Source: Rhea Anna

Buffalo Blooms in Late July with America's Largest Garden Tour


If you ever wondered how Buffalo, NY got its "city of good neighbors" moniker, it most likely started in a garden. That's right, Buffalo – now in the midst of a renaissance of culture, tourism, and outdoor adventures – is home to Garden Walk Buffalo , an expansive tour of hundreds of private and community gardens that handily earns its title as America's largest garden tour.

The sprawling self-guided tour dips, curves and loops through a litany of flowers and herbs, sculptures and trees; it's a decadent feast of color, fragrance and awe. Along the way you'll encounter good neighbors whose mission is to open their garden spaces and share these natural wonders with the community. And if you think the garden tour is too good to be true, get this: It's totally free! As such, thousands of locals and visitors flock to the garden tour each summer, which takes place the last weekend of July.

The garden tour came from humble beginnings. In 1993, Marvin Lunenfeld and Gail McCarthy, Buffalo gardeners who found inspiration in a recent urban garden tour, pitched an idea for their own tour to the neighborhood association. With a green light from the association, 29 gardens participated in the inaugural garden tour, birthing a new tradition that was open to any volunteers and participants who wanted to get involved in the community. The new event proved to be a hit with its neighbors because it grew to include over 400 gardens. In fact, Garden Walk Buffalo "has garnered regional and international garden tourism awards, beautified and rejuvenated neighborhoods, increased local home values, and has hosted tens of thousands of visitors from around the U.S. and abroad each year – for an estimated annual $4.5 million economic impact," according to the Gardens Buffalo/Niagara website.

Source: Rhea Anna

And it's not just Garden Walk Buffalo that is a must-see for visitors. The addition of Open Gardens in recent years is another opportunity for enjoying the region's most beautiful gardens. This 100+ garden expedition is free to the public on Thursdays and Fridays each week in July, offering a nice alternative to Garden Walk Buffalo. And though Garden Walk Buffalo is the more popular event, Open Gardens offers its own unique charms. "Open Gardens is low key, modest, more of a small dinner party that's perfect for sharing a glass of wine with some of Buffalo's famously friendly gardeners," writes Healy. "The element of surprise is what keeps my wife and I going back to Open Gardens."

With a glass of wine held high, Buffalonians toast not only to their gardens and the beauty and color they share with the world, but also to community pride and the folks who make up those communities. Because Buffalonians know that what makes Garden Walk Buffalo and Open Gardens possible are the good neighbors who started the legacy in a garden and pass the torch on for generations to come.

by Roger Porter

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