It’s early days to be drawing conclusions from all the gardens I’ve visited and the gardeners I’ve interviewed. (We’ll leave aside the fact that my finished text is now at least one week overdue.) Yet, I do feel some common threads have connected most if not all of the Buffalo gardens I’ve seen. And here they are:
The need for water
Ok, I realize how idiotic that heading sounds—but let’s leave it. What I mean, of course, is the presence—in nearly every garden—of some sort of water feature: whether it be pond, fountain, waterfall, or combo of all three. It’s the sound, more than anything, the illusion that you’re sitting by an idyllic woodland brook, far removed from sirens, helicopters, and bars letting out. Nearly everyone I visited had a pond, usually filled with fish (the corresponding need to nurture wildlife). These gardens are refuges and the more “natural” features there are, the more effective the refuge.
Almost all have their specialty. Today, I found, for the first time, someone who cherishes the rarer lily hybrids and species almost as much as I do, and actually orders bulbs from the ridiculously expensive Old House Gardens. Why, even I, in my reckless profligacy, shrink from their prices (most of the time). Another gardener told me of her love for porcelain berry. The two gentle gardening partners I interviewed after her—who live next to a loud Hispanic church— overwinter a selection of old-fashioned dahlia tubers every year. And then there’s the gardener who said of rudbeckia: “They have my heart.”
Reliance on the backbone
And in Western New York, that’s hosta, hydrangea, Rose of Sharon, daylilies, Japanese maples, peonies, lilac, rudbeckia, grasses, and various evergreens. I won’t offend anyone’s sensibilities by dwelling on the geraniums, impatiens, marigolds, and other everyday annuals. These are not terribly exciting plants, to be sure. But they seem to do very well in the clay soil, particularly the first four perennials I mentioned. I don’t find this to be an optimal spot for roses. I guess there’s a good reason 100-plus types of hostas are available to local gardeners—in person, not through mail order.
And then there’s the stuff
This is a rather more unfortunate category. Let’s simply say that it’s very difficult to stop oneself from adding objects to the garden, each of which may have its own charm, but the cumulative effect of which may be—well, perhaps a bit busy.
I’ll say no more on that subject, but more on local tendencies later.