When Pamela Rose talks about how she got into gardening, she recalls when a former landlord gave her a small, rectangular garden bed to plant. She was in her 20s and living in a rental apartment in the Village of Lancaster.
She planted red firecracker plants and purple petunias.
“It was pretty lame,” she said.
Wow, how that has changed. She and her husband, Joel, live in a Victorian home painted a wondrous shade of purple in the Parkside neighborhood. Their garden has been on the Tours of Open Gardens this month and is on Garden Walk Buffalo, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 30 and 31. (See below for details.)
The garden in the tour guides is described as a “miniature arboretum.”
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Found in the garden: An Umbrella Magnolia, weeping Gingko, Forest Pansy Redbuds, Dawn Redwood, weeping Katsura and more. New this year: a 25-year-old weeping Canadian Hemlock.
“We buy our trees big because we’re old,” said Rose, 75, a medical librarian at the University at Buffalo, where she has worked since 1965.
The three Forest Pansy Redbuds, natives to the eastern U.S., have showy pink flowers in early spring that come out before the leaves. The Umbrella Magnolia, also native to the eastern U.S., offers creamy-white flowers in early spring. Known for its large leaves, the tree has large seed pods, with dozens of tiny seeds in each. She shares the pods with friends and visitors so they can try to grow their own tree.
When choosing trees, she also looks for “understory trees.”
“We don’t have full sun anymore, so I look for understory trees – trees that can grow in the shade of another,” she explained.
Other flowers have different bloom times throughout the seasons.
Spring bloomers include azaleas, rhododendrons, crocuses, sweet woodruff (which has beautiful white flowers in the spring), peonies, alliums, snowdrops, blue squills, tulips and daffodils.
In bloom now: astilbes, hydrangeas, wild geraniums, bear’s breeches, Asiatic lilies and hostas – some of which bloom into early September. She also plants some annuals, including a favorite – Patchwork impatiens – which she plants in containers.
It has been a dry summer, a challenge for gardeners. When she does water, “I try to water deeply about six hours for each section to promote deeper root growth, so ultimately you have to water less frequently,” said Rose, who uses two sprinklers that she moves from section to section. They can be adjusted to control the amount of water for each section to cut down on waste, she said.
Ivy and lamium also predominate here.
“I use English ivy and lamium as a groundcover to reduce evaporation for moisture control and also to keep cooler the feet – the roots – of plants that like it that way, like clematis,” she said.
Rather than aiming for beds that are neatly mulched and orderly, “I prefer plants live together,” she said.
A shoot of wild geranium might spring up in the hosta, and she is fine with that. Or a bird may drop a seed that sprouts somewhere.
“I like the chaos of nature,” she said.
The property lot is 50 feet wide and 187 feet deep. Walking paths lead one through the garden. It is clear that the couple’s 12 1/2-year-old Bernese mountain dog, Sophie, a trained therapy dog, is right at home here.
The back patio of lavender flagstone, named for its lavender-colored cast and furnished with six Adirondack-style chairs, is a shaded, relaxing spot, but Rose admits she can’t sit for too long.
“I’ll sit here and see something that needs to be done, something that needs to be trimmed, so I’ll get up and do that,” she said.
There’s also an awning-covered deck off the back of the house, and a garden shed designed by Joel Rose with a roof that looks like a train station. It is painted the same color as the house, but with a lime-green interior.
Signs throughout the garden identify trees, plants and decor.
“I’m a librarian. I can’t help it,” she said.
Another observation: The backs of three neighbors’ garages are seen from the Roses’ garden and are all painted the same shade of green. It’s no coincidence. Some years ago the Roses asked the neighbors if they could paint the backs of their garages to blend with their own garden. They wanted a color “that matches the green of an ivy leaf,” Rose explained.
The neighbors didn’t object. The same green shade is used on the Roses’ house trim, as well.
Many native plants are grown here to attract a variety of pollinators. Rose uses no pesticides, only plant food on potted annuals. She puts compost on new perennials under mulch.
There is little grass; small strips are mowed with a battery-operated mower. And while professionals have installed the stonework and a friend helps her out with some tasks, Rose has a gardening strategy: “Break everything down in small chunks. If you have 20 minutes, plant something or trim a bed. Don’t toil in the garden for five hours. I map it out every day. What needs to be done? What doesn’t need to be done? Do one task at a time,” she said.
Other highlights include a bubbler rock near the back deck and a pet memorial, designed by Joel Rose, where chimes are suspended from posts to remind them of their departed animals.
The idea was inspired by their day spent volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, where they saw a similar installment in its Angels Rest Cemetery.
Hard to miss: Animal sculptures by local artist Cousin Kelly, who created them from tree stumps after the Roses lost a tree. A mountain lion, intertwined giraffes and a cobra are among the menagerie.
Garden Walk Buffalo details
Dates and time: Garden Walk Buffalo is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 30 and 31. It is free, self-guided and held rain or shine. No tickets are required. Note: There is no shuttle this year.
Headquarters: On the days of the tour, there are two main headquarters and three satellite locations. You can pick up a free map, buy branded merchandise, use restrooms and talk to volunteers at the main headquarters: D’Youville University (the Hub), 301 Connecticut St., and St. Mark School, 399 Woodward Ave. Or stop by one of these satellite sites for just maps and restrooms: the Martin House, 125 Jewett Parkway; Buffalo Seminary, 205 Bidwell Parkway, and First Presbyterian Church, 1 Symphony Circle. Donations are accepted at all locations.
Maps in advance: Download a map at gardenwalkbuffalo.com or visit the website for a list of a dozen sponsors in Buffalo and suburbs with the maps.
Photos: Outdoor Spaces – Pamela Rose’s Garden
Pamela Rose’s backyard oasis
A memorial for departed pets
Edging the garden
A bear by Cousin Kelly
Forest Pansy Redbud
A mountain lion by Cousin Kelly
Kick back and relax
A view of spring’s blooms
The front garden
A view from the back porch