Tonawanda News — One year after the debut of the City of Tonawanda Garden Walk, the event is back with 18 new sites ... and even more hopes for the future.
Susan Gregg, chairman of the Tonawandas Board of Visual & Performing Arts, which sponsors the walk, said that 31 gardens are featured in this year’s event, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the city. Most of those sites are new, with 13 gardens returning for the second year.
Gregg said the growth shows just how popular the event was last summer.
“People enjoyed it so much ... there were more than 200 people wandering around Tonawanda looking at gardens last summer,” she said. “It was mainly word of mouth that did it. ... It was just a steady stream of people. People who visited were just so appreciative of the fact that we were having a garden walk.
“People have great gardens here. Ponds, rock gardens, just beautiful things ... and if you’d drive by, you might never know. This gives people a chance to show off their garden and show their pride.”
Maps for the walk can be picked up at Tonawanda City Hall, 200 Niagara St.; the City of Tonawanda Library, 333 Main St.; the Senior Citizen Center, 35 Main St.; the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas, 15 Webster St., North Tonawanda; and several local businesses. On Satuday, maps will also be available at the City of Tonawanda police station.
Most are located at residences, except for the median islands on Clinton Street and their flower beds. Features range from flowers of all kinds to vegetable and herb gardens, from ponds and waterfalls to rock gardens, and hedges and shrubs of all sorts. Many sites include artwork such as sculpture and found and decorated items. The Greggs’ garden is among the sites featured, as is the garden tended by Michelle Christopher of Elm Street and her young son, who also took part in last year’s walk.
“Last year, I was really surprised at the turnout,” Christopher said. “It was the first year; I didn’t know what to expect. But they were showing up by the vanfull.”
The Christophers’ garden includes not only the usual vegetation, but many items created by Christopher as part of “Beach Girl Art.” Very few of the items are store bought. Most of them were salvaged or repurposed items, she said. “It’s a little bit quirky, a little bit Florida and a little bit New York ... but it works.”
One area honors Michelle Christopher’s grandmother, who passed away in April: A flowered cane rests by the side of porch where she used to sit, a butterfly wind-chime hanging on it. Nearby sits her sewing machine, now painted with butterflies.
“It was our way of keeping her here with us and remembering,” Christopher said. She said what she likes most about the walk is the ability to share stories like that with her visitors.
“We enjoy being here and we love sharing our art with the world and putting a smile on people’s faces,” she said. “This is a great little place. It’s very up-and-coming and people just don’t know it yet.”
The organizers of the Garden Walk hope to continue the event, making it even bigger and better next year. Gregg says five people who were too late to enter their gardens this year are already signed up for next year, and she may approach those who plant gardens at public buildings, such as the Long Homestead, about participating. Plans are also in the works to potentially bring the Garden Walk under the larger umbrella of the National Garden Festival, which runs to July 29.
“It’s an inexpensive way to feel good about your property,” she said of the growing popularity of garden walks and festivals. “People don’t have a lot of money now. You can put in your plants and make things look nice ... people are turning to it more than ever.
“Everybody enjoys this. You can get out and see your neighbors’ gardens, see parts of the city you never knew existed before. It’s a good thing, it’s a positive thing, and you can enjoy it and it doesn’t cost you any money.”