Author: Sharon Green
To some, the term “garden walk” conjures images of quiet suburban or rural neighborhoods with large yards and lavish gardens. But do you picture an urban neighborhood that surrounds a large college campus?
If you answered “No,” think again. And mark your calendar for Buffalo’s Samuel P. Capen Garden Walk on Saturday, July 11, 2015, from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm.
This garden walk is named after Samuel P. Capen, the first full-time and salaried Chancellor of the University at Buffalo. The walk encompasses areas around UB’s Main Street campus, crossing borders to include gardens in the University Heights neighborhood of North Buffalo as well as gardens in nearby Eggertsville and parts of Amherst.
Many people mistakenly assume that Buffalo’s University Heights is primarily student housing. University Heights is also a family neighborhood with long-time homeowners who tend lovely, unique gardens showcasing their historic homes. Stroll the Capen Garden Walk and discover 60+ residential gardens, pretty pocket parks, and the new Tyler Street community garden.
Admire gardens adorning century-old homes in the University Park Historical District. Be sure not to miss the four-block-long medians on Minnesota Avenue, which have been laboriously and lovingly converted into lush gardens by the Minnesota Avenue Block Club. Gardeners will be happy to tell you about their plantings, their challenges, and their successes. Some even offer cuttings and seeds.
Now in its 14th year, the Capen Garden Walk, a participant in the National Garden Festival, is free and is held rain or shine. Maps will be available at the University Community Farmer’s Market on Main Street at Kenmore Avenue, in front of UB’s south campus. The market is open from 8:00 am – 1:00 pm, and while you’re there, be sure to pick up some fresh produce. If you arrive after 1:00 pm, most gardeners will have copies of the map, and all gardens will be marked with a Capen Garden Walk lawn sign.
If the day is unusually hot, if you have little ones in tow, or if you have a disability, you’ll be happy to know that a free shuttle will be available for the entire walk. Primary drop-off and pick-up points are at the Anderson Art Gallery and the Farmer’s Market, but you can hop on and off at other locations, as designated on the maps.
While touring the gardens, be sure to visit UB’s Anderson Art Gallery, 1 Martha Jackson Place (off Englewood Avenue, near Kenmore Avenue). A former elementary school, this lovely gallery is a treasure amid a residential neighborhood. And be sure to stop by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 3107 Main Street, where the University Heights Arts Association will premiere an outdoor sculpture garden.
After you’ve strolled the gardens, plan to linger a while on Main Street. Grab a book (or two or three) at Talking Leaves Books, Buffalo’s venerable independent bookstore. Step back in time for an old-fashioned ice cream sundae at Parkside Candy. Enjoy a burger and a shake at the Lake Effect Diner, a real 1950’s diner. Treat yourself to a Cajun dinner at Shango Bistro and Wine Bar, high-quality Chinese food at Ming Café, or fine dining at The Steer. On a budget? Grab a steak taco at Jim’s Steakout, some fried chicken at Nette’s, or a wrap at Amy’s Place. The eclectic mix of eateries in on Main Street in University Heights offers something for everyone.
After touring the Capen Garden Walk, you’ll understand why our gardeners often hear visitors comment, “I had no idea!”
© Sharon A. Green, 2015
Sharon Green lives in North Buffalo and participates in the Samuel P. Capen Garden Walk. She also serves on the garden walk committee.