Like many gardeners preparing for this weekend’s Garden Walk Buffalo, Joe Hopkins has been spending several hours a day watering, trimming, staking and, yes, even fretting.
“You’re hoping that everything is still in bloom by this time, and that everything is straight up and not wilted. I get up early on Garden Walk Buffalo weekend and water and make sure everything is done. Everything has to look perfect,” he said.
Then there are the visitors to think about. “I put benches out in front under the tree so they can sit in the shade. I put rows of seats in our driveway, and I have a bunch of seating areas in the backyard,” said Hopkins, whose garden at 84 16th St., has been on Garden Walk Buffalo for about 10 years. His garden also is a National Garden Festival Open Garden; it can be viewed from 2 to 6 p.m. today and next Friday.
Unlike during last year’s prolonged dry spell, keeping plants moist has not been that big of an issue. However, wind and rain wreaked havoc the last week or so.
“Because of the heavy downpours, a lot of my plants were lying on the ground, basically,” said Hopkins. That’s where the staking came in.
Hopkins’ yard, half of which he estimates is composed of container gardens, is one of the hundreds people can check out this weekend.
The 19th annual Garden Walk Buffalo is taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Called the largest garden tour in the United States, the event attracts tens of thousands of visitors to more than 360 urban gardens of many styles – some of which have been featured in national publications. The gardens are clustered within a 3-mile radius. The walk is free, self-guided and held rain or shine. No ticket is required.
For local gardeners and some non-gardeners, it’s a summer tradition. But its popularity goes beyond Western New York.
“We have buses coming in with garden groups from Canada. The Delaware Center for Horticulture is sending up a bus with 27 people, and there are two buses coming in from Pennsylvania,” said Jim Charlier, president emeritus, Garden Walk Buffalo.
The event also attracts garden writers and people from the garden tourism industry, he added.
Regional garden walks and tours have been happening since June. Most are part of the fourth annual National Garden Festival, which continues through Aug. 4. See www.nationalgardenfestival.com for ongoing events and more information.
Still to come: The ninth annual Black Rock and Riverside Tour of Gardens is Aug. 3. See today’s Garden Notes for details.
But this weekend belongs to Garden Walk Buffalo. Here’s what you need to know:
• Maps: Free maps will be available during tour hours at three headquarters: Richmond-Summer Senior Center, Richmond Avenue and Summer Street; Buffalo Seminary, 205 Bidwell Parkway, and Evergreen Health Services (formerly AIDS Community Services), 206 S. Elmwood Ave., corner of Chippewa Street.
Restrooms can be found at these headquarters. Garden Walk merchandise and bottled water will be sold.
Also on the map: Locations and descriptions of private gardens, community gardens, shuttle route and additional restrooms. A real time-saver: The map breaks down gardens by type including vegetable gardens, ponds and water features, native and organic plantings, structures, wheelchair and stroller accessibility, rock gardens and sculpture.
To plan ahead: You can pick up maps today at one of the sponsor locations. In Buffalo, these include BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, 257 W. Genesee St.; J.P. Bullfeathers, 1010 Elmwood Ave.; Dibble True Value Hardware, 262 W. Ferry St.; Urban Roots Community Garden Center, 428 Rhode Island St.; Realty USA, Buffalo Metro Office only, 504 Elmwood Ave., and Schuele ACE Hardware, 22 Summer St. Other sponsor locations outside the city are listed on the Garden Walk Buffalo website, www.gardenwalkbuffalo.com.
You can also download an abridged map from the website, which has garden locations but not the individual garden descriptions.
• Communities: Gardens for viewing can be found in the Elmwood Village, Symphony Circle and Kleinhans, the Cottage District, Historic West Village, Allentown and Columbus Park/Prospect Hill. Neighborhood descriptions can be found on the map.
• Hop on/hop off a shuttle bus: There are five of them again this year, and they are free to ride. These travel along Delaware Avenue, parts of Elmwood and Richmond avenues and stop at all three headquarters. Look for white and orange shuttle signs. The route runs from the Japanese Garden at Delaware Park behind the Buffalo History Museum to the Erie Basin Marina University Test Gardens.
• General parking: There is no designated parking area. Parking is along the streets and in available lots.
• Restrictions: Each participating property will have a Garden Walk sign. Some may be marked “No dogs” or “No strollers.”
• What to wear/bring: You’ll want to wear comfortable shoes, of course. Sunscreen, hat and umbrellas to protect you from sun or rain are other good ideas. Keep hydrated. A camera, pen and notebook will come in handy for remembering gardening ideas and plant names. It’s always in good taste to ask the homeowner if it’s OK to take photographs.
• Night lights: The Peace Bridge, Electric Tower and M&T Bank building downtown will be lighted in green at night during Garden Walk weekend.
• Giving back: Garden Walk Buffalo Beautification Grants have helped fund projects including community gardens, street corner planter projects and more.