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Garden Walk blooms despite drought

The symbol this year for Buffalo's annual Garden Walk could have been a hose, as exhibitors talked of what they did to keep their plants flourishing during the summer drought. The frontyards, backyards and even some hanging plants looked very green as thousands of visitors walked through much of the city or rode the shuttle buses to view as many begonias as possible or shade under as many arborvitae as could be handled. Others walked by elaborately connected hose setups or looked at flowing water features that still seemed to be full, even when so little rain has fallen from the sky.

Barbara Cavanagh is a longtime volunteer for the event and manager of the headquarters site at Buffalo Seminary. Cavanagh said people came from many places to check the gardens.

"I don't know where everyone comes from, but I talked to someone from Cleveland, Toronto, Windsor, Ontario; Pennsylvania, Western New York [and] Rochester," she said.

Many coming from Canada became involved in the snarled traffic on the Peace Bridge, waiting hours to cross.

Jennifer Guercio is a longtime gardener on West Delavan Avenue who has encouraged neighbors to work on their gardens and join in the Garden Walk. Guercio said the quality of many gardens depends on how much people ran up their water bills.
"It all depends on how much you water. So far, I haven't lost anything, but I have been watering every day, maybe not all day, but I have had to water a little more than usual," she said. "But I think it's been a good season just because it's been hot and many of the tropicals I have in my garden do well with hot, humid weather. So, with the combination of hot, humid and water, we're doing okay."

Many exhibitors say they haven't seen a water bill yet for the last few months and won't be surprised if it's far higher than some other years.

Christina Love from Cheektowaga said she has lots of vegetation in her home, like perennials and vegetables. Love took the Garden Walk to see something new.

"It used to be more like ideas and inspirations and it still is that. But today, actually, I was finding what I was looking for was like places that I had not visited yet, to see some new things, I guess, to get new ideas," she said. "And the thing I love about it is you wouldn't even know that a lot of these gardens exist because when they are in the backyard, it's otherwise a closed area. So, I'm looking for the treasures."

Joey Bucheker has a small yard with a deck and a year-round, tree-shaded water feature with fish swimming around in it. Bucheker said it took ideas and time.

"When we first got this, there was a patch of grass back here and, I said, I'm never going to bring the lawnmower back here. So, I just started to make it into a little oasis," he said. "I took a lot of trips to Key West and I saw something like that. So that was kind of what inspired me. So I put in a pond and just kind of built off from there."

Many exhibitors say the same, that it took time or decades to bring their plants to what they wanted, an attitude spreading across the city.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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