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Daylilies and Hosta-holics: a National Garden Festival diary

A scene from the Southtowns Bouquet Bus Tour

blog by Erin Daetsch  • 

On Friday, I had the pleasure of climbing aboard the Southtowns Bouquet Bus Tour as part of The National Garden Festival, Buffalo’s five-week garden party. Throughout the day, we ventured to five private gardens in Orchard Park, Eden, East Aurora and outlying areas of Hamburg. Relive the experience with me, won’t you?

9:57 a.m.—I definitely turned some heads upon entering the bus, due to the fact I was about 40 years younger than the average passenger. I was the new kid on the block with no prior knowledge or experience in the field of gardening, except an occasional visit to Home Depot to pick out “red” flowers for our backyard. However, I was not about to share this information with the garden enthusiasts I was amongst. With the help of my bus buddy, Frank Dolce, 70-year-old retired correctional counselor from West Falls, NY, I was soon given the 411 on all things gardening.

10:14 a.m. —The Hidden Gardens of Eden was our first stop of the day. Hostas were the main ingredient of the whimsical garden at the home of Marcia and David Sully. Their house was in a wooded area, which they blended tastefully with their landscaping. Aside from the hostas, their yard had a bench for everything from drinking coffee, reading or sipping wine.

Garden 1

11:05 a.m.—Next up: the garden of Kristina Weitz, whose claim to fame was her different-colored socks and shoelaces, which she happened to be sporting when we arrived. Kristina was the queen of daylilies and even hybridizes her own. By hybridizing her own plants, she never knows what to expect, which adds something new to her garden each year. Kind of like when Katie Costello mixes slushees at 7-eleven.

Garden 2

11:49 a.m.—I think if I had moved a rock an inch from its original spot, either Gary or Kitty Bannerman would have spotted it from a mile away.  The third stop on the tour was the most pristine garden I had ever seen. Now, I know I am no expert, but everyone else on the tour seemed to agree, so take it from them. If you stood on either of their two decks, you were granted a panoramic view of the sunflowers, Asiatic lilies and daffodils, just to name a few.

Garden 3

12:45 p.m.—We had lunch at Lockwoods Greenhouses and Nursery, where I met Sally Cunningham, director of the National Garden Festival, who also happens to write a weekly gardening column for The Buffalo News. Sally is one of many who are working hard to put Buffalo on the gardening map. If you ask me, they are doing a great job, especially with Garden Walk Buffalo coming up on Saturday, July 28 and Sunday, July 29. It is the largest garden tour in America and features over 370 gardens this year. The next-largest garden tour comprises the entire state of Virginia, which has only 70 gardens. Clearly, there is no comparison.

2:08 p.m.—Our fourth stop took us to the house of our charming British tour guide, Mike Shadrack and his wife Kathy. After moving from London, Mike bought his home from former Buffalo Bill’s backup quarterback and assistant coach, Alex VanPelt. Getting to Mike’s house was an adventure itself, since the only way in was by driving 300 feet in reverse down a road. Since our ride was a coach bus, you can imagine the look on the group’s face. His garden was well worth it though. Again, hostas were the theme of the day and he even brought a little bit of London with him to America in his Beatle’s inspired “Octopus Garden in the Shade”.

Garden 4

3:19 p.m.—Our final stop definitely took home the prize. If a gardener died and went to heaven, I’m pretty sure this was the place they would go. We were the only people who were able to tour the garden this year, because the couple who owns it stopped opening it up to the public. Knowing this I felt like a VIP in the world of gardening. Some may be turned off from the look of the house in the front, but upon entering the backyard, you are welcomed by the thousands of varieties of plants. It has been a garden 20 years in the making, and you can tell a labor of love as well. With 6,000 bricks forming pathways that veer off in every direction, you could never get bored. 

Garden 5

After spending the day in the backyards of these passionate gardeners and learning the ins and outs of the trade, it inspired me to do more than simply unload the flat of geraniums from the trunk of my father’s car. Whether or not you have a green thumb, consider attending Garden Walk Buffalo or one of the many events going on during the The National Garden Festival that ends on Saturday, Aug. 4.

TAGGED: erin daetsch, garden tour, garden walk buffalo, national garden festival buffalo, southtowns, summer

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