I’m waving a Terrible Towel and eating a Hoagie, can you guess where I am?

I really do pinch myself sometimes, thinking about how lucky I am and how many wonderful people I have met in my life, people who have extended the hand of hospitality…just because.

The bees love Pittsburgh too-Steelers Colours!

One of these people is Pittsburgh local, Garden Communicator extraordinaire and one of the nicest people I have ever met, Denise Schreiber. Those of you who follow this blog will remember Denise, who I met in 2015 in Pasadena. Denise and I drove down to Pittsburgh following our GWA conference in Buffalo, in August and I don’t think either of us drew breath the whole trip.

Pittsburgh by night

We talked and laughed and poor Denise had to answer lots and lots of questions about American-life according to her, from this ever-curious Aussie. We arrived at Denise’ home in Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania which is a borough of Allegheny County and a suburb of Pittsburgh and after a quick tour of her treasure-filled garden, meeting the family, a quick unpack, we headed in to view the “Dahntown” from the top of Mt Washington-what a site, what a city.

They speak an interesting version of American in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is home to NFL football team, The Steelers and is located at the confluence of three rivers and so there are lots of bridges crisscrossing the city. Pittsburgh is an old city built on steel but has undergone dramatic gentrification in recent years to become a vibrant and exciting modern place where they speak an interesting version of American.

When you travel with a local, you get to experience a different side to a city, one that only someone with local knowledge can provide and so it was a joyous moment, when after our night time trip to view the city, we headed down the hill to Denise’s favourite ice cream shop for a cheeky soft serve and chocolate sauce.

Inside…like Alladins cave

As a Garden Communicator, no trip to Pittsburgh would be complete without a visit to Phipps Conservatory, in Schenley Park. Stunning glass art by Jason Gamrath, displaying botanical wonders on a massive scale accompanied by permanently acquired, huge Chihuly pieces and more delicate Hans Godo Fräbel works in the orchid house. These provided enhancement to beautiful displays of flora under glass in this giant conservatory. The Sustainability gardens provided insight into providing habitat for nature right in the middle of a busy city.

Phipps Conservatory

This blue glass is incredible

Bees on Joe Pye weed at Phipps

The orchids were stunning in the Orchid room at Phipps

Monarchs at Phipps in the Nature play area

Chihuly at Phipps

Check out this Chihuly

Glass art at Phipps Conservatory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature corridors in the CBD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outdoor gardens offered beautiful views of the city and the Cathedral of Learning, framed by a gorgeous hydrangea display.

Cathedral of Learning

Check out these Hydrangeas

Beautiful views of Pittsburgh above the city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denise works as Greenhouse Manager for AlleghenyCounty Parks looks after many of the plantings at South Park, so naturally, a behind-the-scenes tour was on the cards and a fun time exploring the place where she works.

 

We visited The Strip which is home to European Delicatessens, restaurants and a fabulous Kitchenware shop and we ate a Hoagie, a delicious bread roll filled to capacity with sliced meats and cheese-a must do!!!

The Strip

Selecting cheese on The Strip

A garden centre, Trax Farms Market was also on the agenda and this was of particular interest for me as I was able to compare prices and stock available, I just loved their garden gift lines and planter boxes out the front. They were gearing up for Halloween.

Container planting at Trax Farms Market

 

You would not expect to see this in a cemetery in Australia

Jefferson Memorial Cemetery might not seem like a fun place to visit but it’s actually a stunning arboretum and it was there, at dusk, where we saw a family of deer grazing quietly amongst the trees, my first “Bambi” moment.  There’s a life-sized bronze statue of George Washington and very interesting art that one would not expect to find in a cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something, I might not have mentioned is that I’m a bit of a sucker for craft stores so my visit was made complete with a trip to Pat Catan’s, a huge craft supply store.

Our home now plays host to a ‘Terrible Towel’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhrqDBEi9oo

and my son has barely taken off his Pittsburgh T-shirt and Steelers PJ’s since my return a little reminder of my travels to make me smile.

Girls Night In/Out an annual tradition was a wonderful night held at Denise’s home on the last night of my stay with great food and conviviality, celebrating with lots of women working in Horticulture as well as some of Denise’s nearest and dearest friends and family-they sure know how to party those girls.

Thanks to The Schreibers for generously sharing your home and your town with this Aussie, it was a week I will never forget.

 

Niagara Parks-so much more than just Niagara Falls

Sarah Palin once famously said “I can see Russia from my house”, well the residents of Buffalo NY can’t see Russia but they sure can see Canada. I spent about 11 hours in Canada with my GWA, garden communicator friends in August and what an adventure we had!

