Printed explanatory matter is a thing for Buffalo gardeners, because so many people are on either the Garden Walk, Open Gardens, or one of the fifteen or so other regional tours. Some gardeners are on a combination of all these.
First there is the basic GW sign that indicates a garden is part of the walk and which parts of the garden are open to visitors. There’s also an Open Gardens sign for those 70 or so gardeners who are on that special program. The regional tours have their own signage.
Then, there are the labels. Some gardeners avoid laryngitis brought on after answering hundreds of “What’s this?” queries by labeling most of their plants. I know that plant labels are common throughout the gardening world and that many reading this post likely use them. For specialists and collectors, these labels are officially necessary. As daylily and hosta specialists, my friends Mike and Kathy Shadrack regularly host fellow aficionados of these plants and it’s just a given that each hybrid is labeled. For us amateurs, it’s a choice. I choose not to. My garden is not so large that I don’t know where and what everything is—that is, if I ever knew. There are a few things I’ve purchased whose names are forever lost to history. I like talking to my visitors and don’t mind answering the same questions over and over, because these initial exchanges often open up more interesting conversations. I do leave plant and bulb catalogs out when I have a lot of hybrids in bloom from those vendors. My plantings tend to be very full and usually on the tall side; many labels would just be lost—or they’d need to be so obtrusive as to ruin the look of the garden. There are some very tasteful, elegant labels out there (like those above that a friend uses); I respect the work that goes into employing them.
There’s another type of sign, and it’s a type that I use very sparingly. It’s a sign with some kind of message, humorous or serious. For years, I’ve had a small wooden sign against my back fence that says All Alcohol Must be Consumed in the Garden-it’s copied from one I saw at the Erie County Fair (above), meant to keep wine drinkers inside the wine garden (which had no plants). A friend had it copied in etched wood. I’ve seen some cute signs in other gardens—my fave now is the Go Away sign, in a traditional style on distressed steel.
Last year I started to use a sign that has been popping up all over Buffalo. It’s not something I usually do and I only have it up during Garden Walk when hundreds will see it. Some call it the Love is Love sign. I think of it as the In Our Country sign. It expresses how I feel at a time when staying silent is not possible. It’s distributed by Activists of Buffalo and WNY Peace Center (both can be found on Facebook).
Ten years ago, I never would have thought a sign like this would be needed (maybe that was wishful thinking). Now it is important to display it. Visitors often tell me they have the same sign.
Note: signs were photographed for this post, but not placed where they usually stand during Garden Walk.