Garden Writers’ responses to their visit to Buffalo

Buffalo gardeners and cultural institutions provided a warm welcome to 350+ members of the GWA | The Association of Garden Communicators for their 2017 annual conference held here in the City of Good Neighbors. And in return? They've provided their commentary on their visit.

Visit Buffalo Niagara’s Brian Hayden and Ed Healy, along with Gardens Buffalo Niagara volunteer Beth Kreutzer, along with myself, serve up breakfast to GWA members visiting my garden during therr annual conference

August 4-7 had the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center busy with inspiring talks, horticultural information, professional development seminars, social events, and an awards dinner/ceremony with the nation’s leading experts in their fields. One aspect of the annual conference that members look forward to is getting to explore the horticultural life of the city it visits. Last year was Atlanta, next year, it’s Chicago.

Garden Walk Buffalo, its parent organization Gardens Buffalo Niagara (GBN), as well as Visit Buffalo Niagara (VBN), PLANT WNY, the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, and a slew of dedicated volunteers, ably led by The Buffalo News Garden Columnist Sally Cunningham, planned bus tours for three days (six buses each day!) touring throughout the city, the Southtowns, and Niagara Parks, including stops at residential gardens in Hamburg, Buffalo, and Eden; the Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House; Botanical Gardens; Erie Basin Marina Test Gardens; Draves Arboretum; and Delaware Park‘s Japanese and Rose gardens.

In the lead photo above, breakfast, courtesy of Visit Buffalo Niagara (VBN), is served for 110 attendees in my garden by (left to right) Brian Hayden, VBN Communications Manager; Ed Healy, VBN VP of Marketing; Beth Kreutzer, GBN Secretary; and myself. Three breakfast spots were set up in different parts of the city for the visitors on their early morning tour of about 15 residential gardens (out of the 400 on view the week before for Garden Walk Buffalo!). Oh look, there’s the shed!
Photo by the Garden Media Group.

I’ll keep adding to this list as I find new articles. If you’re out there on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, do a search for #GWA2017 and you’ll find plenty more great posts and images. If you’ve published an article, or a post on the Walk, let me know and I can add it here for you. Here are some posts attendees have posted on their visit:

  • Video by Alan Armitage:
    • Tour of Buffalo Gardens Reveals Hidden Gems And Community Pride, Allan Armitage, Greenhouse Grower
      “My friends, what I experienced were not spectacular gardens. I was not seeing manicured estates, nor was any one garden the greatest thing I had ever wandered into. No, what I was seeing was pride of neighborhood, pride of ownership, and pride of a city. Homes were cared for, porches lived on, and the gardens were handsome. No garden was particularly large, none was meant to impress, but all oozed with pride and pleasure. It was as if a large welcome mat was spread from street to street, inviting me for cheese and crackers on the porch. Needless to say, I was impressed.”“What does a three-hour roam around Buffalo mean to our industry? It should provide all of us with a richer understanding that we can make a difference in neighborhoods, in cities, and certainly in people’s lives. We sometimes need to be reminded that plants, gardens, and gardening are important to people. Not just to a few people, but to hundreds of thousands who enjoy the creativity and therapy of working in the dirt. Thank you Buffalo for providing us with that reminder. As for me, I am a born-again Buffalonian!”
    • Insider Information on Garden Tourism, New Plants and Garden Products, and What on Earth is GWA? (PODCAST) Ellen Zachos and C.L. Fornari
      “The GWA meeting was held in Buffalo in 2017, just one week after GardenWalk Buffalo. Man oh man were we impressed. The people of Buffalo rock! And the gardens? Well, you have to go. The homeowners who open their properties during this event are creative, generous, and clearly have a wonderful time creating with color. The people of Buffalo are friendly and generous, and we came away inspired about how garden tourism can improve neighborhoods, become a huge source of income, and bring people together in positive ways.”
    • Episode 315: Flower Farmer Nellie Gardner’s New Chapter in Historic Garden and Landscape Preservation, Debra Prinzing
      “Rather than discussing cut flower farming, Nellie was there to share the story of gardening at the historic Graycliff Estate, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home on Lake Erie, built in 1926 for the Darwin Martin family. The grounds at Graycliff were originally designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman, a well-known landscape architect and contemporary of Wright’s. Once grand, like the estate, the gardens declined with age — and Nellie has assumed the role of horticulturist who is restoring the flower borders, harvest gardens and outdoor living spaces.”
    • Small but Mighty-The (not so) Private Gardens of Buffalo, Andrea Whitely.
      Photo by Andrea Whitely.

