Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A word about Buffa10

I hardly know where to start. There are too many photos and too much to say, but I have to begin somewhere, so here goes...

First of all, Buffalo was surprising. It isn't fair to say I was expecting anything, really. Buffalo was just this city I'd always heard about but never seen, like Topeka, or Fargo, or Sioux City. You know what I mean? It's just there, in the dim, bland brain wasteland of I-know-you-exist-but-I-really-have-no-reason-to-be-noticing-you. Kind of like LBB, when you think about it.

Well, no, that last bit is not quite right. It is not "kind of like LBB," because the truth is I'd never invite 72 dedicated garden bloggers from all over the United States and Canada to tour the gardens of my home city. I mean, what is there to see? We haven't got a lot of exciting public gardens (OK, none, unless you count the South Plains Food Bank farm, which I do, though probably not for aesthetic reasons), and while the private ones can be amazing, they are truthfully pretty few and far between. And there is no way I'd show them my scraggly patch of land...

Y'all know I love LBB--you know I do--but it is not much to look at.

So all right, I guess on some level I was expecting something, since Elizabeth Licata (Garden Rant and Gardening While Intoxicated) and Jim Charlier (Art of Gardening) had both stepped up and volunteered to show off their hometown. And we did see gardens. In fact, we saw a LOT of gardens, most of which looked as spectacular as this one:

 And this one:

And this one:

In fact, it seemed like everyone in the city of Buffalo was gardening con brio, and that, brothers and sisters, is the big, surprising story of the trip.

OK, perhaps it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that everyone in Buffalo is gardening, but you get my drift. There were entire neighborhood blocks on which many if not most of the houses were sprouting buckets of blooms and adorable foliage. It's truly a community affair.

And so I have to ask, "What's up with that?" Or, more to the point, "How can I get me some of it here in LBB?"

There is value in pulling together as a community--we all know this. But it seems as if the only time we come together as one is when there's a major disaster of some sort, or one of our sports teams wins something BIG. What about pulling together once in awhile for the simple reason of making our neighborhoods nice environments in which to live? 

I'm going to be thinking about this...

More on the Buffa10 meet-up in future posts. There's simply too much to try to fit it all in this one. 


  1. You found the Victorian garden! It wasn't part of our itinerary because they're sort of off on a street by themselves and I hate imposing on the gardeners, as we bring tours though there all the time. Bringing 70 garden bloggers through seemed like a lot to ask. I'm afraid sometimes I'll wear out my welcome if I ask gardeners to open up their garden one more time. I'm happy you got to se the front yard there. The back yard you can see in the current issue of Garden Ideas & Outside Living, a BH&G specialty publication.

  2. Great post, Susan. While we in Austin do have a lot of gardens to show off when visitors come, I couldn't help feeling envious of the amount of gardening going on in Buffalo's inner neighborhoods, and wishing we had more of that. My own neighborhood, for example, is woefully lacking in front-yard gardens. Obviously, the closer into town you go, the more there is. But why don't the more suburban homeowners want in on the garden action too? Is it just a matter of not realizing what can be done with a little patch of dirt?

  3. Jim--The owners were gracious enough to show us the back, too. In fact, that was another one of the remarkable things about BUFF, was how generous everyone was to all of us.

    Pam--I am really intrigued by how much the community seems to pitch in for this. I keep wondering why my block can't look like BUFF...

  4. Wow, Susan - shows you how out of it I am, I had no idea you were heading east for the big shebang! So glad you could go. Can't wait to hear more of your take - who did you meet? What were the hosts' gardens like? Love that Victorian, it's astonishing.

    What makes a community open up to gardening? That is an excellent question for a book topic, my dear. Gardening as a social experiment - I have no idea, but I see it happening with street gardens here. Sometimes it just takes one person, then others decide it's possible, then it catches on. Maybe you will be the ambassador of city-wide gardening for LBB! Glad you had a good trip.

  5. What a good post on this subject -- I found the passion for gardening in Buffalo completely inspiring (and unexpected, too, in spite of having read about Garden Walk).

    The block by block neighborhood feel that's created by the front gardens and sidewalk plantings --wow. And the back gardens were amazing.

    Visiting Buffalo gardens reminded me of how many of our suburban yards (in a typical lots of lawn, punctuated by a few foundation shrubs, and some specimen trees mode) in average neighborhoods in the Southeast are pretty darn uninteresting and unimaginative. (Of course, many are huge spaces in comparison, too, but that's no excuse for not planting more! We have more space to plant, after all.)

