Unusually Clever People

General Petraeus, Move Over. Licata and Charlier are Rested and Ready

Courtyard
It's not that I think conducting the war in Afghanistan is easy. You have to deal with the dicey Hamid Karzai, Taliban insurgents, shakedowns from tribal warlords, rough terrain, and an American public that has long since forgotten why we are there.

But could fighting the Taliban possibly be more difficult than feeding, watering, and entertaining six dozen garden bloggers for four straight days?  Most of them, like me, women of a certain age?  Most of them quite opinionated and that's why they blog? Most of them gardeners for decades and not easily impressed, just because you take them to see a little plant life?

However, the hosts of Garden Bloggers Buffa10, the garden bloggers' meeting that took place in Buffalo, New York last weekend– Elizabeth Licata and Jim Charlier– are clearly logistical geniuses.  It would take me an hour to list the many ways in which they proved themselves to be incredibly competent and considerate hosts.  So I will just skim the surface:

  • Since garden bloggers tend not to make much money at it, it was brilliant and thoughtful that they made the meeting democratic.  By arranging sponsorship for meals, they allowed us to eat like kings for four straight days, for just $100 a person, total.  It would be impossible even to cook the meals we had for that price, let alone enjoy them in beautiful restaurants.  They arranged a nice barroom and free happy hour in the hotel for the bloggers too.  They got a sponsor for the nice air-conditioned buses.  They got the wonderful photographer kc kratt to do portrait photos for just $30.
  • They showed us loads of cool stuff, though Buffalo itself gets some credit here.  One of the richest cities in America at the turn of the 20th century, Buffalo has Frederick Law Olmstead-designed parks and Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings to spare, as well as charming neighborhoods and the most attractive housing stock of any city I've ever visited.  Getting "oohs" and "aahs" out of even jaded gardeners in the midst of this 18-carat setting would probably not be hard under any circumstances.  But Buffalo's gardeners are an amazingly high-spirited, playful, and brave group.  One of my favorite gardens cheekily mixed a David, a Diana, a stone Buddha, and a big honking garden gnome.
  • They kept things interesting by balancing the institutional (the Botanical Gardens with its Lord and Burnham conservatory), with the commercial (the amazing Lockwood's Greenhouses and Farm), with the private (glorious backyard gardens everywhere), with the obsessive (the lovely Michael Shadrack, a hosta expert whose taste in hostas is now so refined, he is most interested in the ones that can only be seen by microscope).
  • They made us laugh.
  • They walked the Walk.  Jim Charlier's garden was one of the cleverest and most welcoming that we saw, and I would rather drink a fruity white in Elizabeth's courtyard than almost anywhere.
  • They are leaders among men. Their talents might even be wasted on Afghanistan.  Let's send them into the Gulf and have them deal with BP.

Posted by on July 16, 2010 at 5:46 am, in the category Unusually Clever People.
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24 responses to “General Petraeus, Move Over. Licata and Charlier are Rested and Ready”

  1. Layanee says:

    Michele…no one has said it better. Eliz even called a cab company, two in fact to get us to the next stop. Over and above for sure.

  2. Pam/Digging says:

    Hear, hear! Three cheers for the Charlier-Licata team.

  3. Truth. Absolute truth.

  4. Lisa, Ontario says:

    I wasn’t there, because sadly I don’t have time to be a blogger, and perhaps not the talents either. It sounds like a spectacular event! That is an incredible feat, I find it stressful to plan my 5 year old daughter’s birthday party (with only 4 guests). Thank you people that put in the time and efforts to make things special, it really is appreciated.

  5. Cyndy says:

    You’re so right, not that I want to fly our dynamic duo over to Kabul any time soon – they’ve earned a break! I’ve been on a fair number of more or less organized trips, and this one was in a league of its own. Brava,Bravo!

  6. Jean says:

    You don’t know how much I appreciated the fact that Jim and Elizabeth were able to feed us and bus us for only $100. As a person who had been unemployed for a while, it was hit or miss for me attending. I felt SO much better when I realized the break we’d gotten. And then for all of it to run as smoothly as it did, wow, is all I can say! Loved chatting with you Michele! We garden bloggers are a good and interesting group. :-)

  7. Carol says:

    People are amazed when I tell them what it cost. Unbelievable, but true. And so well done! Is there a medal of garden blogging honor that we can give them?