      “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. There are so many reasons to lock ourselves away these days after hours spent behind desks in stressful jobs so many people travel back home after enduring a long commute, drive in the garage, pull down the roller door and flop into the sanctuary of home, locking the outside world out. Gardeners who share their gardens are the complete opposite, they throw open that garage door and say to the world “come on in and see what I have done”

    • Take a walk on the wild side-Colour your world-Paint the House!, Andrea Whitely.
      Photo by Andrea Whitely.

      “Here are some great homes from Buffalo New York, the owners have embraced bright colours and I just adore it. That’s it, I’m inspired…I’m off to the hardware store to pick up some paint-how about you??? How brave are you????”

Photo by Susan Mulvihill.
    • Travel Stories: Buffalo’s Garden Walk, Susan Mulvihill, Susan’s in the Garden.
      “I couldn’t get over how many eye-catching gardens were in each neighborhood — all on tiny city lots — and each was unique. Some gardeners got really creative — building platforms on their garages for a beehive or to grow veggies — with the latter accessed by either a library ladder in front of the garage or an attic staircase inside. Some used curving pathways, to add interest and to maximize the space in their small yards. Each community’s neighborhoods of gardens brought people together, whether it was a passerby stopping to admire them or neighbors connecting and relaxing together on a summer evening. But what struck me each time we toured a garden was their willingness to share something that brings them a great deal of joy and pride, and the lasting tie they share with their neighbors.
    • Buffalo Garden Tour Included Colorful Front Walks, Thomas Mickey, American Gardening.
      Photo by Thomas Mickey.

      “After walking the streets of Buffalo in search of the gardens, I came across several houses with an outstanding front entrance where plants provided so much color and structure. It seemed to me there were as many different designs of entry ways to the house, as there were houses.”

    • Buffalo: A City of Gardeners, Diana Stoll, Garden with Diana
      Photo by Diana Stoll.

      “Here’s what I learned:

    • Buffalonians may be the friendliest people in the country;
  • Individuals can make an enormous difference;
  • Small actions create considerable momentum; and
  • Gardens can save a city.”
  • Big Ideas for Designing with Mini Leaves, Karen Chapman, Fine Foliage
Photo by Karen Chapman.
  • “I’m just back after a whirlwind tour of Buffalo, New York – boy do those folks know how to do foliage! Hostas must be the #1 selling plant, available in every conceivable shade of green, blue-green, blue, gold and white and ranging in size from monsters to miniatures. I was especially struck by the creative ways homeowners found to showcase the more petite specimens.”
  • Hosta Fanatics Mark Turner, Passions – a blog
Photo by Mark Turner.
  • “Earlier in August I had the opportunity to visit two fantastic woodland gardens south of Buffalo, New York that each feature over 1000 varieties of Hosta. I think that’s just a little crazy, but the gardens were a delight…”
  • Much more than pretty blue flowers, C.L. Fornari, Cape Cod Times
    “…this event brings in more than $4 million to that city every summer, and continues to build on its success. I had the pleasure of visiting some of those gardens this year and saw firsthand how the love of plants and gardens has transformed entire streets in that city…”
  • #GWA2017 Buffalo Chloe Wertz, St. Lynn’s Press blog
    Photo by Chloe Wert.

    “We’re not much for bold statements, but this year’s Garden Writers Annual Conference and Expo in Buffalo was the BEST ONE YET. We’re not gonna lie: We had our doubts about Buffalo. And boy, were we wrong! We still can’t get over how beautiful Buffalo was – and how friendly the people were. This city should be celebrated for its beauty, history, architecture and amazing private/public garden spaces…”

    “We knew nothing about Buffalo’s Cottage District before arriving in the city. It’s such a wonderful example of how a few dedicated home-owners can transform a neighborhood with a little space, time, energy, colorful plants and quirky garden art. The Cottage District is an absolute must-see for garden lovers…”

  • A Bible Gardener Visits Buffalo, NY Shelley Cramm, Garden in Delight
    Photo by Shelley Cramm.

