As Garden Walk Buffalo approaches, I have already been participating in the Open Garden program, helping promote the other sixteen area walks and the special tours, and planning for the out-of-town visitors we will have on the big weekend of the Buffalo walk. GWB has turned into a month-long garden extravaganza.
But I know that many garden tours follow a very different model than ours. The gardens may be juried or otherwise chosen, admission may be charged, numbers may be limited. Here’s why I think the way we do it works surprisingly well.
- There’s never been a charge, yet the voluntary donations not only pay expenses (maps, posters), but generate a surplus that helps fund community garden beautification projects. People want to donate because they appreciate the efforts of the volunteers (and they’ll get a map mailed to them). Sponsors have come on board from appreciation of the positive impact (and publicity for them).
- Participating gardeners are required to live within the area of the walk. That’s all. Many participate out of support for their neighbors or because they want to help bring suburbanites into the city to appreciate urban living. So it’s more about community pride than competition.
- This lack of competition and the fact that very few of the gardeners work with professional designers gives non-gardener visitors the idea that “if they can do it, I can do it.”
- Participating gardeners get the positive reinforcement they need. Their neighbors see that and are encouraged to add their gardens to the mix.
- Certain neighborhoods have noticed upticks in property values.
- Participation in the walk generates a community-wide awareness of gardening, garden design, and plant trends.
- Area nurseries have taken note—big time. Most now offer full selections of plants throughout the summer and discounts to participating gardeners.
- Garden tourism is a phrase that’s being taken very seriously throughout Western New York; hotels are filled to capacity for the weekend and most of the summer. Restaurants and other businesses also benefit.
The funny thing is that, really, none of this contributes much to my reasons for being a Garden Walk gardener. I was hooked as soon as I knew there was an opportunity to share my garden with others. It’s just … fun.