Authors: Sharon Green and Mary Connally
When we walked through our neighborhood, we’d pass her house. Her lush gardens wound from the front of her house to the back, wrapping around her garage and driveway, inviting the gaze of passers-by. Each month, something different – and always colorful – was in bloom. Then suddenly, she died.
Christine Brooks was a consummate gardener. She was a lady of peace who enjoyed beautiful flowers as much as she enjoyed practicing and teaching Tai Chi. Her garden in Buffalo’s University District was meticulously maintained and kindly nurtured. She was a neighbor who never hesitated to offer a smile and a pleasantry in her kind and caring way.
We met Christine on the committee for the Samuel P. Capen Garden Walk, the annual garden walk in the neighborhoods surrounding the South Campus of the University at Buffalo. We would eagerly anticipate Christine’s arrival at meetings not only because of her thoughtful contributions but also because of her exquisite appearance. She devoted as much attention to detail in her clothing as her garden: lush colors, interesting patterns, and artistic combinations. Her ideas as well as her presence enhanced the Capen Garden Walk.
[Christine] devoted as much attention to detail in her clothing as her garden: lush colors, interesting patterns, and artistic combinations.
The night before our garden walk, we hold a pre-walk party. At this event, participating gardeners eat, meet, and mingle while getting their lawn signs and copies of maps to share with visitors and learning last-minute details about the walk. In 2014, Christine volunteered her garden for the party, and she was a gracious hostess. For the first time, we were able to admire her back-yard garden. It was just as lovely as what we had so often seen from the sidewalk.
Sadly, in the winter of 2015, Christine made her passage to the next world. Her unexpected death shocked and saddened many, and our committee lost a valued member. The following summer, the Capen Garden Walk committee decided to honor Christine and her love of gardens and trees by planting a Gingko tree in her honor in Templeton Park, a community green space on Larchmont Avenue in Buffalo’s University District.
In 2016, the committee was inspired to establish the Christine Brooks Memorial Garden Grant in her honor. The grant, now in its second year, assists emerging and developing gardeners in the Capen Garden Walk footprint to improve their gardens. To date, our committee has awarded grants to six residents. These grants beautify our neighborhoods and add gardens to the walk.
Funds for the Christine Brooks Memorial Garden Grant are donated or raised though fundraisers. Anyone who would like to contribute may send a check payable to “University Heights Collaborative.” Write “Christine Brooks Memorial” in the memo, and send to Samuel P. Capen Garden Walk, 2 University Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14214.
This year’s Capen Garden Walk will be Saturday, July 15, 2017, from 10:00 am-4:00 pm, rain or shine. It is a self-guided walk, with maps available during the day at the Anderson Art Gallery on Martha Jackson Place. For the second year, the walk will be extended from 8:00-10:00 pm for “Capen at Night.” Nighttime gardens will be indicated on the maps that will be available in the evening at the lovely Sculpture Garden behind St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 3107 Main Street, Buffalo. Details are at ourheights.org/gardenwalk and on Facebook.
If you tour the Capen Garden Walk gardens on July 15, be sure to look for the recipients of the Christine Brooks grant. Their front-yard gardens are marked by a lovely garden stake crafted by sculptor Lawrence Kinney, and their addresses will be indicated on the map.
Although we miss Christine Brooks, we believe she would be pleased that her legacy as a gardener and a lover of beauty lives on in her name.
© Sharon A. Green and Mary Connally, 2017