We set off from the Convention Centre in Buffalo around 11 am and headed over The Peace Bridge, which is a bridge between Canada and the United States at the east end of Lake Erie at the source of the Niagara River, about 20 kilometres (12.4 mi) upriver of Niagara Falls.  from the border. Maybe it’s called this because it’s where Americans go to get “peace” and quiet from the continual barrage of news about President No.45, I’m not 100% sure about that. though. While I would not really say that we were “warmly” greeted by the border guards (we were actually told to be silent)! I can understand why-imagine a busload of very excited garden communicators all lined up with passports in hand, in a room the size of a decent sitting room. I was asked if I was carrying a weapon, this was a first for me I must admit. My camera was my only weapon of choice for this day. Anyway, through we went and there were many oohs and ahhs as we arrived and saw the wondrous Niagara Falls for the first time.

The incredible team of young adults from Niagara Parks guided us through our day which included an experience “behind the falls” where we were actually underneath Niagara Falls (nothing can prepare you for the power and magnitude of that water), a trip to The Royal Botanic Gardens, The Butterfly Conservatory, The School of Horticulture and so much more. We were treated like royalty all day.

The public gardens on display were breathtaking, lush and so beautifully maintained.

Downtown area

Imagine studying horticulture here

The Butterfly Conservatory was amazing

What a beautiful place

Canadian hospitality was the highlight of this trip, there were so many passionate young people sharing their part of the world which was heartwarming for the soul. We were captivated by their enthusiasm.

The finale of our long and jam-packed day in Canada was the meal that we shared together at Queen Victoria Place restaurant. This stunning old building with the most stunning views from the expansive wooden deck, was constructed in 1904 and was the former residence of the Commissioners of Niagara Parks, it was here that something very special happened after a delicious meal and wonderful service and a few glasses of very nice Prosecco with my friend Sylvia, Niagara Falls was lit up. The Canadian Falls were in red and white and the American Falls in red, white and blue and in between the two, the full, red harvest moon rose -what a sight, what a night!

Cheers to a brilliant day-it’s Prosecco o’clock

The Canadian falls

The American Falls

The harvest moon rising between the two falls

We all left wishing we could spend more time in this beautiful place, just a hop, skip and a jump from US soil.

Thanks to Team Niagara Parks for sharing your beautiful part of the world with GWA-it was a day that this garden communicator will never forget.

 

Take a walk on the wild side-Colour your world-Paint the House!

As a garden designer, I see the joy of colour everywhere and love seeing how adventurous some garden owners are, not only with their garden plants and trees but also the colours of their homes.

Check out these houses…

Have you ever considered painting your house a bright colour?

Reminds me of that TV show my kids used to watch Bear in the Big Blue House

Here are some great homes from Buffalo New York, the owners have embraced bright colours and I just adore it, you can’t help but smile when you see a home that is bright pink! That takes some guts…and how gorgeous is it?!

It’s pink, what’s not to love?

 

Pretty shades of green

…this garden owner says he’s colour blind-looks pretty awesome to me

Feeling arty? Paint your gate

Tasteful contrast colours for the not so brave…but there is black!

Cute cottages bursting with colour

Check out how the plant selection matches the paint colour

Do you fancy red and green?

I’m sure this house was painted to co-ordinate with the begonias in the window boxes-so pretty

have you got a plain fence that needs some colour? Why not give this a go?

I have always been a green and pink girls and so no surprise that I adored the colours and the contrasting flowers of this weatherboard cottage

Tasteful black and white trim

 

That’s it, I’m inspired…I’m off to the hardware store to pick up some paint-how about you??? How brave are you????

 

Small but Mighty-The (not so) Private Gardens of Buffalo

I’ve been very fortunate to have seen many private gardens in my life especially during my time as WA Chairman and later West Australian Co-ordinator of Australia’s Open Garden Scheme.

I just returned back home from the USA feeling very grateful indeed after 3 whole weeks of garden visiting-let’s call it, my American garden immersion-more on that later.

There is something very special about the people who open their private garden spaces so that others may share first hand the very personal interpretations and manipulation of nature particularly in an urban setting. There are so many reasons to lock ourselves away these days after hours spent behind desks in stressful jobs so many people travel back home after enduring a long commute, drive in the garage, pull down the roller door and flop into the sanctuary of home, locking the outside world out. Gardeners who share their gardens are the complete opposite, they throw open that garage door and say to the world “come on in and see what I have done”

As part of the recent Garden Writers conference, in Buffalo NY, my garden bestie AZ Plantlady and 350 or so other wonderful garden communicators, many of whom I feel so honoured to now call my friends, spent days exploring about 20 gardens which had opened the previous weekend for Buffalo Garden Walk at which more than 400 (!!) gardens were open in the Buffalo area.

