Acres of annuals—now? In Buffalo?



Last night, I taught a blogging workshop to an adult horticultural class, which was a fun and enlightening experience for a few reasons, but one of the most rewarding parts of it was the setting. It was held at McKinley High School in Buffalo, a public school where there is a 4-year horticultural training program.  It is only one of 2 such programs in New York State. (I wonder how many other there are in the country.)

There are several greenhouses and workshop rooms where students learn to grow, pot, propagate, design, and so on. There are 2 ponds and several areas where tropical and other plants are kept, and most surprising of all, two greenhouses were filled with tables of annuals: lobelia, pansies, petunias (including old-fashioned fragrant varieties), impatiens, and so on. Not such an interesting sight at any other time of year but on February 28, a most welcome phenomenon. It’s months before these would be seen anyplace else in my part of the world. These will be used to cheer up the annual garden show, Plantasia, which usually relies on forced bulbs, early-flowering shrubs, and evergreens for its plants. All grown by the students (under instructor Dan Robillard) and it looked like they did an fine job.

I had been invited by another horticulture teacher (now a professor at a nearby college), Tom Mitchell. He thought of me after seeing a post where I remarked on a proposed NYState playground pesticide ban, claiming that our local nursery association was against the ban. Mitchell concedes that many members might have been against it, but that the association as a group would never take such a position. I believe him, so I must have been mistaken.

Mitchell wanted the students to be exposed to a blog like Garden Rant where these issues are discussed, and I was happy to take them on a tour of our most controversial posts. He is also threatening to start a blog of his own; that will be very welcome—too few of our local horticultural insiders are involved in the online gardening discussion.


I wanted to take a table of these flowers home.

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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. Those are gorgeous ! High school, you say ? Wonder what it would take to get a program like that going at one of our (Sacramento region) local schools ? Maybe we could get UC Davis to help out …

  2. Wow, what a refreshing sight after a long, mean NY winter! And how fortunate those kids are to have such a learning experience. I’m going back 40 years and feeling extremely jealous.

  3. Dutchess County BOCES at one time, perhaps still does, had a horticulture program as a two year program……..a needed format in our industry,

    The TROLL

  4. Wow those flowers look lovely, so colourful.

    I think it’s great to get youngsters into gardening, it’s good for kids as it’s so visual – they can really see the results!

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