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Inaugural East Side Garden Walk gets off the ground

There’s a new garden walk in town.

On Saturday, 42 gardens on Buffalo’s East Side will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free and self-guided, the walk includes both residential and community gardens. Brochures with maps are available now at and at the Central Library and eight other city public libraries.

How did it evolve?

Master gardener Mary Van Vorst saw it was time for an East Side garden walk, after her involvement the last few years in the East Side Momentum Tour of community gardens and urban farms, scheduled for Aug. 11 this year.

“I was struck by the strong sense of community. The stories really drew me in. And because this is the land of garden walks, it seemed that East Siders were simply long overdue for the chance to share both their gardens and their stories,” she said.

“I may have started the ball rolling, but it’s really the community that has made this happen. I hope visitors will have the chance and take the time to talk with the gardeners. This walk is about much more than flowers,” she added.

The walk has support from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County Master Gardeners and Gardens Buffalo Niagara, the organization that plans and hosts or promotes local garden events, including Garden Walk Buffalo (July 28-29).

According to a statement from Garden Buffalo Niagara: “Gardens Buffalo Niagara has fully embraced the East Side Garden Walk, offering marketing and visibility support, providing mentoring to the event team, and serving as a resource as the East Side residents launch the program’s inaugural year.”

East Side gardens like this one will be on display Saturday. (Shuran Huang/Buffalo News)

Among the home gardens visitors can check out:

• A tropical garden on Arden Avenue, inspired by the homeowner’s trip to Hawaii. Upon her return, Constance Strother made some changes to her already established garden.

“That tropical feeling really inspired me. The flowers – and nature itself – was the inspiration for the change, to make it as colorful as it is,” said Strother, who is studying for her master’s degree in urban planning at the University at Buffalo.

Oranges, reds and yellows are now found not only in daylilies but also in the decor. One seating area surrounds a propane fire pit; another is near the waterfall and koi pond.

“There are many gardeners on the East Side. We’re doing a lot of positive things here,” she said.

• A jazz garden on Mercer Avenue, tended by Dawn Martin Berry-Walker and her husband, Henry Walker, a retired Buffalo firefighter. Berry-Walker is the daughter of the late jazz icon/band leader James “Pappy” Martin, who co-founded the Masten Jazz Festival. She now leads the festival, which is scheduled for 2 to 8 p.m. July 22 and July 29 on the side lawn of the Buffalo Museum of Science.

“We’re a jazz family. We centered our garden around jazz and African-American culture. There are a couple of paintings I’ve done and rocks that have jazz phrases on them. I have a grapevine sculpture that is a tribute to my mother (longtime educator Kay E. Martin), who was a big proponent of jazz as well,” said Berry-Walker, a retired Buffalo math teacher.

• A vegetable garden to share. When asked why he planted a vegetable garden more than 30 year ago, Cecil Collins smiled and said, “I needed something to do.”

The garden is now 50-by-100 feet and located on Maple Street near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Years ago, Collins purchased five city lots; his Mulberry Street home is on the property a short walk from the garden.

Among the things he grows: squash, tomatoes, cabbage, beets, eggplant, broccoli, beans and peppers.

But he doesn’t grow them for himself. He shares them with neighbors.

Collins, who retired from Trico after 30 years, has help with the garden, including from a man he calls his "adopted son." Vegetables are delivered to those who are elderly or ill. Other neighbors are welcome to stop by and help themselves to available picked produce.

“I give it to everyone who wants it,”Collins said.


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