My visit to Buffalo for the garden bloggers' meeting was eye-opening in many ways. It was really fun to meet all the different personalities in this world, including the extremely generous Kathy Purdy, who brought a bag of narcissus poeticus bulbs to share. That is the way to make new friends!
It was also valuable, in that it made me a little less provincial as a gardener. I view my own corner of the universe a little differently now…with, I must admit, some dissatisfaction. Now that I've seen the big city (and when it comes to gardening, Buffalo is one of THE big cities), I just want more out of life.
Here's what Buffa10 helped me conclude:
- We really need to step it up here in Saratoga Springs, NY. I do not think of this as a gardening town. I think of it as a mow and blow town, full of people rich enough to hire out the yard. While Oregonian Janet Loughrey has just published a book called Saratoga In Bloom that makes me realize, yes, we do have an aesthetic here, that aesthetic is all about the easy riot of color provided by the same four annuals and not about gardening as personal expression. Buffalo proves that it's possible to mingle civic pride with personal expression.
- We really need to step it up in my yard. I'm a complicated case, in that my main interest is my vegetable garden out in the country. My city yard is mostly about covering the ground so I don't have to mow and don't appall the neighbors, mixed in with a bit of a bulb obsession. But Buffa10 meeting czar Jim Charlier, in particular, shamed me. I've been moving my fruit trees from the country, where they are always decimated by deer, to the deer-free city. But I don't really have room for them. Jim, however, has a trellis of espaliered fruit trees against his garage. Beautiful and practical! Why didn't I think of that? He also grows vegetables in his tiny yard, ringing the small vegetable beds with miniature boxwoods. Susan Cohan instantly said, "A mini-Villandry," which it is. Super-sophisticated! And yet farmer-like at the same time. Exactly what I aspire to…and fall way short of.
- Our nurseries stink. Lockwood's Greenhouses, a fantastic Buffalo nursery, fed the garden bloggers a nice lunch and then set us free to shop. I wound up dragging three tender plants home on Amtrak–two begonias and one plectranthus, because they were the chicest things I've seen in years. If these plants were clothes, I would wear them constantly and astonish the world with my sense of style. My basic feeling about garden retailing is, surprise me. I am never surprised in my part of the world, not in the sloppy nurseries that ring me in Eastern New York State, nor in the glamorous nurseries that I patronize in Western Vermont. Lockwood's had lots of things in every department that prompted a shocked, "What is that?" Plus, they were selling the biggest cast iron urn I've ever seen in my life, which I swear, I would have bought if I'd arrived by Volvo wagon and not train. Elizabeth Licata said sympathetically, "You should live near good nurseries." I'm working on it! I no sooner shook Mr. Lockwood's hand than I suggested rather obnoxiously that Saratoga Springs would be a great market for expansion.