    It's an interesting challenge to think about creating a sense of community and connection within a larger landscape and much more expansive yards.

    I'm definitely going to think about how to foster some community/open gardening activities either through my work or community organizations.

    I encourage people in my classes to turn their yards into gardens, but maybe I can figure out how to encourage it on a neighborhood level -- perhaps think up a snappy program name! Maybe a contest like the one Brooklyn Botanical Garden sponsors?


    P.S. Susan, I was delighted to have had the opportunity to cross paths -- it was a total pleasure to get a chance to talk with you as well as our fellow bloggers. Quite an excellent experience.

  6. Ah Susan, all good questions. I just don't know how to get something like that going. Wish I could. I tend to think that sometimes the "plant it and they will come" theory works. So I'm trying to set a good example in my neighborhood. But it would take a lot more than that here and probably in lots of places. That's what's so interesting about Buffalo.

    Looking forward to your other posts and once again, I was so glad to finally meet you!

  7. I'd like to import some of that spirit to my community too. It was such a treat just to look out of the bus window as we drove around. I enjoyed sharing some of that ride with you.

  8. We're all a bunch of show-offs, because I think Buffalo has a rep that goes beyond "just another mid-sized city" thing you're talking about. We also have all that rust-belt, snow-belt ugly rep to deal with.

    Interestingly, we do have many suburban garden walks. But you'd never know what they offer because even the houses participating in the walks are usually fronted by lawns. You can't tell what is going on beyond those lawns! Sometimes, it's a lot.

    Thanks for coming! It was great meeting you.

  9. Buffa10 gave us a lot to think about, as well as to see. Since returning to Toronto, I've also been looking around and wondering how can we get us some o' that Buffalo thing going. Making it a city-wide event I think is part of the solution, as it raises awareness beyond the confines of the neighbourhood. Much stuff to ponder.

    I really enjoyed meeting you, Susan, and look forward to the next time we cross paths.

  10. Very pretty gardens there. They must get good garden weather there.

  11. Slowpoke that I am, I'm just getting around to reading some posts. Love your perspective and your images. I am amazed at how many different views there are of the same thing. Meeting you was one of the highlights of my trip btw. The world can't have too many Susans! I hope our paths cross again soon.

  12. I wondered much the same Susan~How to get the community feel that Buffalo has worked hard to create. Here in the 'burbs there are three of us with front yard gardens and mine is hidden by Hedge. Most folks here totally buy into 'lawns' increase property values~
    I challenge my friends and neighbors thinking every chance I get~I feel like i'm making some progress! gail

  13. Karen--It was a blast. You should come next time. They were talking about having it in Seattle next year, so it wouldn't be hard!

    Lisa--I was so happy to meet you! We have much in common.

    Jean--I'm wondering, too, how to get it going in my 'hood. I've even started wondering if it is a way to build bridges with the students who live here. And glad we finally met!

    MMD--I enjoyed sharing the ride with you, too. You are a breath of fresh air.

    EAL--I enjoyed the heck out of myself. Thanks for all your hard work setting it up. It was great to finally meet some of the Ranters (long a fave blog).

    Helen--No worries; we'll cross paths again. Enjoyed meeting the sisters finally. See over on Twitter, too!

    Window--They do get good weather. We do, too. It's just different weather, and different plants.

    Susan--Finally meeting you was one of the highlights of my trip, too. I enjoyed our conversations.

    Gail--I think it is *the* question we should be thinking about. What a community builder it could be.

  14. Susan, it was great finally meeting you at Buffa10. Don't you dare come to DC and not look me up, you hear?

  15. I thought the same darn thing Susan. I was like "what's up the Buffalonians?" I mean, OKC has some pretty gardens, but a lot is just good landscaping (a future rant), and I began to wish someone liked to garden as much as me. Oh, wait, they do, in Buffalo.~~Dee

  16. Susan, I loved how there were gardens all over the city ... even if it was just a tiny patch of plants around a lamppost, folks were making an effort. I did wonder if part of it is because they focus on getting the most they can out of their growing season.

    It was great to meet you and so many other bloggers!

  17. Susan--You betcha!

    Dee--I find that I'm thinking about this a lot since I came back.

    Cindy--It was great meeting you, too!


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