    “I’m not sure there could be a bigger garden welcome than the one awaiting visitors to Buffalo, NY, in late July! The energetic citizens of one of America’s greatest northern cities have endured much—from difficult winters to economic decline, yet they have fought back in glorious gardens, restoring community, tourism, triumph, prosperity, and joy to the city. Pleasing, color-filled neighborhood strolls and long walks in city parks are yours to enjoy, dear gardener, in this historical haven…”

  • 17 things to do the next time you visit Buffalo Derek Flack, BlogTO
    “When I visited Buffalo this summer, the annual Garden Walk event was taking place. Basically you can go exploring all incredible backyards around some of the city’s oldest and architecturally significant neighbourhoods…As cool as getting the behind the scenes peek afforded by the event, the thing that struck me is how nice it was to explore Elmwood Village. The landscaping and architecture here puts Toronto to shame…”
  • Small Garden Re-Imagined: Buffalo Style Karen Chapman, le jardinet
    Photo by Karen Chapman.

    “Do you like garden tours?  I try to go to a few local ones each year, but this summer I had the opportunity to attend what can only be described as a garden tour on steroids – Garden Walk Buffalo…some are whimsical, some appear to be a set borrowed from Hollywood, others feature native plants, but all are creative, and the open arms concept is encouraging a greater sense of pride in this community…”

  • GWA 2017: Snapshots from Buffalo Ann McCormick, GWAGrows
    “This year’s GWA conference was a rousing success with nearly 350 attendees. The weather was fine and the natives were very friendly. A big thank you to the local arrangements committee…”
  • Tranquil Designs from Austin to Buffalo Linda Lehmusvirta, Central Texas Gardener
    Photo by Linda Lehmusvirta.

    “The best thing about visiting gardens on tour is to admire someone else’s hard work without sweating it out ourselves…so I loved simply relaxing into inspiration mode on a recent visit to Buffalo…”

  • Hoosier Gardener: Indy prime place to hold multi-neighborhood garden tours Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, IndyStar
    These are not what we call “checkbook gardens,” but rather very personal landscapes planted and accessorized with what the gardeners are enjoy, such as mini hostas or eclectic art…”
  • Secrets of city transformation through private gardens Donna Balzer, Calgary Herald
    Photo by Donna Balzer.

    “And then we ventured into private yards with Harry Potter Sheds, dozens of colourful potted plants and miniature railways: I was amazed. Finally, the intimate spaces a nosy gardener really wants to visit…Buffalo proves a city can change its profile and face to the world one yard at a time. And it’s not the big public gardens that will do it. It is the small yards in neighbourhoods around the city that build interest and excitement…”

  • Up Front & Out Back: Buffalo to Austin, Linda Lehmusvirta, Central Texas Gardener
    Photo by Linda Lehmusvirta.

    “As in Austin’s older neighborhoods, tiny front yard jewels front personable homes, though these in Buffalo were built decades earlier…”

  • Hoosier Gardener: Garden tour event could have multimillion-dollar impact, Jo Ellen Myers Sharp, IndyStar
    “In Buffalo’s case, data from 2010 and 2011 showed the two-day event has a $4.5 million impact, according to an analysis by Richard Benfield, a garden tourism consultant at Central Connecticut State University…”
  • Container ideas highlight garden tour, Sue Scholz, Erie Times-News
    Photo by Sue Scholz.

    “There were so many creative garden ideas. I’m sharing a sampling of the spectacular container gardens we encountered. Those Buffalo gardeners take the saying of “Go big or go home” to heart. Each large pot was more beautiful than the next and would be at home in any national gardening magazine.”

  • No Summer is Complete Without a Visit to Buffalo, Barbara Conroy, Barbara’s Garden Chronicles
    Photo by Barbara Conroy.

    “…you can see that the Buffalo Style is found not only in the garden designs or the carefully composed floral selections, but in the neighbourhoods and in the gardeners who so kindly welcomed us…”

  • Who’d a Thought Buffalo Would Have Great Gardens? Doug Turner, Passions – A Blog
    “The fine folks in Buffalo, New York certainly do know how to garden. And they share their gardens with friends, neighbors, and garden lovers from around the world…”
  • 17 things to do the next time you visit Buffalo, Derek Flack, BlogTO
    Photo by Derek Flack.

    “When I visited Buffalo this summer, the annual Garden Walk event was taking place. Basically you can go exploring all incredible backyards around some of the city’s oldest and architecturally significant neighbourhoods…As cool as getting the behind the scenes peek afforded by the event, the thing that struck me is how nice it was to explore Elmwood Village. The landscaping and architecture here puts Toronto to shame…”

  • Gardens Bring Buffalo Back to Life: A Story of Urban Renewal, Marianne Willburn, The Small Town Gardener
    Photo by Marianne Willburn.