The gardens we visited were mostly within walking distance of each other and ranged from tiny cottages in which the driveways had been converted to container garden spaces to larger homes with areas of lawn and garden borders.

Gardening in this part of the world is a short seasonal thing-while we garden all year round in Perth, these guys go hard at it for only about 4 months of the year due to the frosts and heavy layers of snow-white stuff that falls from the sky and covers the ground-you know what I mean, like the movie Frozen, yes that’s the stuff.

Jim Charlier is one of the members of GWA who also opens his Buffalo garden and I asked him about the gardening season in Buffalo and he has provided some insight into gardening in that part of the world, here’s what Jim had to say “We start in earnest about the second week of May. Our average last frost date is mid-May. Though we’re admiring our tulips and flowering shrubs in April. Adventurous gardeners start earlier. Crazy ones start from seed in the winter months. We garden pretty much through September and some of October – with seasonal mums, tulip bulb planting, and last call for planting trees and shrubs. Depends on weather, obviously. We don’t get a significant snowfall until December usually. Seems like that isn’t happening as much anymore and we don’t get significant snow until January. The plants need the snow cover, and it doesn’t seem as though the past few years that that has even been consistent. November through March is spent thinking about April through October.”

Here’s Jim’s garden… which I must confess is one of my all time favourite small gardens, such wonderful attention to detail and a vignette worth photographing at every turn

So, sit back and take a short walk through some of the other beautiful gardens in the cottage district of Buffalo. Do these inspire you to make some changes in your garden?

even the dog has a cute garden house

check out this bottle tree

when in Buffalo…you need a garden buffalo

 

Love this

Don’t you just want to cozy up in here with a cup of tea and a book?

Breathing new life into Buffalo, one petunia at a time!

Buffalo? you say-why would you want to go to Buffalo? Isn’t it covered in snow and not much else? Wrong….There’s something in the water in Buffalo and I suspect it may be the gardening bug.

 

Stunning Cone flowers

This once mighty and by all accounts wealthy city has in recent years fallen upon difficult times but is currently undergoing major urban renewal and it’s being lead by many in the community who are just crazy about gardens and gardening and all things green and that got my attention. So, I packed my suitcase again, labelled it  ‘USA or Bust’ and headed 11,333 miles or 18238 km which included three plane changes and an 8-hour train ride!

Lovely buildings on every corner

Buffalo Theatre district

Even the office building are into plants

Great spot for a meal-we ate here twice!

I attended the 2017 Garden Writers Association annual symposium which was held at The Buffalo Convention Centre at the beginning of August and the news is all good.

My friend from Arizona, Horticulturist, Arborist, and Blogger, AZ plant lady and I spent a couple of wonderful days exploring (walking, lots of walking) the city together before the conference. We ate twice at the same place-it was so good and we also snuck in some doughnut holes at Tim Hortons.

Like many cities, Buffalo has great bones, clean wide streets and really beautiful architecture, an interesting and diverse food culture, lovely lake views, theatres, good soil (important for us gardeners) and another magical, essential ingredient passionate people- willing to beautify their city and showcase it to the world in order to re-build it and give it a new identity.

A Farmers Market in the main street was in full swing during one of our morning walks. The blueberries were the biggest I have ever seen and they tasted so juicy and sweet.

Don’t these look delicious?

Farmers market baskets

Eat your greens

Juiciest blueberries I have ever tasted

I can’t un-smell these beauties

We stumbled across a small but very worthwhile community education garden at Canalside and under a freeway overpass where edibles and perennials for beneficial insects were thriving in raised beds. Each bed contained decorative garden ephemera as well as practical information to show adults and children, how easy it can be to grow veggies in their homes in small spaces.


Canalside is also home to test gardens and magical views of the eastern end of Lake Erie.

Lake Erie and the test gardens

Rebuilding Buffalo one petunia at a time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our conference took place the week after Garden Walk Buffalo, which is an annual event with more than 400 (!!!!) gardens open to the public on one weekend. More than 350 garden communicators gathered to visit the best of these gardens and more.

Buffalo is on the precipice of something great, I’m looking forward to seeing how this hidden gem of a city emerges from its cocoon like the butterflies that are being encouraged by its gardeners.

If you are visiting Niagara Falls then why not jump over the US border and check out Buffalo in August-the gardens are just lovely.

 

Special Thanks to the local GWA organising committee and for all the gardeners who shared their gardens with us for #GWA17

https://gardensbuffaloniagara.com/events/garden-walk-buffalo/