  8. Maria Pellum says:

    Not a garden blogger, but a gardener, and a community blogger, but all of the posts (think I have read them all!)on Buffalo Gardens is what has made me decide to take my family of four to the Buffalo Gardens Walk next weekend (we are from NJ). The marketing behind Buffa10 will work wonders for the city as many readers will probably now consider Buffalo a destination and not just a stop on the way to Canada! Great work by all!

  9. Pam J. says:

    Is that a picture of Eliz’s courtyard? Beautiful!

  10. Leslie says:

    It was when we were eating lunch at Rue Franklin that I realized I wasn’t simply having fun…I felt pampered. The pacing and agenda came together so nicely that Buffa10 will always be a wonderful memory.

  11. Yes, yes and yes! It was an absolute triumph! Who is going to dare try and match their performance and host it next year?

  12. Eliz says:

    Gee. Having a Sally Fields moment here. And I bet Jim is the same.

    The red-faced and teary-eyed,

    Eliz.

    (yes, that is me, Pam)

  13. Cindy P says:

    If I were any more envious I would be greener then the Buffalo gardens. Sounds like a perfectly wonderful time. Well deserved I might add. As a frequent visitor to Buffalo (I’m an hour and a half away), I really love to know the names of the restaurants you went to. I’m always looking for somewhere new to dine.

  14. Anneliese says:

    Cannot agree more with you. I loved every minute of the trip, and I can’t believe how smoothly it all went. Elizabeth and Jim were the most gracious of hosts, and I can’t think of a single moment that I felt either rushed or bored.

    I am so happy that I went to Buffalo.

  15. Aw, shucks. It ‘twer nothin’. We Buffalonians visit gardens and eat like that every day of the week. It was hardly a chore sharing it with 70 of our closest friends. After you all left on Sunday, Leslie and I went for a kayak ride down around the Marina and the destroyer in the Naval Park. Is this a great city, or what? I’m just glad to have been able to share what I consider to be one of the most beautiful and friendly cities in the U.S. Thank you for the kind words.

  16. Eliz says:

    Cindy,

    Have you been to Mother’s, Rue Franklin, Tabree, Bistro Europa, Tempo, Hutch’s, Left Bank, Fiddle Heads, Sample, or La Tee Dah? We only went to two of these but they are all places I recommend without hesitation.

  17. Becky says:

    You find all the best spots. I love to see what you find is beautiful because you have shaped most of my garden.

  18. Michele you left out the great price on the Embassy Suites hotel, that my well traveled and hoteled friend Ani gushed over when we walked in the room.

    Jim and Elizabeth the whole weekend was fab. I think I got a bit depressed when I came home and had to go back to work.

  19. We came back from Buffalo in awe of all the gardening enthusiasm, and raving about how well treated we were. I’m sorry we missed Elizabeth’s garden, but that will give us an excuse to come back, (if you’ll have us one day). We had a lovely time: kudos to Jim and Elizabeth, for orchestrating all that amazing hospitality.

  20. commonweeder says:

    Elizabeth and Jim are definitely unusually clever people. My enjoyment and pleasure was unbounded – and I wondered how anyone would dare take on such a monumental organizational task. I can only assume that it is not only a love of gardens, but a generous love of bloggers. Hospitality is a holy gift and Elizabeth and Jim are saints!

  21. Susan you perfectly described the wonderfulness of this tour and the incredible things Jim and Elizabeth got together for us. It was way over and above anything I could have imagined.

    And I agree with posters above, the pace was perfect, never felt rushed or bored.

  22. It was a well-conceived, well-run, well-fought campaign, and we returned with a shipload of memories, and lots of newly or more closely bonded friends. Elizabeth and Jim: we’d follow you anywhere.

  23. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Elizabeth and Jim deserve all the accolades they’ve received and I am so grateful to them for their efforts on our behalf. A week ago today I was sitting sipping champagne with them … I look forward to the next opportunity to do that!

  24. You haven’t exaggerated at all. It was simply an incredible experience, a delight from start to finish, perfectly paced, nicely varied. I loved seeing the private gardens, with their touches of whimsy, and seeing Elizabeth’s and Jim’s gardens was real treat. I had such a great time, I didn’t want to come home. I’m awed at what just 2 people pulled off. What a tour de force!

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