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Garden Walk Buffalo kicks off July 25 and 26

The summer calendar is packed with garden tours in communities throughout Western New York, and the last full weekend in July is reserved for Buffalo’s big one. With more than 400 gardens on this year’s walk, it’s time to pull out some sensible shoes and head out to the 21st annual Garden Walk Buffalo.

It’s here you will find all kinds of gardens – vegetable, shade, cottage-style and community among them – and all kinds of things in those gardens.

At the Highland Avenue home of Ellen Goldstein and Mitch Flynn, for example, a vertical sculpture constructed from 16 bowling balls – yes, you read that right – and topped with bowling pins, commands attention along with the beautiful perennial beds and artfully arranged pots and window boxes. The bowling theme started after a bowling ball was discovered during the excavation of the old patio.

His wife is the gardener; he is the groundskeeper/sculpture guy, said Flynn, who also has integrated bicycle parts and fountains into the landscape. It makes sense. Flynn is an avid bicyclist and founder of Ride for Roswell. And, well, this is a Buffalo-style garden – where eclecticism is as prevalent as echinacea.

A short drive away, Phoebe McKay points out two old-fashioned flat irons in the front-yard garden of the West Side home she shares with her husband, Bruce. Sash weights from old windows and a lollipop stone sculpture – stones secured to long metal sticks – also are found here, among the ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea, coneflowers, hostas, ferns and other plantings, mostly perennials with some annuals.

Along with seeing the many backyard gardens open for viewing this weekend, Garden Walk Buffalo visitors will find plenty of inspiration in urban front gardens such as this one – along with patio, container, side and hell strip gardens, the latter being those areas between sidewalk and curb.

The McKays’ front-yard garden on Putnam Street has existed since they removed the grass in 2006. They participated in Garden Walk Buffalo the following year – and have done so ever since.

“It took a good three years to get the garden established,” she said. She noted that, as in other Garden Walk neighborhoods, gardening has caught on – and on and on – through the years.

The McKays have lived in their house for nearly 26 years. “I used to be able to count on one hand how many people put out flowers, and most of those were impatiens. Now I can count on one hand the number of people who don’t,” she said.

– Susan Martin

• The 21st annual Garden Walk Buffalo runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It is free, self-guided and features more than 400 urban gardens in communities including: Historic West Village, Symphony Circle and Kleinhans Music Hall community (with a “Pit Stop” and tours at First Presbyterian Church and fresh food available for picnicking on the grounds of Kleinhans), Fargo Estate neighborhood, Allentown, the Cottage District, Columbus Park/Prospect Hill, Elmwood Village.

• There will be three headquarters for Garden Walk guide with map, information and merchandise: Richmond-Summer Senior Center, Richmond Avenue and Summer Street; Buffalo Seminary, 205 Bidwell Parkway; and Evergreen Health Services: the Victorian Pride Center, 200 S. Elmwood Ave., near Chippewa Street.

The guide/map gives addresses and brief descriptions of each garden, listed by street – from Allen Street to York Street. Parks, community gardens and public gardens also are marked. Flip to the back page and you will find a list of many gardens by type – vegetable garden, organic, natives – or special features, such as ponds, sculpture and structures. It also lists those that are stroller and wheelchair accessible.

• If you want a map beforehand, visit for a list of sponsor locations where maps can be picked up.

• Five free hop on/hop off shuttles will be operating again this year during Garden Walk. They will transport visitors to the various neighborhoods and stop at the headquarters.

• Parking is on the streets in Garden Walk neighborhoods – or in public lots. The guide/map marks area parking lots as well as bathrooms and shuttle routes and stops.

Some background: The first Buffalo garden walk took place in 1995 and included 29 gardens. Today, it features more than 400 gardens and is called America’s largest garden tour, attracting some 60,000 visitors from near and far. Garden Walk Buffalo – and most of the other garden walks and tours that have been happening throughout Western New York – are part of what formerly was called the National Garden Festival, which launched in 2010. In 2014, the National Garden Festival and Garden Walk Buffalo combined efforts under the Garden Walk Buffalo Niagara name.

Visit for more information on events, including the 11th annual Black Rock & Riverside Tour of Gardens scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 1 (with a night tour, too); a Beyond Flowers: Sustainability in Action tour, also Aug. 1; the East Side Momentum tour Aug. 8, and more.

– Susan Martin