Searching for fall



As Michele explores ways to garden more, I’m totally ready to garden less. I love spending time outside in our current 80-plus October temps (soon to drop, I know), but I’d rather not weed, water, prune, or plant. It’s as much as I can do to get the damn bulbs in, and please don’t mention leaf raking. Though, by the looks of it, we’ll be very close to Thanksgiving before it’s time to do that.


At this point in the year, I’d rather revel in nature than attempt to maintain it. Yesterday, we drove into WNY’s ski country, which is the only area where fall colors are beginning to appear. Closer to Buffalo, everything is still quite green, including an unusual wilderness area that’s about 3 minutes from Buffalo’s City Hall.


Tifft Nature Preserve is a classic example of making environmental lemonade. A former farm, then shipping center, the 264 acres fell into disuse and eventually were used as a dump by the city. In the 70s, the movement to turn this land into a nature preserve began, and the waste was enclosed. Ponds were dug, wildflowers were planted, and a large cattail marsh was conserved. (Hazardous waste was removed.) Now, the area is designated an “important bird area” by Audubon.


It is truly lovely in a very understated way—just cattails, wooden boardwalks and raised walkways, water, trees, plants, and birds (There are more animals, but I’ve only seen birds). There aren’t the variety of wildflowers one might see in a truly unspoiled woodland, but the bird action is impressive (264 species and subspecies recorded; 64 species breeding there)—especially if you know birds, which I can’t say I do.

I didn’t find fall today but I did find a beautiful, quiet spot that needs no watering.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I do agree with this sentiment. I love gardening and all that goes with it but this time of year I look forward to the changing of the season. This year especially what with the nearly constant watering that we have had to do. I am sure the garden is looking for the wet cool days of autumn too.

    Lisa at Greenbow

  2. Last year this blog said “Gardeners to nurseries, fall is the new spring”
    Amy said, “Fall planting may be best for the garden, but I guess it’s just not convenient for the nursery industry. Wait for spring, when overfed flowering annuals will crowd the parking lot at your local garden center.”

    I think your view of fall is more realistic of the general feeling of the gardening public, which would explain why Amy is disappointed with the selection of plants in nurseries during fall.

  3. Hey you guys, I don’t want you to think I am hogging all th commenting space by double, or in the case of the last time I posted here, triple commenting. I couldn’t figure out why my comments keep showing up twice or more. I finally figured its because I am hitting the “back button” and for some reason it posts my comment again. So sorry. I am going to leave now, and if this gets posted twice I just might have to stop drinking so much coffee in the morning.

  4. Eliz, I agree with you about the nature centers being great places to visit in fall. Most communities have some sort of restoration of natural areas. By visiting these places we encourage a continued financial support by local government. What gets used gets funded. Although I have come to respect how a lack of funds makes for less building mania. A good day in the field holds more interest for me than a slew of new housing for programs.
    As to planting though, the Mr and I have been slowly getting areas ready over the course of the whole season in preparation for the native plants we are growing from seed. They sat outside last winter in containers, grew a bit over the summer and are mostly planted now.I am hoping this late warm spell does not initiate to much top growth. I think most are guided by waning light and temperature does not matter as much in preparing for winter dormancy.
    We have been watering the newly planted areas, but next week’s weather forecast looks to provide plenty of rain to end that.
    With no time table on project completion gardening is always a pleasure.

  5. I, too, feel strangely lazy this fall. Still haven’t managed to get 100 saffron crocus in the ground–and they are supposed to be planted early. Not mowing my lawn, not weeding my flower beds, not mulching my hell strip, which desperately needs it. Not doing much besides picking vegetables.

    Then last night I developed the flu and understood myself.

  6. Thank you for reminding me of Tifft. I used to live in Buffalo in the 80’s and early 90’s. I’m sure Tifft has changed tremendously. I visited Buffalo in July but only made it to the Erie Basin Marina for a few minutes. We did spend some time in the natural areas around Niagara Falls which is always a treat and pretty much unknown to the average visitor to the Falls. I live in Oklahoma now, a whole other world of gardening…..a little longer growing season!

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