Open Gardens: Walk through beautiful gardens Hamburg, Eden, East Aurora, Orchard Park and South BuffaloWe're all familiar with the many garden walks in Western New York, but open gardens are another way for you to view beautiful gardens and get ideas and inspiration for your own landscape.
The open gardens project, part of the National Garden Festival, is modeled on the long-standing tradition of open gardens in England. Private gardens are made available to the public on a particular day at a particular time. Visitors are allowed to drop by.
Some gardens are open on Thursdays and others on Fridays between June 28 and July 29. Check the open gardens page at National Garden Festival for exact times and dates, as well as addresses. You can find open gardens in Hamburg, Eden, East Aurora, Orchard Park and South Buffalo, among other locations.
One garden you can visit is that of Jeff Leyonmark, 88 Woodview Ave., Hamburg. It will be open from 6 - 9 p.m. Thursday, June 28 and July 5, 12, 19 and 26.
Leyonmark believes every gardener is an artist, because many of them seem to have other creative interests as well; they build or paint or cook. This artistic part of life is something that Leyonmark said is important for him to share with his children.
"I want to bring art everywhere," he said.
An example of Leyonmark's artistic sense is the flower box he built, which you can see in the photo. It was inspired by Carl Larsson, art laureate of Sweden. At a time when many artists were recluses and had lives that ended in tragedy, Larsson felt that art and family should be intertwined, and he made his family a source for his work.
Leyonmark is also drawn to Larsson because of his own Swedish heritage. The Leyonmarks decorated their home with the theme of "A Swedish Christmas" when they participated in the Hamburg Tour of Homes held by the Hamburg United Methodist Church in December.
Another of Leyonmark's projects is the gazebo in the backyard. He cut the logs on Father's Day and he and his father built the structure the next Saturday.
"It's not meant to be complex," Leyonmark said. "It's whimsical."
Leyonmark also grows vegetables in a large, raised bed. The fence and gate add architectural detail and keep out neighborhood cats. You won't see flowers mixed in because Leyonmark views his vegetable garden like a farm: it must always be yielding.
"We don't buy lettuce for seven months," he said.
Leyonmark said his keys to successful vegetable gardening are full sun and good soil. He puts it this way: "Compost, compost, compost, compost."
He top dresses with compost and plants right through it, using more than 30 bags of compost in his yard, each year. He doesn't recommend using compost that you get from a municipality because the yard waste they collect might have herbicides or other chemicals on it. He prefers to use organic-based fertilizers.
"Vegetable gardening is just about building biodiversity," he said.
Leyonmark enjoys finding newer plants.
"Other people are better gardeners," he said. "I'm more of a plant collector."
One of his finds last year was a Sun King aralia, a shade plant in an unusual chartreuse color.
Leyonmark works in his family's insurance business, but he once worked as the garden center manager at Lockwood's Greenhouses, so he's knowledgeable about plants. He says he's not a designer, though, and doesn't plan out his gardens.
When installing a garden along the side of his house, Leyonmark tried to create a mix of textures and colors. He had a variegated plant, so he decided he should have chartreuse or purple next to that. When he came to a hole, he put in a sand cherry because it had the right colors.
"To me, gardening is trial and error," he said. "Do I make tons of mistakes? Absolutely. Do I move three-quarters of my plants? Absolutely."
Visit Leyonmark's yard during Open Gardens to see how successful the trial-and-error process can be in a landscape.
Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of Buffalo- Niagara Gardening, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.