed Martin Luther King, Jr. Park.
A landscaper from Pace Landscaping being quizzed by reporters.
 A homeowner being interviewed by a TV station.
Work gets underway. I expected a handful of landscapers trucks along the street. When I got there, the street was closed off because it was full of trucks, backhoes, tractors, dump trucks and forklifts.
Scissor lift rented to shoot a promotional gardening video for the Convention & Visitors Bureau. Today they were giving rides to media outlets to get shots from above.
Professional instigator, Drew Cerza, National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival organizer, with Thomas Herrera-Mishler, CEO of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. It was Drew’s idea to make the leap from the successes of Garden Walk Buffalo to an area-wide national festival of which we could all benefit.
These guys work hard. It was over 90 degrees today!

Got LOTS of media coverage.

Thomas Herrera-Mishler. Could not have done this without his commitment.

There is no better spokesperson than Sally Cunningham.
These are not small makeovers. In most cases, complete yards & sidewalks were torn out to start from scratch.
13 Landscape firms are taking over 19 front yard gardens plus one community garden.

I didn’t catch his name, but he’s a leader in the block club for the street. One of the best speakers at the press conference — funny, sincere, and an asset to any neighborhood. Behind him, to the right, is Masten District Common Council member Demone A. Smith, also a great partner in making this happen.
The man of the hour, Neil Stern, president of the WNY Nursery & Landscape Association. And my personal hero is behind Neil, to the left — Otis Glover, of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. He was the liaison between the neighborhood homeowners and the National Buffalo Garden Festival. From historical research on the homes, to interacting with the local churches, businesses, politician’s offices to multiple meetings with homeowners, Otis has shepherded this project through like the pro he is. He handled a million details without ever breaking a sweat. Though today, at 90-plus degrees, he finally did.

And here are the landscapers. Hire them. They’re good. And they’re good people.
Beaver Landscaping, Inc., 759-7044
Beyond the Basics Property Services, Inc.
Birch Grove Landscaping & Nursery, Inc.
Buffalo Horticulture and Garden Design
Dore Landscape Associates
Elbers Landscape Service, Inc.
The English Gardener, Ltd.
Johnson’s Nursery
Menne Nursery Corp.
Murray Brothers Nurseries, Inc.
T. O’Donnell Landscaping
Pace Landscaping
S & R Greenleaf Landscaping

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