Watch out, here we come: the first sustainable Show House garden



The house, which is already minus the odd statuary you see here.

Well, by “we” I mean landscape architect Joy Kuebler and her team. I’m just kind of cheerleading and giving people free ads for services. And writing about it.

And, well, by “sustainable” I mean it demonstrates sustainable practices; the garden itself will not last. But at least it won’t cost 50 gazillion bucks, like that one in SF.


The plan (so far)

Here’s the deal. Like many cities in the U.S., Buffalo has a Decorator’s Show House project where a big empty mansion is renovated, decorated, and opened to the public as a fundraiser for a worthy cause. Everything not nailed down can be sold or removed at the end of the 3-week period. Though the viewing period happens in April/May, gardens are normally not a huge element of the spectacle; it’s all about the house—and it should be.

Nonetheless, I thought it would be fun to sponsor an outdoor space that isn’t just a collection of furniture with a planter, a firepit and those fake cocktails filled with colored goo (though they secretly fascinate me). It will have veggies under cold frames, a rain barrel feeding a sink, a potting shed with a green roof, a pergola, native shrubs and trees, a compost tumbler, and sculpture. Because of the earliness of the season and frost issues, it won’t have the perennials we’d ordinarily have: mainly just the woody plants and the veggies. Attendees will hopefully see that you can have sustainable strategies and still have everything attractive and easy-to-maintain. Sure, we already know that, but I think it’s safe to say that many of the visitors to a Junior League Show House might not. The drawing here is difficult to interpret and is really only an idea (the pine trees are the only elements that actually exist in the current mud), but the cool part is that we will also be using salvaged structural materials from Buffalo Re-Use

So there you have it. I’ll keep you posted.

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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 regularly 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 guess the key word here is “demonstrates”.

    Just like the Slow Food Project at S.F. City Hall that demonstrated and then actually provided food to the needy while demonstrating to the public ( for free – no admission charge ) , how to create organic gardens with ongoing educational hands on workshops throughout the life of the garden.

    The cost , which was not 50 gazillion bucks was used to pay to refurbish the grounds after the people viewed the garden for free and attended free organic gardening workshops.

    The grounds had to be refurbished to be able to continue to offer a venue for education outdoor exhibitions like the 2008 Sustainable Expo that had an entire sustainable modular house built on the grounds by Michelle Kaufman.

    Think of it like recycling the community land for ongoing educational projects .

    It’s nice to hear that Buffalo is going to host a sustainable show house.
    Out here in the west we’ve been hosting sustainable educational gardens at a wide variety of homeshows, decorator show houses, and community grounds for the past decade or two.

    Education is a good thing.
    Diss’ing other educational venues is not.

  2. It wouldn’t be a rant without a rant! Very nice idea. I am all for promoting the veggie gardening deal. I think a lot of people are going for it who have not tried it before. @compostman on twitter had something to say about it this morning.

    I wrote my own response on the blog today (linked from my name)

    I think anything we can do to promote new gardeners and sustainable gardening practices is a WIN WIN no matter how much it costs.

  3. I have to say I was a bit disappointed to pull up an organic gardening website only to see black plastic (or some other form of petrochemically produced netting) on the ground surrounding plants! Ditch it! Use newspaper layers (avoid glossy colored inserts) and lots of natural mulches (leaves, straw, compost, etc). Makes a much more natural environment for all the “good guys” you want to encourage to live in your garden.

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