What Buffalo’s Blogger Fling Taught Me


My visit to Buffalo for the garden bloggers’ meeting was eye-opening in many ways.  It was really fun to meet all the different personalities in this world, including the extremely generous Kathy Purdy, who brought a bag of narcissus poeticus bulbs to share.  That is the way to make new friends!

It was also valuable, in that it made me a little less provincial as a gardener.  I view my own corner of the universe a little differently now…with, I must admit, some dissatisfaction.  Now that I’ve seen the big city (and when it comes to gardening, Buffalo is one of THE big cities), I just want more out of life.

Here’s what Buffa10 helped me conclude:

  1. We really need to step it up here in Saratoga Springs, NY.  I do not think of this as a gardening town.  I think of it as a mow and blow town, full of people rich enough to hire out the yard.  While Oregonian Janet Loughrey has just published a book called Saratoga In Bloom that makes me realize, yes, we do have an aesthetic here, that aesthetic is all about the easy riot of color provided by the same four annuals and not about gardening as personal expression.  Buffalo proves that it’s possible to mingle civic pride with personal expression.
  2. We really need to step it up in my yard.  I’m a complicated case, in that my main interest is my vegetable garden out in the country. My city yard is mostly about covering the ground so I don’t have to mow and don’t appall the neighbors, mixed in with a bit of a bulb obsession.  But Buffa10 meeting czar Jim Charlier, in particular, shamed me.  I’ve been moving my fruit trees from the country, where they are always decimated by deer, to the deer-free city.  But I don’t really have room for them.  Jim, however, has a trellis of espaliered fruit trees against his garage.  Beautiful and practical!  Why didn’t I think of that? He also grows vegetables in his tiny yard, ringing the small vegetable beds with miniature boxwoods.  Susan Cohan instantly said, “A mini-Villandry,” which it is.  Super-sophisticated!  And yet farmer-like at the same time.  Exactly what I aspire to…and fall way short of.
  3. Our nurseries stink. Lockwood’s Greenhouses, a fantastic Buffalo nursery, fed the garden bloggers a nice lunch and then set us free to shop. I wound up dragging three tender plants home on Amtrak–two begonias and one plectranthus, because they were the chicest things I’ve seen in years. If these plants were clothes, I would wear them constantly and astonish the world with my sense of style.  My basic feeling about garden retailing is, surprise me.  I am never surprised in my part of the world, not in the sloppy nurseries that ring me in Eastern New York State, nor in the glamorous nurseries that I patronize in Western Vermont.  Lockwood’s had lots of things in every department that prompted a shocked, “What is that?”  Plus, they were selling the biggest cast iron urn I’ve ever seen in my life, which I swear, I would have bought if I’d arrived by Volvo wagon and not train.  Elizabeth Licata said sympathetically, “You should live near good nurseries.”  I’m working on it!  I no sooner shook Mr. Lockwood’s hand than I suggested rather obnoxiously that Saratoga Springs would be a great market for expansion.


  1. Ooh, what & where are the glamorous nurseries in Western Vermont?

    Locally, I think Fadeggon’s on Rte 7 in Latham isn’t bad, and I’m sometimes very surprised at what turns up at Lowes or Home Depot — variegated yuccas or fastigate hollies –and cheap!

    I can’t wait to go to Buffalo next weekend!

  2. Jean, I really like Mettowee Mill in Dorset, VT for shrubs. And Equinox in Manchester. VT has a big though not terribly adventurous selection of perennials.

    I used to find weird and wonderful perennials at Clearbrook Farm in Shaftsbury, VT–but since they’ve expanded, they seem to have grown more conservative.

    Yes, I’ve heard Fadeggon’s is good–I just never head in that direction.

    Enjoy Buffalo!

  3. As Jack Black of Tenacious D proclaimed, “Sometimes you gotta leave your zone of safety….You gotta get out of the apartment. You’ve got to run with the wolves. You’ve got to dive into the ocean and fight with the sharks.”

    Thank you to you (and Jack) for the reminder to open up a little more.

  4. I guess I’m completely spoiled in CT because while Lockwood’s was very nice, we have several comparable nurseries within a 15-45 minute drive of my home. To me that was one of the most interesting things about Buffa10 — what we bloggers got excited about and why.

  5. Oh! Espaliered fruit trees! I want to add fruit trees to my yard, but did not know where and had not thought of espaliering them. Wow! Whole new concept. Thanks!

  6. In addition to the espaliered pear trees, I have an espaliered apple trees forming a living “fence” around my potage garden. I also have a columnar apple tree in the front yard and blackberries and strawberries. And that’s just the fruit in my back forty (feet). My inspiration for the potager was indeed Villandry, after a visit there a few years back. It’s a small yard, but my wife insists that size doesn’t matter, it’s what you put into it. At least I think she was referring to the yard.

  7. Someone in my neighborhood has the columnar apple trees along their driveway. They do seem to bear a fair amount of fruit in a small space. The thought of doing espalier intimidates me. The columnar trees are less scary.

    For me the whole point of garden tours is to see how other people do things. I steal the best applicable ideas for my garden.

  8. Hi Michele,
    I like what you wrote about mingling civic pride with personal expression — we need more of that here, too. Sometimes I think deed restrictions and overly-controlling Homeowner’s Associations, trying to “maintain property values,” actually get in the way.

  9. Buffalo was a delight and I cannot stop singing the praises of Jim and Elizabeth. They did an outstanding job. I missed Jim’s garden~I’m hoping that someone will be sharing photos of it soon! It didn’t take long for dissatisfaction to settle in here in Nashville~just a trip to the local nurseries and I was longing to be at Lockwood~I did take home a Vernonia lettermannii~it was stuffed under the seat on the plane. gail

  10. Lockwoods was indeed a nice nursery and as I wandered around I knew if I lived nearby I would be in there often. Luckily I have several decent and one great independent nursery close by and was able to resist purchasing anything.

    What those Buffalo gardens did to me was make me pine for organized lushness. I just don’t know if it possible in the wilderness over such large expanses of ground without a staff. I need staff.

  11. I haven’t figured out how to use all that I learned in my garden. Buffalo was full of great ideas – some of which had to be spelled out for me as Chris the Flatbush gardener did. It is going to take me a while. Susan Cohan certainly is quick with the mot apropos!

  12. You visit some of the most beautiful places. My wife and I love your post. We are going to visit you part of the world this summer. Maybe, we will see some of those when we are there.

  13. Michele, we really must do coffee next time I’m in Saratoga so we can talk local gardens. I see where you’re coming from but I don’t agree on all points. There are interesting gardens as well as some decent nurseries such as Toadflax, Dehn’s and Sunnyside, but the short season and low profit margin in general probably keeps them from venturing too far outside the box. I’ll be in touch, hopefully soon! And thanks for the mention.

    Janet Loughrey, author, Saratoga in Bloom

  14. I live in a mow & blow town too, although it’s getting better around here. I’m lucky that there are some great independent garden center/nurseries not terribly far from me with something new nearly every week.


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