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Gardens impart beauty, ideas Walk showcases local green thumbs

These local backyards are anything but "garden variety."

A pink-and-purple cottage at 375 Little Summer St. boasts a quaint in-ground tiled spa, hanging flowers and original paintings.

At 108 Richmond Ave., Nicole Rickard has trained a nearly 25-year-old wisteria tree to cover a yard-sized wooden pergola.

And at 42 Orton Place, Dinah Gamin has incorporated a putting green into her Japanese garden -- dubbed the "Zen of Golf" -- which takes up her backyard and the adjacent lot, where she knocked down a house to expand it.

Buffalo's trees still may be suffering from the October snowstorm, but the gardens are as glorious as ever.

During this weekend's Garden Walk -- the annual self-guided tour of the city's horticultural highlights -- locals and out-of-town visitors are peeking into backyards to admire the feats of nearly 300 gardeners. At some homes, participants stood in line just to catch a glimpse of the yard.

One of those lines formed at Dottie Fitzgerald's, at 375 Little Summer.

"I'm most proud because I'm recovering from a double hip replacement," Fitzgerald said. "I can't bend over -- that's why everything is so high up." She said she also puts her delicately ornamented in-ground spa to use for physical therapy.

Rickard, who trained wisteria to cover her yard and provide shade, said she uses gardening as a way to reclaim peace and quiet. "People have all their toys indoors . . . their big TV sets," she said. "I like digging in the dirt. It's soothing."

Marissa Klein tended to a community garden on Orton Place. Plots of land rented by local families held everything from strawberry and vegetable gardens to more traditional flower beds.

"We all share what comes out of the garden," she said. "It's the heart of the neighborhood."

Gamin, the force behind the "Zen of Golf" garden, said she and her late partner demolished a home on Plymouth Avenue -- the next street over -- in 2001, after the owner won the lottery and jetted off to Puerto Rico. Now the site includes a sand trap, water hazard, putting green and patio.

Gamin said she takes pride in adding character to the street.

"Everyone goes to Kleinhans [Music Hall] and goes home," she said. "They don't realize what's in the neighborhood."

Terry Williams of 82 N. Pearl St. can relate to Gamin's urge to expand her garden. He and his partner, Martin Kemp, who caught the eye of many Garden Walkers last year with their moss-covered outdoor dining table, this year added another outdoor patio with cushioned seats and a mod-ish bar.

The most striking feature of the garden, however, is a huge fountain made from a wooden frame and a perforated pipe that Williams and Kemp designed to create a shining wall of water.

"I've had people come back to say they built one, [too]," Williams said. "People can't believe they can do this themselves."

Dave and Marie Anderson, who came from Jamestown, said they planned to stay the night in order to finish the walk today, collecting tips for their own home along the way.

"Hello! I never thought of garage hangers for flowers!" said Dave, shaking his head and scribbling down notes on a piece of paper.

"We have a little house," said Marie. "You usually think you need to have a lot of money and land for this, but you can have a little corner of your own."

Event organizers said that magazines and Web sites in the gardening world had expressed interest in touring the gardens.

The Garden Walk will continue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. Walk headquarters are located at Buffalo Seminary, 205 Bidwell Parkway; Allentown Association, 14 Allen St.; and the Richmond-Summer Senior Center at 337 Summer St.


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