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This is how Eric “Buffalos” his garden

Now, you can Buffalo your garden. That’s what I am hearing from a group of gardeners in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. Here is what Eric S. emailed me a couple days ago:

I’m part of an active gardening community in a section of Philadelphia called Mt. Airy. Intrigued by the press about Buffalo’s Garden Walk event, one of group visited a few years back.  She reported all the distinctive ways that gardens are enhanced beyond their plantings, which characterized, for her, a unique style among the open gardens during your annual event.

As a result, we’ve coined the expression “to Buffalo your garden” when folks add nicely composed man-made elements like architectural salvage or decorative painted furnishings to enhance their gardens, especially in advance of a garden tour. We have even expanded the term to include the insertion of last-minute blooming highlights to add botanical theatrics in a garden just before visitors descend.

In 2014, I contributed an essay to the Garden Walk bookazine (celebrating the Walk’s 20th anniversary) entitled “Defining Buffalo Style.” Eric is right on in noting a couple of the major attributes I was able to identify—though I never could have imagined gardens in other cities using the term.

The use of found objects in gardens can be seen everywhere gardens are made, but I do agree that, in Buffalo, it’s almost universal. Within a brief walk, you’ll find bowling ball sculpture, nineteenth century remnants, murals, painted cultivator wheels, and a lot more. I have a cast bronze, cast aluminum, and found steel piece that was a senior project for an artist friend. It looks its best in May (above).

Some of the other attributes I listed were:

  • Gardening, not landscaping: Carefully planned swaths of the same plant and large areas of groundcover are usually not suitable for the small urban spaces of most Buffalo neighborhoods. Plantings are dense and mixed.
  • Lawns are rare: Turfgrass does not thrive in these often-shaded front and back gardens, and there usually isn’t enough space to waste on it. Those fortunate with enough sun have front gardens loaded with colorful daylilies, rudbeckia, echinacea, roses, lilium, and more. People like me do what they can with hellebores, hosta, Solomon’s seal, actea, hakonechloa, brunnera, and hydrangea.
  • The thing about the last minute enhancements—he is so right on that. The week of Garden Walk will mean a trip to the nursery  (just a couple table plants usually, for me). I don’t show the quote, but Eric also mentions the widespread use of tropical and houseplants outside. That’s pretty common.

Eric is not alone in identifying a Buffalo-style—Atlantic.com and Montreal garden writer Allan Becker have also written of the phenomenon. Of course, is any of the stuff unique to Buffalo? Hell, no. I think we’re just saying we might have more of it than most.

Fun fact: “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a grammatically correct sentence. Paraphrased, this means, “Bison from Buffalo, which bison from Buffalo bully, themselves bully bison from Buffalo.”

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on June 7, 2016 at 8:08 am, in the category But is it Art?, Garden Walk Buffalo.


  1. I grew up in Buffalo and little did I realize at the time how spoiled I was with such a good gardening climate! Buffalo has a (well-deserved) reputation for snowy winters but the rest of the year, the climate is quite pleasant. One big difference between Buffalo and where I live now (Washington, DC) is that you can sanely garden year-round. I miss those summer nights when the temperature cools down so nicely. I also miss nasturtiums, and delphiniums, and tuberous begonias, and most of all fuchsias. (P.S. There is something seriously wrong with your Captcha Code system; I have to try about 4-5 different times to get my comment accepted.)

  2. I like it! Freedom in the garden to go crazy and have fun! I plan to help clients ‘be brave’ and show who they really are, perhaps they just need a nudge!

  3. You cracked me up! You said it was “sane to garden year-round,” so I thought you were talking about DC, where it almost never gets very hot and where snow doesn’t pile up. Then I realized you meant Buffalo! Brrr! This swamp lily can’t imagine gardening “year-round” there. Or even LIVING there…. I’m strictly zones 6-13.

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