The garden is never closed

Witch hazel in Central Park in March

Nor, to a great extent, is the outdoors. As the menu of possible activities narrows exponentially—for New York this means no bars, restaurants, gatherings, and nearly all arts/cultural activities—the outdoors is still open for business. It’s one of the few places where social distancing is not only possible, it’s kind of built-in.

Nuthatch at Tifft Nature Preserve, Buffalo

Outside of big summer festivals and always-crowded tourist hot spots like Niagara Falls, parks, preserves, and other public green spaces are usually sparsely populated. There are nature preserves in Western New York where I know I will not see one other person, except maybe a caretaker, on any given day, especially now, in the offseason. In fact, there are no staff on duty at most places, though trails remain open. New York State parks also remain open; there’s just no programming and visitors’ center are shuttered.

Beautiful Goat Island, Niagara Falls, is never crowded at this time.

In our local Facebook gardeners’ group, members, not satisfied with seed-starting, are champing at the bit to get outside and plant. Um, no, it’s really not time yet, with overnight hard freezes still common, but it will be in a couple weeks. At that time, we gardeners can channel our needs to get out and do something. In the meantime, what a great time to make plans, nurture seeds, and take a few quiet walks. Along the wooded trails of a local preserve, I can watch and listen to the birds—migrators are beginning to return—enjoy the different tree forms, and imagine a world before us.

In a world that is beginning to resemble an apocalyptic science fiction film, this brings solace.

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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 regular 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. Peasant gardeners can still go to work and return to the hermitage in the evenings. Same as it ever was.

  2. As the weather warms it’s way more fun to go outdoors then into the city. Seed starting, planning, readying tools and pruning are all things we can do now to get us outside. Maybe this will be a wake up call for people to think about growing their own food this year.

  3. This is a beautiful reminder of how simple life can and SHOULD be. Our gardens should be a source of peace in this time of fear that many are living in. Use this time to plan and sow a garden like you’ve never planted before! Thanks for the beautiful pictures in this article to bring me joy!

    Wendy Jacobs
    Click Here to visit us!

  4. This Quarantine is helping me to make my Garden Better. I am trying to make it perfect. My kids are also stepping in to make our Garden Better than ever. I have started a blog Garden Discover recently.

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