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Buffalo's GardenWalk welcomed by perfect summer day

The gardeners were out in force Sunday, perusing for the perfect backyard and just the right plant during the annual GardenWalk weekend, on a perfect summer day.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

The gardeners were highly visible across much of the city - gardening hats, waving maps, looking for those GardenWalk front lawn signs and taking lots and lots of pictures. There also were shuttle buses picking up and dropping off the visitors - some from as far away as Hawaii and Trinidad and Tobago.

Exhibitors for the 400 homes on this year's tour let thousands of visitors into their yards to show what they can do - from maintaining small artificial streams to vegetable gardens in the sun of a garage roof. Julie Eberhart was impressed and found possibility in a birdbath filled with ideologically-marked stones.

"I'm stealing this," she said. "I have a birdbath. I've had it in my house for like two or three years and I saw those and like I need to do that and that's the idea that I'm selling. I'm going to put them in my yard."

There was a lot of that, as the roving gardeners asked questions of the residential gardeners for potential use in their own yards. Of course, some gardeners told the visitors that their beautiful yards require hours of work every day for months or years of continuing efforts to create the backyard oasis on the GardenWalk.

"A mess. The house had been abandoned and there was nothing here," said Arlan Peters, who has worked for decades with his family on their backyard. "They were building the building next door and using our yard as a storage area for building materials, so we had to start from scratch. We've been here 46 years, so we've had lots of time to do that."

One family is so dedicated that years of winters were spent building a scale model of their home and their gardens on display for every visitor to their home. Rosann Bavisotto said it can take a lot of time, but it is worth the effort.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

"Scenery was kind of here when my son bought the house and I just added the flowers and maintained it, the weeding. I just love it," she said. "It's very peaceful. I come back here. I spend hours and it's very calming and I just love it. People ask me why: 'What are you doing?' I say, 'I don't know.' I find tranquility here."

Bavisotto takes the fish out of the backyard stream and puts them into a pond in the basement of her son's home for winter quarters.

Some toured Tom Palamuso and Carol Siracuse's yard, with its vegetable library on top of the garage. Palamuso said work starts in April on the yard.

"Pretty steady all the way through to the GardenWalk," he said. "Watering happens almost every day, virtually every day. It's just a non-stop process. I think we spend, I would say, on average, three hours a day."

Palamuso said there are intricacies in the work, with retired architect Siracuse making sure the vegetable growing boxes on the roof would not stress the garage, against which a former library ladder slides across the front for access.

"Generally, it's a question about a particular plant and every year it seems to be a different one that's the star," said Siracuse. "And, like this year, this is called Persian Shield. Everybody loves that."

GardenWalk's Barbara Cavanagh said it was good day in good weather.

"The number of gardens is about the same as it's been the last couple of years, something over 400 which may be that's as big as we'll get," she said. "We're very democratic about the gardens we allow to be on the walk, but they have to look good, which is a little social gardening-type pressure."

The gardens did look good, with whispers going around about where to look at really impressive ones.

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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