Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by Urban Roots, Buffalo’s first and only co-op garden center. There were balloons, kids’ activities, and a table of snacks—in the evening there was a party for the adults—because yesterday Urban Roots turned one year old. In spite of some misgivings, I was an early adopter of this cooperative city garden center concept, and became the center’s 17th member-owner. Now there are nearly 400. Maybe it was the free signed print by a local artist, but I think more than that it was the idea of having any full-fledged garden center within Buffalo’s city limits.
As all of you know, increasingly the independent garden center is becoming—if not a thing of the past—at least endangered, as Home Depot, Lowe’s, and the other big boxes offer all-in-one solutions to home gardeners. Here in Western New York, we are lucky, in that we have a number of excellent options. I can find everything I need for my garden without ever setting foot in a Home Depot, but—a big but—all of the best places are a good 20-minute drive away from my city home.
In both its location and its offerings, Urban Roots has the city gardener in mind. They offer beautiful containers, interesting garden art, and trees perfect for small urban gardens and hellstrips. They also have rain barrels, cheap undyed mulch, and plenty of organic sprays and such.
While the suburban garden centers offer workshops that may as well be called “How to spend a fortune on your koi pond” and “New and expensive perennials you gotta have,” Urban Roots has a three-part series on permaculture, including information on edible landscaping, water collection and conservation, and biological pest management. Urban Roots is also a local pioneer in heirloom vegetable education; they are the only place in the area offering seedlings of such plants as Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, and Green Zebra tomatoes (just to name a very few).
They listen to their member-owners and often bring in plants upon request. Sure, I’ve had my quibbles. Some of the founders of Urban Roots are much more interested in activism than horticulture—i.e., they don’t know a heuchera from a heliotrope. But you need the activists to get a place like this going, and the horticulturalists have followed.
Happy birthday, UR! And many more.