With the sun bearing down, sweat seeping through shirts, and passing motorists inching around the volunteers, Saturday morning at the McKinley Parkway traffic circle in South Buffalo didn’t exactly offer prime gardening conditions.
“I hate gardening,” said Sharon Landgraf, 68. “I love to see it. I just don’t like to do it.”
It wasn’t exactly a labor of love for all involved, but the end product – a revamped garden at the traffic circle – encouraged the 20 or so community members who volunteered their weekend morning to shovel mulch and plant flowers to keep at it.
By 11:30 a.m., most of the work was completed, with rows of newly planted yellow cone flowers, Virginia sweet spires and Shenandoah grass sitting in fresh beds of soil and mulch.
The gardening project was part of the National Garden Festival’s inaugural LEAF a Legacy project, with landscapers from the Western New York State Nursery and Landscape Association and Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy playing integral roles in coordinating the effort.
Had the project not secured funding from area foundations, volunteer organizer Ed Dore estimates it would have cost about $80,000 for material and labor, including the 115 trees planted in the surrounding area during the project’s first phase in February.
After soliciting input from the community, Brian Dold, a landscape designer and Olmsted Park public horticulture manager, started with the groundwork, handpicking plants and designing the garden’s eventual layout.
Selecting plants with different growth schedules was an important consideration for keeping the garden in bloom year-round, as opposed to the single-season flowers that previously blossomed in the space.
The evergreens close to the circular garden’s center were selected, in part, because they would withstand the winter months.
The volunteers also replanted flowers –including day lilies and petunias – that existed in the space before the makeover.
“It shows pride in your community,” Dold said of the importance of well-maintained neighborhood gardens. “It’s one of those things that adds to the quality of life.”
And, for some, there are the therapeutic benefits to gardening.
“For me, it’s relaxing. It gives me time to meditate and think,” said Bernadine Snusz, 68, a McKinley Parkway Association volunteer, as she planted zinnias.
Admiring the volunteers’ handiwork, Bob Smith, 55, a lifelong gardener, said beautifying neighborhood spaces helps contribute to the community’s well-being.
“We always get more from the city than we give,” said Smith, an Orchard Park resident.
“You do a little work, you step back, and it’s gratification all around,” he added.