    “Maybe you have more control over that neighborhood than you think…Each of these gardeners had chosen to pick up a trowel in the midst of urban decay and change their world. They ended up changing a city…‘Buffalo Style Garden’ – It’s a thing…”

  • Buffalo Wins My Heart Martha Swiss, Plant Some Joy!
    “Like most cities, Buffalo has had its share of problems. But as we walked from garden to garden along charming streets, it quickly became apparent that whole communities have embraced gardening, and the result is some astonishingly effective urban renewal…Buffalo is living proof that gardening can be a powerful force for grassroots urban renewal and community building…”
  •  GWA/Buffalo Take-Aways Susan Harris,
    Photo by Susan Harris.

    “Time for a debrief after attending the Garden Writers annual shindig held in Buffalo this year – to the delight of anyone who’s been there in the last decade or so and the apprehension of anyone who hasn’t. Yeah, Buffalo had lots of doubters, but boy did that city shut them up!”

  • Near-sighted camera meets colorblind gardener Helen Batersby, Toronto Gardens “Why post about Buffalo gardens on a blog called Toronto Gardens? It’s because we’re in roughly the same plant zone…and have lots of small, city plots to cultivate. We always try to bring back ideas that will work for Toronto folk who love the outdoors. So let’s get inspiration where we can!”
  • Beautiful Ideas I Brought Back from Buffalo Linda Lehmusvirta, Central Texas Gardener
    Phtot by Linda Lehmusvirta.

    “Neighbors are truly connected in these rejuvenated sections of Buffalo. Instead of fighting boundary lines, these gardeners connect them, building most charming relationships…”

  • The Gardeners came and left impressed Sally Cunningham, The Buffalo News
    “I have seen the great gardens of the world, but nothing like I’ve seen in these Buffalo gardens,” he told me at the conference’s closing banquet. “So often I see tired gardens and frustrated gardeners, and great big ‘checkbook gardens.’ But these Buffalo folks – it’s their unparalleled passions we won’t forget. I will plan to come back.” – Allan Armitage signifies horticultural royalty, considered to be one of the most learned people and finest teachers in the field, having written 13 books, among them our most dependable encyclopedic references about annuals, perennials, native plants (and more). When he speaks, gardeners listen…”
  • Garden Writers Association plants roots in WNY for national conference Mike Desmond, WBFO,
    Photo by Mike Desmond.

    “It goes back to the very institutionalization of urban green, with the Olmsted parks system which started here in the city and extended now through these later years with Buffalo Gardenwalks,” Association President Kirk Brown said. “We have had an absolutely astonishing 150 year view of ornamental horticulture in America…”

  • Garden Writers from all over North America are here! Sally Cunningham, The Buffalo News
    Photo by Derek Gee/The Buffalo News.

    “This weekend you may see six large motor coaches driving to the Southtowns, roaming the gardening neighborhoods of Buffalo, and visiting our parks and public gardens. The giant buses are filled with tourists we very much want: guests who will write about us, take pictures, post, blog and publish…”

  • Garden Writers will be invasive this weekend! Jim Charlier, Buffalo Rising “We know that having visitors tour our creative and beautiful gardens has a lasting impact on how Buffalo is perceived. Making an impression on garden media “influencers” only piles on. The tourism industry gets a conference with vast outreach potential, in addition to filling hotels and restaurants in the short term with a more than $1 million economic impact…
  • The Dirt / The writers are coming Sally Cunningham, Buffalo Spree Magazine
    Draves Arboretum photo
    by Buffalo Spree Magazine.

    “300–400 garden writers are descending on Buffalo and environs (this weekend) to see Western New York public and private gardens, flower farms, sustainable landscaping sites, and more. The visitors are members of the Garden Communicators Association (GWA,, which is holding its sixty-ninth annual conference and expo here. The conference will fill the Hyatt, convention center, area restaurants, and tourism sites with enthusiastic garden talk…”

  • Photo Collections
Photo by Tracy Blevins


  • Garden Media Group:













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Jim Charlier is an advertising designer/photographer/crafter with a serious gardening problem. He's co-written a garden design book featuring the funky, quirky and fun gardens by the gardeners of Buffalo titled "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" (; he writes a long-standing garden blog (; led the largest garden tour in America, Garden Walk Buffalo; has written for, or provided photography for dozens of magazines and books; has made presentations and participated in panel discussions on garden design and garden tourism nationally and internationally.

0 comments on “Garden Writers’ responses to their visit to Buffalo

  1. I think Buffalo is place in United States their you can see greenery of the World. website design buffalo ny


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