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I’ve gone on a number of garden walks in my life – some small, some big. One of the tips I learned early on – besides to wear sunscreen and comfortable shoes – was to prepare to be inspired by far more than the flowers.

I’ve come across wonderful garden art and decor – from the elegant to the whimsical. I’ve seen outdoor tables set for the occasion and ordinary household items repurposed into planters.

I’ve fallen in love with window boxes, admired arbors, been fascinated by fairy gardens. And the water features... wow!

One tip: If maps are available ahead of time, take advantage and plan your outing – even if it’s a matter of taking some time at the beginning of your journey. For example, Garden Walk Buffalo’s map has traditionally broken down gardens by type including vegetable gardens, ponds and water features, native and organic plantings, structures, wheelchair and stroller accessibility, rock gardens and sculpture.

Or, if the tour has a website or is on Facebook, visit it for updated information.

The Buffalo News’ Great Gardening columnist Sally Cunningham has shared some great tips through the years. Just a few of them:

• Remember that crowded garden walks and many gardens are not suitable for young children and pets.

• Don’t get discouraged by your own garden when you look at tour gardens.

“These gardeners have been working for weeks, months and years to have their gardens peak at this moment. Some start in March and maybe finish in October, tending and prepping and tweaking – not to mention watering, weeding and deadheading!,” she wrote in one of her columns.

“They also spend money to make the garden a showplace. They read, they shop, they get the best plant recommendations and they keep moving the plants around until they’re satisfied – just about the day before you arrive. Just appreciate their efforts,” she added.

• And one that makes me laugh: “Do not pull weeds, even if you are sure they would love you to do so.”

You may want to pick up a copy of the new publication, “Garden Walk Buffalo 20th Anniversary Annual,” priced at $10. Inside you’ll find more tips on how to go on a garden tour as well as other articles from regional garden writers and lots and lots of local garden photographs. Look for it at Tops and Wegmans, select bookstores, garden centers and gift shops. It is also available on the Garden Walk Buffalo online store.

Other resources

As mentioned in our cover story today listing area garden walks and tours, many other garden events associated with the six-week-long National Garden Festival can be found on nationalgardenfestival.com. New to Buffalo and unfamiliar with the festival? On the website, the festival is described as “a ‘green’ umbrella under which Garden Walk Buffalo, other Buffalo Niagara garden walks, open gardens, garden-related events, symposia and tours will be packaged and promoted to attract visitors – including locals who will be encouraged to be a tourist in our own backyard.”

A few other websites you may want to become familiar with – especially with summer just ahead:

• Buffalo in Bloom, www.buffaloinbloom.com, is a volunteer organization that scouts and recognizes well-deserved gardens within the City of Buffalo and plants and maintains the gardens in front of City Hall in Niagara Square.

• Buffalo Tours – Preservation Buffalo Niagara’s education and tourism program – offers a variety of architectural walking tours and more. Check them out at www.preservationbuffaloniagara.org/buffalo-tours.

• Visit Buffalo Niagara, www.visitbuffaloniagara.com offers tourism information on the local garden and nature scene with links to the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Buffalo’s six War of 1812 Bicentennial Peace Gardens and others.

• Explore Buffalo, www.explorebuffalo.org, is offering tours this season. Just one of them: A Cottage District walking tour focusing on the history and architecture of the homes and other buildings in one of the most popular areas on Garden Walk Buffalo.

email: smartin@buffnews.com