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Garden fest proves Buffalo is more than rust-belt city

Mary Jane Bolo stands in front of the Lords Garden, which she has cultivated for the past 11 years at her Eden home.
Those planning to stop and smell the roses this summer have endless gardens to choose from.

Spanning from June 23 through July 29, the third annual National Garden Festival is a “five-week long garden party” that offers garden walks, open gardens and bus tours and more throughout the Buffalo and Niagara area.

“The National Garden Festival came about because Garden Walk Buffalo had pretty much packed the hotels and restaurants,” said Sally Cunningham, National Garden Festival executive director. She described the National Garden Festival as “one great-green umbrella” to organize all the area tours, workshops and walks.

The festival boasts nearly 1,000 gardens, many of which can be visited without venturing far from your backyard.

The Southtowns Bouquet offers rural and suburban gardens in Orchard Park, Eden, East Aurora and Hamburg for all to visit at no cost during open hours on Thursdays and Fridays. A Southtowns Bouquet bus tour, which includes roundtrip transportation, tour host and lunch will be held Friday, July 13.

“I love to take visitors around when I am home,” said Mary Jane Bolo, who owns the Lords Garden in Eden, a part of the Southtowns Bouquet.

When Bolo moved to her Clarksburg Road residence 11 years ago, the land surrounding her house was all fields. Since then, she has cultivated a half-acre garden featuring bogs, water gardens, perennials and native plants.

Relying on her skills as an artist, Bolo said “balance, repetition and variety” is the key to a successful and attractive garden.

“I often refer to how people design their living rooms,” she said as an example. “They wouldn’t have a different curtain in each window.... Oftentimes people are unhappy with their gardens because there are too many little things and not enough balance. The eye likes repetition.”

Another open garden to enjoy during the festival is the garden of David and Marg Rust in the Village of Hamburg.

While smaller than the Lords Garden, Rust’s garden on Rosedale Avenue is equally beautiful and inspiring.

Rust said her garden is full of “fun little spaces,” including perennial beds and a koi pond, as well as ginko, sycamore and locust trees.

“I have always loved to garden,” said Rust, who is also an organizer and participant in the “Buzz Around Hamburg Garden Walk.” The annual village walk will take place on July 14 through July 15 this year. The free event will feature over 30 gardens along with an array of vendors set up in Memorial Park.

“It’s a very festive occasion,” Rust said.

For those who have attended the Hamburg Garden Walk in the past, Rust assured that each year offers a new experience.

“Gardens are never finished. Gardeners are constantly changing things up,” she said.

While the National Garden Festival is certainly a boost for the tourism industry — Cunningham estimated that visitors from 37 different states attended last year’s Buffalo Garden Walk — it also provides a new image for the region.

Cunningham said she wants outsiders to remember Buffalo for its lush gardens, “instead of a rust-belt, snowy city.”

“It’s partly about tourism, it’s partly about beautifying what we have and it’s partly about having the people of our own region go out and celebrate our best stuff,” Cunningham said.

For more information on the National Garden Festival, visit The festival guide and calendar may be purchased for $5 at Lockwoods, 4484 Clark St. in Hamburg.

For more information on the “Buzz Around Hamburg Garden Walk,” visit


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