Michele, a self-proclaimed medium green, combines her enthusiasm for communicating about the green industry, with a deep appreciation for all things gardening. Her blogs provide information from the homeowner’s perspective, moving between what works now and what the future might hold.
Sixteen lucky homeowners on Crowley Avenue across from Riverside Park on Buffalo’s West Side hit the landscaping lottery as the 2012 National Garden Festival’s third annual Front Yard Garden Competition redesigns their front yards.
Modeled after a London, England garden contest, the Front Yard Garden Competition features the talents of Western New York’s best landscape professionals as they transform the Crowley Avenue front yards facing the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Riverside Park.
Working from July 9 to July 13, the landscapers are volunteering their time, efforts, and materials in delivering a new garden and yard completely free to Crowley Avenue homeowners. All of the landscape companies are members of the Western New York State Nursery & Landscape Association (WNYSNLA) and are Certified Nursery and Landscape Professionals (CNLP).
The challenge this year for the landscapers is the size and the obstacles in the Crowley Avenue yards. According to National Garden Festival Executive Director Sally Cunningham, Crowley Avenue has a tiny set of yards with a big tree in the center of most of them. Additionally, the homes were built in the 1920s era, and are mostly two-story with shady yards.
“The gardens will involve tree root competition or making raised beds or something like that. So, a tree in the front yard will be a challenge. This is going to be more about flowers this year. There isn’t a place for a wall or a paver sidewalk,” Cunningham said. “Expect to see 16 different interpretations as every designer has their own style.”
For the homeowners, the Front Yard Competition brings excitement and a few how-to lessons.
“They get really into it. We tell them they’ve won the landscape lottery. They are very excited to be chosen and wonder what they did to deserve it,” Cunningham said. “But what we ask of them is to commit to watering most of the summer and next spring too. They must try and keep it up. I give them a little education, we have a couple of garden classes, I walk down the street with them yard-by-yard showing them ‘this is a weed’, how you pull a weed, ‘this is how you water at the base of the plant’ and so forth. Some of them turn into gardeners.”
Visitors can also learn at the Front Yard Competition if, according to Cunningham, the visitor envision what they would do if their house was similar to the Crowley Avenue homes, or had similar obstacles.
“See what the landscapers picked instead of the usual yews that are always packed into places. Or think about a front yard with a tree. What can you do with a little raised bed, or flowers along the sidewalk? Just imagine what you would do with a blank slate and then see what they have done. There will be surprises,” Cunningham said.
Visitors can also get involved by picking the People’s Choice winner by casting a ballot in front of each house or online from July 14 through July 21. For more updates on the progress of the competition, follow the National Garden Festival's blog.