This article appears in July 17 Travel page.
July is known for independence, fireworks, picnics and baseball. However, in Buffalo, New York, the month is all about flowers and creative gardens.
This is a special year for Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest garden walk in the U.S., as it celebrates its 25th anniversary July 27 and 28.
Tens of thousands of garden seekers will take the weekend’s free walking tours.
“It is a big undertaking to entertain an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 visitors for two days each year,” said Sue Hough, immediate past chairwoman of Garden Walk Buffalo. “Passionate volunteers and more than 400 gracious gardeners make it happen.”
The city is loaded with colorful and artistically designed gardens using ponds, waterfalls, fountains, outdoor kitchens, lighting schemes, playgrounds and treehouses. Garden goers might even find a backyard putting green. The gardens are sanctuaries for residents, who graciously share their space and stories.
Special tours are offered — some with a charge — and every tour includes a variety of things to do, such as night tours, plant sales, music, historic homes, artists and children’s activities. With the combination of free neighborhood tours and the special garden tours and events, nearly 1,000 gardens can be seen on 18 tours.
The tours span into August with the last one, Black Squirrel Home and Garden Walk, Aug. 10 in neighboring Niagara Falls.
The anniversary weekend tour is free, self-guided and no tickets are needed.
It all began when Marvin Lunenfeld and Gail McCarthy visited a garden tour in Chicago in 1993. They thought it would be a great fit for their neighborhood in Buffalo: The first Garden Walk was held July 15 and 16, 1995, with 29 gardens open to the public.
“Gardening is a form of community service here in Buffalo. It’s also a creative art,” said Jim Charlier, vice president of Gardens Buffalo Niagara and co-author of “Buffalo-Style Gardens.” “There’s a Buffalo style of gardening that comes from an individual’s own creative expression in their gardens. There are no cookie-cutter or checkbook gardens here. Mixed with the great architecture you’ll find gardens like nowhere else.”
The mission of the walk is to make Buffalo Niagara a garden destination while improving neighborhoods, increasing home values, making an economic impact, making the region more beautiful and sharing it with the world.
During the summer, the open garden events offer visitors a peek behind the beautiful homes of the city. Garden seekers slip right into the backyards of the friendly neighbors and view many types of gardens, from flower to vegetable, rain gardens to permascapes and cottage gardens to urban farms. There is a multitude of styles and historic and architectural sites.
The best place to begin your adventure is at Garden Walk Headquarters: gardensbuffaloniagara.com. Downloadable maps are available on the site, all the information for tours and more. The event is held rain or shine.